Saturday, April 28, 2007

INNOCENT: Duke Still Falling Short

"... these three individuals [David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann,] are innocent of these charges."

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, Apr. 11, 2007
Yesterday NC AG Roy Cooper released the Summary of Conclusions, which documents why the charges that framed Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann were dropped and why he declared the three are innocent.

Duke reacted with the following statement from John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations:

“Attorney General Cooper’s Summary of Conclusions that was released today documents the absence of any credible evidence that would justify any conclusion in this case other than the one Mr. Cooper announced a few weeks ago -- that David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann are innocent of all charges brought against them last spring by District Attorney Nifong. We welcome this report as we welcomed the Attorney General’s announcement on April 11.

“We now await the N.C. State Bar’s review of the charges against Mr. Nifong for his conduct in this case.”
I know we all welcome Duke’s agreement with the NC Attorney General’s conclusion that “David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann are innocent of all charges brought against them last spring by District Attorney Nifong.”

It’s especially welcome after all those months during which President Richard (“Whatever they did was bad enough”) Brodhead said nothing critical of Nifong and insisted a trial was the proper place for Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann to, as Brodhead put it, “prove their innocence.”

Duke’s statement is simple and seems straightforward. But I have some thoughts and questions about one part of it. It’s this sentence:
“We now await the N.C. State Bar’s review of the charges against Mr. Nifong for his conduct in this case.”
Since January Brodhead has been telling alums and everyone else: “I’m one of Nifong’s biggest critics.” Duke’s “ We now await …” sentence fits nicely with Brodhead’s demand the Nifong account for his actions.

What else does it do?

For one thing, it says Duke awaits the Bar’s “review” of the charges against Nifong.

Now the whole sentence was no doubt constructed carefully, as it should have been. But I wonder if the word “review” wasn’t chosen with particular care.

I really wonder if Duke didn’t consciously chose “review” in preference to words such as “outcome” or “resolution.”

The “outcome” or “resolution” of any Bar decision could take years if Nifong appeals the Bar's decision, expected by most legal experts to be disbarment.

The Bar’s “review” should be completed in a matter of months.

With “review” Duke isn’t locking itself into the kind of stupid and indefensible position Brodhead placed the University in when he announced there was nothing he could do about the plight of Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann except await for the outcome of the trial Nifong was planning.

Proofs of just how stupid and indefensible Brodhead and Duke’s “can’t do anything” position was include:

1) Duke law professor James Coleman’s call in June, 2006 that Nifong recuse himself;

2) the public outcry against Nifong’s injustice that led Beth Brewer to launch an election fight last November that almost unseated Nifong;

3) the outrage and pressure from millions of citizens across America which helped force Nifong to recuse himself in January, 2007, thus setting in motion a special prosecutor’s review of the frame-up that led to the April 11 finding of "innocent."

“Stupid” and “indefensible” are very strong words to use in regard to a person or university’s actions but in the case of Brodhead and Duke’s abysmal failings when faced with the Hoax and frame-up, those words are measured and justified.

I was glad to see the word “review” in Duke’s most recent statement. I hope it signifies Brodhead and Duke are now more ready and willing to act in the interests of Duke students and justice. That’s long overdue.

So is a strong, clear call from Duke for Nifong’s resignation.

If Brodhead and his "senior team" don’t understand why Duke should do that, I hope they’ll review two documents: 1) the December, 2006 testimony of Dr. Brian Meehan regarding how he and Nifong agreed to withhold exculpatory DNA evidence; and 2) the Summary of Conclusions Attorney General Roy Cooper released yesterday.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Churchill Series – Apr. 27, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

November 5, 1940 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt is reelected for an unprecedented third term. His best remembered campaign promise: “I say it again and again and again, your boys will not be sent into foreign wars.”

Churchill telegraphs FDR from London, now enduring the third month of the Blitz:

I did not think it right for me as a foreigner to express any opinion upon American politics while the election was on but now I feel that you will not mind my saying that I prayed for your success and that I am truly thankful for it.
December 16, 1940 – Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Harold Stark, Secretary of War Henry Stimson and Army Chief of Staff George Marshall meet in Washington to review the year’s accomplishments

Stimson recorded in his diary the four leaders had gone beyond just reviewing the year’s accomplishments and agreed “this emergency could hardly be passed over without this country being drawn into the war eventually.”

According to the Imperial War Museum, London:
In early 1941, a feasibility study by Japanese naval aviation experts of the proposed attack on Pearl Harbor concluded that an operation was possible but would be dangerous.
Eleanor Roosevelt's remark comes to mind:"no ordinary times."

I hope you all have a nice weekend.
Ed Cray, General of the Army George C. Marshall, Soldier and Stateman. (W. W. Norton & Co.) (pgs. 178-180) provided most of the material for this post. The FDR quote is found in almost all his biographies. The Eleanor Roosevelt quote served, as many of you know, as the title of Doris Kearns Goodwin's prize winning book.

AG Roy Cooper’s report

I’ve just read the Summary of Conclusions report NC Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office released today on the Duke Hoax and frame-up.

For those of you who’ve followed the case, most of the report will be “familiar territory.”

There are some new items though, including that Crystal Mangum arrived at an April 4 meeting with the special prosecutors stoned. What's more, she admitted to the SPs she'd ingested Ambien, methadone, Paxil and amitriptyline.

