Newsweek nicely summarizes how the Duke lacrosse rape has been imploding upon itself as the discovery process allows defense lawyers to analyze the evidence that the prosecution says form the basis of its case. District Attorney Michael Nifong is sticking to his guns, even as case crumbles around him. To call the conclusions initially proudly trumpeted by District Attorney Michael Nifong deeply flawed is to understate the level of misconduct that is slowly coming to light