Imagine Mnagum’s degree of drug dependency that she shows up stoned at the Special Prosecutor’s office.

I hope Durham County Department of Social Services will examine whether she’s fit to be mothering three children, including an infant. She seems as unfit for that task as Nifong is to be DA.

The report demonstrated how hard it is to find any grounds on which Nifong could have pushed ahead for indictments if he'd followed the law.

The report makes it easy to see where there’s a case, IMO, to prosecute Nifong for malicious prosecution.

The AG’s report really “puts the wood” to Nifong’s Chief Investigator Linwood Wilson. It all but says he met with Mangum in December and fabricated a report.

Here’s how KC Johnson summarized that part of the report:

At his December 21, "no-witnesses" meeting with Mangum, Linwood Wilson admitted that he showed her the April 4 lineup photos again, this time using the players' real names.

The SP's concluded: "Showing the accusing witness these photographs which were the subject of a pending motion to suppress, along with her use of the proper names of those charged, provided the defense additional grounds to argue that the out of court and in court identification should be suppressed which would have effectively ended the case."
Wilson needs an attorney.

The report makes clear the charges were “a thing based on nothing” and restates what Cooper said on April 11: Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann are innocent.

Cooper’s report is a good step on a long road.

What we need now is a special prosecutor and an investigative grand jury examining the who, why and how “a thing based on nothing” led to felony indictments of three innocent men; the withholding of exculpatory evidence; and repeated false statements by public officials and sworn officers; statements which sought to convince the public that investigative travesties and a frame-up were really “Justice in Durham.”

If justice seekers are looking for a song to sing today, I suggest, “We’ve only just begun.”

Besides KC Johnson, The Johnsville News and Liestoppers are weighing in. Both link to the AG’s report (pdf).

I’ll be back tonight on this story.

Let’s flip “Nifong & the Copier”

On Wednesday, I posted “Nifong & The Copier: Be Careful.” It concerned a report in a recent N&O series written by investigative reporter Joseph Neff. If you are not familiar with Wednesday’s post, I urge you to read it before reading this post

Neff reported that DA Mike Nifong first learned about a Durham Superior Court nontestimonial order (NTO) directing all 46 white members of Duke’s Men’s lacrosse team to submit to DNA testing and mug and torso photographing by Durham City Police when Nifong discovered the NTO sitting on his office copying machine. That was March 23, 2006, the day the court issued the order.

Nifong’s chief assistant district attorney, David Saacks, requested the NTO which was promptly signed by Nifong’s long-time friend, former boss and mentor, Judge Ron Stephens.

Neff cited two sources for his copier discovery report.

One source only learned about the “copier discovery” months later, and from Nifong himself.

Neff’s other source was David Saacks.

I’m very skeptical of the “copier discovery” story. In Wednesday’s post, I gave some of the reasons why it is to both Saacks’ and Nifongs’ advantage to be able to say Nifong only learned of the NTO on 3/23/06, the day it was signed.

In today’s post, I want to do a flip.

Let’s put aside all those sticky questions a special prosecutor or an investigative grand jury would ask Nifong and Saacks if the two had spoken about the NTO before Saacks requested the NTO and Stephens signed it.

Instead let’s consider that Saacks never mentioned the NTO to Nifong.

Let’s also allow that after learning all he could from Durham police investigators and their supervisors about the “Duke gang-rape,” Saacks weighed “the facts and the law.”

After doing that we are now to believe Saacks made what attorneys tell me was, as far as they know, an unprecedented request to a North Carolina court to order 46 citizens to submit to police DNA testing and mug and photo lineups based solely on their race and membership on a sports team.

What convinced Saacks to do such a thing? The case was at best very weak.

Most attorneys have told me they were shocked, even allowing for Stephens’ prosecutorial background the included service as Durham DA, that he signed the order without asking a lot of tough questions.

One attorney said: “The order was a wide-net DNA fishing expedition. Judges have always frowned on such requests; and questioned them closely.”

Another attorney: “If you had asked me before, even knowing that courts tend to give prosecutors the benefit of the doubt, I would have said Stephens would have refused to sign the order.”

I’ve read the NTO. It casts such wide net that it even acknowledges some of those Stephens was asked to order to submit to police DNA testing and photographing weren’t even at the party where “the horrific crime” was alleged to have taken place.

What convinced Saacks to go ahead with his NTO request?

Attorneys always consider “what ifs.” Let’s assume Saacks felt confident Stephens would sign the order with no questions asked.

Saacks still had to consider many “what ifs,” including: What if one, some or all 46 players appealed the order?

Yes, all 46 readily agreed to comply with the order but Saacks didn’t know in advance they’d waive their right of appeal and immediately comply with the order. Didn’t Saacks say he needed the NTO because the players were refusing to cooperate?

What if just one player who hadn’t been in Durham the night of the party appealed the order?

How would Saacks explain wanting that player tested and photographed by police? What would law professors at Duke and UNC with histories of opposing wide net DNA fishing say?

Didn’t Saacks have to consider all of that?

The NTO was sure to be a big story. If even one player appealed, and his attorney asked why the DA’s office could not make a narrower NTO request based on the alleged victim’s descriptions of her attackers, what did Saacks tell himself he’d say?

When the Raleigh News & Observer “broke” the “Duke lacrosse case” on March 24, the day following Nifong’s “copier discovery,” the N&O said nothing about “the victim’s” ability to identify her alleged gang-rapists.

The N&O said nothing about that in subsequent stories during which it framed the 46 lacrosse players as a group composed of three gang-rapists and their teammates who were covering up for them.

But Saacks couldn’t have known the N&O would go for framing the players rather than news reporting, could he?

What did Saacks tell himself he’d say when an N&O reporter asked what should have been asked on March 23: “It’s 10 days since the alleged attack. Why hasn’t the woman ID’ed any of her attackers; or at least given you descriptions of the attackers that would let you eliminate some of the 46 as suspects?”

With all of the above and more for him to consider, why did Saacks, if we’re to believe the N&O story, decide, in effect: “Nah, I’ll say nothing to Mike. He can read about the NTO in the papers or discover it at his copier?”

One of Collin Finnerty’s attorneys, Michael Cornacchia, has asked that a special prosecutor and/or investigative grand jury examine the actions of many people who may well be innocent of any crime but who were somehow involved in actions connected to the frame-up.

Among those whose actions Cornacchia says should be investigated are “members of Mr. Nifong’s office.”

As far as I’m concerned, that needs to happen.

What do you think?

HELP WANTED: Can anyone provide me with a link to the full NTO request Stephens signed. I want to post it.

Thank you to for posting Cornacchia’s letter.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

No Churchill post - Apr. 26, 2007


I'm sorry to miss a post today.

It's a combination of work and travel.

I hope you're back tomorrow.


INNOCENT: Seligmann Honored

At we read:

The Delbarton School has awarded a special honor to Reade Seligmann, an alumnus who was one of three Duke University lacrosse team members cleared of rape charges after a year-long legal ordeal.

Seligmann, who graduated from the school in 2004, was presented with the Delbarton Medal during a visit to his alma mater on Tuesday, school officials said Wednesday. …

Before presenting him with the medal, the Rev. Luke Travers, Delbarton's headmaster, said that the school had supported Seligmann during his year-long legal battle, and lauded his "courage, nobility, integrity and charity."

Travers told Seligmann: "You gave us a model of how to handle the pressures that we all experience," according to the school Web site….
I hope you read the rest of the article.

If you ever doubted there was a school where people knew what an outstanding person Reade Seligman is, The Delbarton School website is here.

This post is simply about Seligmann’s award which he earned under the toughest of circumstances.

I’ll post again on Seligmann and related issues in a day or so.

Tonight, all I want to say is the school did a fine thing for a fine young man.

The award is a credit to Delbarton, Seligmann, his family, his teachers, and those who supported him.

God bless them all.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Churchill Series – Apr. 25, 2007

(One of a series of weekday post on the life of Winston S. Chruchill.)

At a Churchill Centre dinner in 1987, Grace Hamblin, for many years one of Churchill’s stenographers and typists, shared some recollections. This brief excerpt of her remarks include two very amusing anecdotes I’d never heard:

I’ve been told that long ago in the House of Commons, a Member made a terribly long and tedious speech, to which Sir Winston, then Mr. Churchill, was to reply. When he finally rose he said, “I’m so glad the Rt Hon Member for So-and-So has spoken for so long; he badly needs the practice.” …

Speeches were always very exciting. First they’d be dictated and taken down in shorthand. In those days there weren’t the same machines as there are now. The drafts would be corrected time and again, and finally put into Speech Form, which I think most of you know.

It was very important to put it as he was going to say it. You could easily put him out if you entered a line in the wrong place. Also he had a way of shortening his words. “Ch of Exch” meant Chancellor of the Exchequer, we all knew that. But “C of E” meant Church of England. I once transposed them. You can imagine what he said about that!
I hope you’re smiling and have a wonderful day.

Countering hate

Jon Ham at Right Angles posted:

Solomon Burnette, son of former Durham City Council member Brenda Burnette, served more than a year in prison in 2000-01 for robbing two Duke students at gunpoint and violating his probation.
Ham noted Burnette has just published in North Carolina Central University’s Campus Echo a column reacting to the collapse of Mike Nifong’s frame-up.

Column title: “Death to all rapists.”

Burnette ends his column with:
Black men, stand up. Black women, stand up. Black children, stand up. We have been at war here with these same white people for 500 years.

The time to fight, whether intellectually, artistically or physically, has always been now.
Ham titled his post:"Still mugging Duke students"

Does any organization give a prize for “Best Post Title Exposing a Hate-filled Columnist Writing for a College Newspaper?”

If yes, I want to nominate Ham’s title.

Ham ends his post with:
For the record, NCCU Chancellor James Ammons released a statement distancing himself and his school from Burnette’s ravings.
I salute Ammons for speaking out the way he did and Ham for noting it in his post.

Their actions are typical of both men as I know them.

I wish Chancellor Ammons wasn’t leaving NCCU and Durham to assume the presidency of his alma mater, Florida A&M, but I wish Ammons well and thank him for his leadership here, especially during the last year.

As for Jon Ham, I'm glad he's staying in Durham.

Hat tip: The Johnsville News.

Nifong & The Copier: Be Careful

On April 14, 2007, Raleigh News & Observer reporter Joseph Neff began a five part series on Nifong & the Duke Hoax case. Neff’s first series article begins:

Mike Nifong found out about the case that now threatens his career March 23, 2006, when he stopped by the office copier and found a court order demanding DNA samples from 46 Duke lacrosse players. An escort service dancer told police that three men at a team party had dragged her into a bathroom and raped her anally, vaginally and orally for 30 minutes, according to the order.
The Durham district attorney's reaction, he later told lawyer Jim Cooney: "Holy crap, what is going on?"
In his source notes, Neff cites two people as sources for his report Nifong only learned about the nontestimonial court order (NTO) on 3/23/06 when he discovered it at his office copier.

One is Jim Cooney, an attorney for Reade Seligmann. As Neff noted in another series article, Cooney first met Nifong in December, 2006, nine months after Nifong’s “copier discovery.”

Neff’s use of Cooney’s “Holy crap, what is going on?” account of Nifong’s reaction gives a seeming “You are there” dimension to the “discovery” story but, as Neff makes clear, what Cooney says is based not on Cooney’s observation of Nifong’s “discovery,” but on what Nifong told Cooney.

And we know about the reliability of what Nifong tells attorneys, judges, and all of us.

Neff’s only other source for his “copier discovery” report is David Saacks, Nifong’s chief assistant district attorney. It was Saacks who signed the NTO request.

Saacks certainly could have been standing right by the copier when Nifong made his “discovery.” Or he could have been down the hall in his office and heard Nifong exclaim, “Holy crap, what is going on?”

Maybe “the discovery” happened just the way Neff reports it.

But that means Saacks went ahead and got the NTO order without ever discussing it and the hugely troubled and hugely politically significant “Duke gang-rape” case with Nifong, who was then in a hotly contested primary race for the Democratic nomination for DA.

Did Saacks go ahead without saying anything to Nifong? Did Nifong really know nothing about the case until he made his “Holy crap” “copier discovery?"

Color me very skeptical of what Joe Neff reports.

There’s one thing we can all be sure about: It’s greatly to both Saacks' and Nifong’s advantage to be able to say they never spoke about the NTO before 3/23/06.

If they didn’t speak about it, there’s no need to ask sticky questions such as:

Before seeking an unprecedented NTO to obtain DNA and mug and torso photos from 46 citizens based solely on their race and membership on a sports team, what did Durham’s District Attorney and its Chief Assistant District Attorney say to each other about the accuser’s failure to ID any of the alleged rapists?

Did they say to each other anything about police officers’ and the second dancer’s statements that the accuser’s story was a “crock?”

What did they say about hospital records from Duke and the accusers many conflicting stories?

Folks, I hope you take a look at this comment from a citizen journalist at the Editors’ Blog. The comment includes a lot of information we should all bear in mind before accepting as fact Neff’s account of Nifong’s “copier discovery.”

Recently attorney Michael Cornacchia, representing Collin Finnerty, one of the three innocent men framed by Nifong and others sent NC Governor Michael Easley and Attorney General Roy Cooper a letter in which Cornacchia made a number of requests, including:
that a special prosecutor be appointed, either an attorney in private practice of the highest caliber and integrity, or members of General Cooper's Special Prosecution Unit who demonstrated their professionalism so well in their recent investigation,.
Once appointed, a special prosecutor can seek court approval for the convening of an "investigative grand jury" pursuant to NCGS Section 15-623.

There is ample predicate for this. After all, General Cooper has found that Mr. Nifong and the Durham Police Department arrested and prosecuted three innocent, young men for crimes that did not occur. …

It has been said that the institution of ethics charges against Mr. Nifong is sufficient to address the situation. This is not so. This forum only will determine if the codes governing the conduct of attorneys, generally, and district attorneys, specifically, have been broken by only Mr. Nifong.

It will not, and cannot, address the conduct of the members of Mr. Nifong's office, the officers of the Durham Police Department and others such as Mr. Meehan. …(emphasis added)
I hope a special prosecutor is appointed and a “investigative grand jury” impaneled.

And at some point during the investigation, it will be very important to ask Saacks and others in Nifong’s office whether Nifong really only learned about the case and the NTO when he said he had his “Holy crap” moment at the copy machine.

No one in Nifong’s office discussed the case, including the NTO, with him before 3/23/06?


For a much more positive take on Neff’s report of the “copier discovery,” see KC Johnson’s post: “Neff’s Scoops”

Hat tip to Liestoppers. com which published Cornacchia’s letter in full on its main page. The letter is very interesting. Read it if you have time.

Innocent: A Proud Grandparent Speaks

"... these three individuals [David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann,] are innocent of these charges."

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, Apr. 11, 2007

Readers Note: The following letter to The Chronicle was published on April 18 under the title: A Proud Grandparent Speaks. I think its worth sharing with you as a stand alone post. I hope you agree.

I'll respond to the letter writer in a day or two.



To the editor:

In his April 11 statement on the lacrosse case, President Richard Brodhead said he was not afraid to learn from this difficult experience. There is no better place to begin that education than with his own actions at the outset.

Brodhead has defended those actions on the flawed premise that he was "forced to act upon radically imperfect information" or that "action has been required in the face of deep uncertainty." In fact, once he had justifiably suspended part of the lacrosse season, there was no immediate compelling need for further action. He could have, and should have, deliberately preserved his options until there was more certainty.

A safe haven was readily available to him-the presumption-of-innocence principle.

At a time when skepticism was in order, he instead bought into Nifong's self-serving story and yielded to the exaggerated cry of a strident minority of the faculty. In a knee-jerk rush to judgment, he suspended a player, canceled the rest of the season and fired former men's lacrosse head coach Mike Pressler.

Those condemning actions by the Duke administration gave credence to Nifong's media blitz in the court of public opinion and intensified the avalanche of publicity. Brodhead was clearly an accessory to the damage to Duke's image that still lingers.

Brodhead now seeks to avoid accountability for those actions by blaming everything on Nifong. Deserving of scorn as Nifong may be, this is both irresponsible and inaccurate.

Earlier, Brodhead urged those concerned to ignore the past and move forward to healing. In my experience, healing occurs only when the offending parties candidly admit and accept responsibility for their harmful actions. As the facts became known, some of us hoped Brodhead would eventually accept responsibility for that part of the anguish he caused. It is telling that he has not.

It is time for the Brodhead administration to own up to the consequences of its misguided actions.

G. Holman King

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Churchill Series – Apr. 24, 2007

(One of a series of weekday post on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Walter Thompson, Churchill’s principal bodyguard during WW II, gives us this account of Churchill’s immediate reactions to news of the deaths of Mussolini and Hitler

Winston had just arrived at Chequers for the weekend, and as he entered the Great Hall he was informed of Mussolini’s death.

He was elated and with much emphasis he said: “Ah, the bloody beast is dead.”

Three days later he received the mews of Hitler’s death, but on this occasion he went to a window and looked out, remaining there for some time without any remark. …

In view of some doubt existing in people’s minds as to whether or not Hitler was dead, I asked him if he thought Hitler had committed suicide. Quietly he replied:
”That is the way I should have expected him to have died. That is what I should have done under the same circumstances.”
Mussolini was executed by Italian Communist partisans on April 28, 1945. Most historians agree Hitler took his own life on April 30, 1945.

It should always be said: they were two evil men.
Tom Hickman, Churchill’s Bodyguard: The Authorised Biography of Walter H. Thompson Based on His Complete Memoirs. (Headline Book Publishing) (pg. 232)

My fellow Americans, That “Authorised” above is the British spelling of our “authorized.”


A Question for Duke Trustees

You all know the old parlor game where we each get to pick one historical figure to have lunch with and say what one question we’d ask the figure during lunch.

I want to play a version of that game with you.

I get to have lunch with Duke University’s board of trustees.

I tell the trustees at the start of lunch that my question is a very simple one they should all be able to answer.

But I also tell them the question needs some “teeing up” which shouldn’t take me more than four or five minutes.

“But not to worry,” I assure them. “I’m just going to recite some facts we can all agree on. Those facts are the basis of my question.”

Then I begin:

I say that President Brodhead didn’t meet with the Duke lacrosse parents who were on campus March 25, 2006, the day Duke cancelled the game with Georgetown; nor did he meet with them the next day. Brodhead’s never said why he didn’t.

I interrupt myself at this point to remind the trustees that I only just said, and will only say, what are indisputable facts.

I add: “I promise I’ll keep it short.”

Then I continue:

After listening to a tape of “the first 911 call” President Brodhead issued a full, written, unconditional apology to the caller and her friend in which he said: “I am sorry the woman and her friend were subjected to such abuse.”

After we all listened to the threats of “Justice will be done, Rapist” and “Dead man walking” shouted at Reade Seligmann at the Durham County Courthouse last May 18, Brodhead said nothing.

The faculty said nothing.

You, the trustees, said nothing.

Even The Chronicle said nothing.

The “Vigilante” poster was distributed and posted on campus. Brodhead never said anything critical of those who produced and distributed the poster targeting the white lacrosse players

Last spring the members of the Women’s lacrosse team were subjected to cruel, sexist attacks in many national newspapers for doing nothing more than saying the truth: “Innocent.” No senior Duke administrator spoke up on the women’s behalf.

More than a year after the Group of 88’s “listening statement” appeared as a full-page ad in The Chronicle, no one will acknowledge who paid for the ad and whether or not payment was made using University funds.

Fifteen academic departments and programs are listed as signing on to the “listening statement.” But many faculty in those departments and programs say they have no idea how their departments and programs came to be listed.

No one at Duke has so far told them how it happened.

Brodhead has made no public comment expressing any concern regarding who paid for the ad, whether University funds were used, or how the departments and programs came to be listed.

Brodhead frequently assures alumni groups the University is “in very good hands.”

Now, trustees, to my question: You and President Brodhead keep sending “the Duke community” promotional materials and emails telling us that everything is just fine at Duke.

Are you trying to turn us all into Dupies?

I’m listening.


There it is in full color on the right hand side of main page: a photo of a large “CASTRATE” banner around which Trinity Park “pot bangers,” including some Duke staffers, some Durham “activists,” and other hate-filled people rallied on March 26, 2006 at a house on N. Buchanan Blvd.

Those who rallied to the “CASTRATE” banner believed with all the certainty of a lynch mob that a brutal gang-rape occurred just days before inside the house. They were demanding swift, stern “justice.”

The following day The Raleigh News & Observer reported on the crowd’s actions: “Rally calls for action at Duke.” But the N&O’s report failed to mention the CASTRATE” banner. The N&O only told readers:

Attendees at the event Sunday criticized Duke for being too lenient on team members. Some protesters carried signs including one that read, "All rapes deserve outrage."
In subsequent stories referencing the “pot bangers” rally, the N&O continued to say nothing about the “CASTRATE” banner. See, for example, this story by reporter Anne Blythe, who also co-reported the N&O’s biased and racially inflammatory March 24 and 25 stories telling readers Crystal Mangum was “the victim” and framing the Duke lacrosse team as her victimizers who included three brutal white rapists and their white teammates who were covering up for them.

The only mention of the “CASTRATE” banner I can find in an N&O news report occurred just last week in a Joseph Neff story, “Quest to convict hid a lack of evidence.”
Activists and neighborhood residents had responded with two protests outside the house where three lacrosse captains lived: a candlelight vigil and a raucous affair where protesters banged pots and held signs that read "Castrate" and "Get a Conscience, Not a Lawyer."
I decided to write the following electronic letter to N&O executive editor for news Melanie Sill.

Dear Editor Sill:

Here'a a link to "The N&O & "CASTRATE" which I've just posted. It contains links to all N&O stories I reference in this letter.

As you know, on March 26, 2006 what has come to be called “the pot bangers” rally was held in Trinity Park in front of the house where the N&O reported “the victim” had been brutally gang-raped.

The rally crowd gathered around a large “CASTRATE” banner. has a photo on its main page and Joseph Neff mentioned the banner in his April 14, 2007 story, “Quest to convict hid a lack of evidence."

However, in the N&O's March 27, 2006 story reporting on the “pot bangers” rally, there’s no mention of the “CASTRATE” banner. The only signage you reported on was “All rapes deserve outrage” signs.

In subsequent stories I looked at in which the N&O references the rally, I could find no mention of the “CASTRATE” banner.

Both of us know that lynchings often included castration of the victim, particularly if rape had been alleged.

We also know that people every bit as hate-filled as those that rallied on Sunday, 3/26/06, around the “CASTRATE” banner talk of castrating gay men.

I hope you agree, Melanie, that it’s fair to say if groups targeting gays or blacks had rallied around a “CASTRATE” banner, the N&O would have reported prominently on such despicable actions.

You’d be right to do that so the community would know such people were in its midst and could plan to counter such despicable actions

But about the equally despicable actions of the Trinity Park “pot bangers” who targeted white, male Duke students with a "CASTRATE" banner, the N&O reported nothing for thirteen months until Neff mentioned it last week.


I’ll print your response in full at JinC. If you decide to respond at the Editors’ Blog, I’ll comment and link to it.

Thank you.


John in Carolina

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Churchill Series – Apr. 23, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

In the fall of 1899, the twenty-four year old Winston Churchill, no longer a serving officer in Queen Victoria’s Army, was preparing to sail for South Africa, where he would cover the Anglo-Boer War as a correspondent.

Most people thought the fighting would be brief, with the British professional army soon besting the largely untrained Boers. Churchill worried the fighting would be over before he reached South Africa.

He was wrong. The war lasted three very bloody years. And Churchill, who after arrival secured a commission in a South African cavalry unit, took part in the war as both a correspondent and an officer. His writings, his heroic actions in battle, and his escape as a prisoner of war made him one of the most popular heroes of the war. Churchill used that popularity to great advantage in his first successful campaign for Parliament.

But Churchill didn’t know any of that on October 10, 1899 when he wrote a brief letter to a friend, George Sandys:

Dear George,

I am sorry we missed each other.

I sail on the 14th for the Cape, but the actual fighting will begin before the week is out and may by over before the main army arrives. I shall hope to meet you again somewhere.

Yours sincerely,

Winston S. Churchill
George Sandys and Churchill did meet again often. They served together as Members of Parliament. And in 1935 Churchill’s daughter Diana married Sandys’ son Duncan.

A century after Churchill wrote Sandys their granddaughter, Celia Sandys, published an account of Churchill’s South African years in which she included a facsimile of her maternal grandfather’s October 1899 letter to her paternal grandfather.

We never know.
Material for this post is found in Celia Sandys’, Churchill: Wanted Dead or Alive. (Carroll & Graf Publishers) The letter facsimile is on page 19.

INNOCENT: Readers refute N&O.

"Based on the significant inconsistencies between the evidence and the various accounts given by the accusing witness, we believe these three individuals [David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann,] are innocent of these charges."

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, Apr. 11, 2007

Raleigh News & Observer executive editor for news Melanie Sill allows that the N&O’s coverage of what it used to call “the Duke lacrosse rape scandal” wasn’t quite perfect but, Sill insists, it was awfully, awfully good.

Sill and other N&O editors admit the paper made some mistakes during the first week of the N&O’s Hoax coverage, but they say the mistakes were mostly the fault of the players and their parents who refused to cooperate with the N&O. (See Apr. 15 columns by Sill and public editor Ted Vaden)

Some people buy Sill and the N&O’s glowing self-appraisal of the paper’s Hoax coverage. Sill calls those people “thoughtful critics.”

And the people who don’t agree with Sill and the N&O’s glowing self-appraisal?

Editor Sill calls them “haters” engaged in “smearing The N&O.”

That's nonsense!

The people Sill calls “haters” are really fine citizen journalists speaking truth to a powerful editor who we’ve all just learned led a thirteen month long cover-up of critically important exculpatory news that, had the public known of it, surely would have made the frame-up of David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann impossible.

Let’s look at some recent exchanges at the N&O’s Editors Blog between Sill and some of the citizen journalist she calls “haters.” From time to time I’ll interject some facts or commentary. They’ll be bracketed and in italics.


Here’s Sill in an Editors’ Blog post, Revisionist History:

… But in smearing The N&O with such a broad brush, many critics are creating a meta-narrative of their own that doesn't hold up when you examine specific stories or even the aggregate of stories after the first week or so.

I'm sure this post will bring the usual barrage from people who hate The N&O. So be it.

Along with the haters, some more thoughtful critics have shared comments that offered more substance, which is the point of this exchange. Read the stories again -- we will.
The first citizen journalist response came from kbp on 4/18/07 @ 00:40:
Without searching, I recall the first article published by the N&O on the case (after the Chronicle had already reported on it). I also recall the article that provided the exculpatory details left out of that first article. And I recall the time that passed between those two articles. Is that "substance"?

Other than Neff's fine articles, did I miss any facts reported?
Sill responds to kbp on 4/18/07 @ 8;14
Try searching. Recollection is famously inaccurate, as yours is.

(We had reported a brief story on a rape investigation, as did the Chronicle. The story we broke was about 46 lacrosse players being brought in for a DNA roundup -- a unique case, which is why it made page 1.)
[ Folks, I’m very sure the “first article” kbp refers to is the N&O’s March 25, 2006 “anonymous interview/wall of solidarity” story; the one the N&O told readers was about a night that ended “in sexual violence.”

The N&O “article that provided the exculpatory details left out of that first article” appeared on April 12, 2007, one day after NC Attorney General Roy Cooper had declared Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann innocent.

Here are some of the exculpatory details kbp refers to, all of which a group of journalists at the N&O decided to withhold from the March 25, 2006 story but include in the April 12, 2007 story.

The false accuser, Crystal Mangum claimed the second dancer, Kim Roberts, was also raped.

Mangum said Roberts didn't report the rape because Roberts was afraid she would lose her job if she did.

Mangum accused Roberts of being willing to “do just about anything for money.”

The N&O April 12, 2007 story reports:
When asked why she made the report, she said "Most guys don't think it's a big deal" to force a woman to have sex. She confirmed that the claimed incident occurred at a party near Duke.

Moments later, she added, "Maybe they think they can get away with it because they have more money than me."
But in its March 25, 2006 framing story, the N&O told readers and the rest of media:
She hesitated to tell police what happened, she said Friday. She realized she had to, for her young daughter and her father.

"My father came to see me in the hospital," she said. "I knew if I didn't report it that he would have that hurt forever, knowing that someone hurt his baby and got away with it."
Does anyone seriously believe if the N&O had reported on March 25 what it’s just now CYA-admitted withholding for thirteen months, that Nifong would have been able to get indictments of David Evans, Collin Finnerty, and Reade Seligmann?

Sill ignores kbp’s excellent point about exculpatory material. We can all understand why.

Nice going, kbp.]

The next comment on the thread is from jhd, one of those Sill calls “thoughtful critics.” jhd begins:
What Mr. kbp is missing here is that while he was sitting on his couch, reading the newspaper, surfing the 'Net from his laptop and watching Fox News, teams of journalists were combing documents, interviewing people and doing their darnest(sic) to get to the facts of the story. …
[jhd, the N&O depends on readers like you to stay in business. It’s too bad Melanie hasn’t bothered to thank you for your support.]

Now from one of the “thoughtful critics,” we go back to the “haters.”

On 4/19/07 @ 7:54 we find Walter Abbott who begins:


Last year, Samiha Khanna and Anne Blythe wrote this about Crystal Mangum, the false accuser in the Duke case:
"The accuser had worked for an escort company for two months, doing one-on-one dates about three times a week.

"It wasn't the greatest job," she said, her voice trailing off. But with two children, and a full class load at N.C. Central University, it paid well and fit her schedule.

This was the first time she had been hired to dance provocatively for a group, she said. There was no security to protect her, and as the men became aggressive, the two women started to leave. After some of the men apologized for the behavior, the women went back inside, according to police. That's when the woman was pulled into a bathroom and raped and sodomized, police said."
Last night, Reade Seligmann's attorney Jim Cooney had this to say on Liestoppers Board:
"We were provided with "sign-in" logs from the "Champagne Room" of the Platinum Club. A "dancer" and her customer are required to sign the sheet pledging that they will not engage in any sex or touching in the room. (I swear that I am not making this up). We have sheets from the latter part of March (and just 2 or 3 days after the "attack") showing that someone named "Precious" signed in.

This is consistent with what Yolanda Hayes said about Precious in her affidavits (and appears to corroborate the approximate time of the videotape showing her dancing until Yolanda throws her off the stage).

Significantly, we were able to trace Precious' footsteps the weekend before the party. Recall that she told Durham PD that after dancing at the Platinum Club on Friday night, she did her nails, went to a movie, and did her nails some more.

Hardly. We found that after dancing at the Platinum Club she had at least 4 private hotel room engagements with various escort customers. She made approximately 20 to 25 calls to at least 8 escort services that weekend for jobs. We were able to track down at least one of those customers. We were comfortable with what his testimony would have been."
It is my contention that the Raleigh News and Observer is as culpable as Mike Nifong in precipitating this tragedy. The 3/25/06 article by Khanna and Blythe provided the spark. It gave Nifong political cover, incited the potbangers, stampeded Brodhead and Steele, and signaled the TV networks to send in the satellite trucks.

The fuel of the accusations was there as was the oxygen of racial tension. You all struck the match.

In 1898, William Randoph Hearst, one of the most famous yellow journalists of all, precipitated the Spanish American War in a fashion similar to this case. Frederick Remington, the famous artist, telegrammed Hearst to tell him all was quiet in Cuba and "There will be no war."

Hearst responded "Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war."

I suppose congratulations are in order, Melanie. You've made the big time.

Walter Abbott
Ruston, LA
Abbott’s comment was followed three minutes later by another “hater,” AMac, who began by quoting Melanie back to Melanie:
"I'm sure this post will bring the usual barrage from people who hate The N&O. So be it. Along with the haters, some more thoughtful critics have shared comments that offered more substance, which is the point of this exchange." ...

Editor Sill, it's time to stop hiding behind "the haters," and behind Joe Neff's outstanding ongoing work. Really thoughtful critics raise important, unanswered questions about the N&O's early coverage of the Hoax you ignore.

1. Who do you identify as the thoughtful critics?
2. What do you think their criticisms are?
3. What is your response to them?

I hope this feedback is constructive, and I await your response in a subsequent blog post (or on the Editorial page).
Abbott and AMac comments drew the following response from Melanie on 4/19/07 @ 9:07
Mr. Abbott,

The interview with Crystal Mangum was a deadline story. We learned much more each week as our reporting went forward. The work the attorneys and their private investigators did, and the work our reporters did, took much more time. Thanks for wiritng.(sic)

AMac: I have received a great deal of correspondence over time and have benefited from an ongoing dialogue through this case, including consideration of comments on this blog. I addressed some of the weaknesses I saw in the coverage in my column Sunday. You won't find a response from me on the editorial page. I do not have any involvement with the opinion pages.

As to my response, I think you see it in the column, the post above and in multiple posts and responses going back to the very beginning of this case (my first column said I thought this onslaught of "media" was counterproductive to the cause of accuracy in this case).
[Folks, Notice that Melanie doesn’t really respond to what either Abbott or AMac said.

She uses the all purpose “deadline” excuse to duck answering Abbott’s questions. How does deadline explain the N&O’s failure to report on Mangum’s criminal background and the activities the defense identified which were very, very relevant?

How does deadline explain covering up for thirteen months exculpatory information from the interview with Mangum; information which surely would have exposed the N&O’s framing and stopped Nifong’s frame-up?

Is it any wonder Melanie can’t answer AMac’s questions:
1. Who do you identify as the thoughtful critics?
2. What do you think their criticisms are?
3. What is your response to them?]
Tomorrow I’ll post again on citizen journalists, including one familiar to many of you: Locomotive Breath.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Posting light


Friends called this afternoon. They're in Durham and so are other friends we didn't know were coming for some sports events at Duke.

At 8:30 PM Eastern, my wife and I are in the midst of a very nice time with some wonderful people.

So no blogging tonight.

Tomorrow very early AM I'll be traveling but by 2 PM I should be posting.

Every blessing,



When a story’s “front and center” bloggers, newspapers and other news sources will often lead with a post title or headline “name” tag that lets readers know instantly what the story’s about. The tags also often allow for shorter leads.

“Katrina” is a good tag example. Remember: “Katrina: Due this PM” and “Katrina: Millions Homeless” and “Katrina: The $ Cost?”

Tags were used in the Duke Hoax after the Raleigh News & Observer, in a deliberately fraudulent March 25 story the paper still refuses to retract, created an international news story.

Some of the first Duke Hoax tags included “Duke rape scandal,” “Lacrosse rape case” and just “Duke lacrosse.”

As many of you recall, I used “Duke lacrosse” initially and later dropped it.

In recent months, if I’ve used a tag for a case related post, it’s most often been “Duke Hoax” or “N&O.”

Starting later today I’m adding a new tag to some Hoax case related posts: “INNOCENT.”

Most of you who’ve just read “INNOCENT” understood immediately why I’ll be using that tag: besides cuing readers to a Hoax case post, it will highlight the most critical outcome of the case to date: “INNOCENT.”

There’ll be Hoax related posts in which I won’t use “INNOCENT.” I wouldn’t lead with the “I” tag for the current “N&O Public Editor Scams” series. The “I” tag would just confuse even discerning JinC readers.

Imagine if I posted, “Innocent: N&O Public Editor Scams.” It doesn’t work, does it?

A post title like that might even generate a comment from N&O public editor Ted Vaden thanking me for realizing he doesn’t really mean to scam readers; and saying he just has to do it to keep his job.

On the other hand, later today I’ll post “INNOCENT: Readers Refute N&O.” I think you’ll agree the “I” tag works in that post title just fine.

I’ll be interested to learn what you think after you read the post.

In a few days, I’ll say more about “INNOCENT” tags at JinC.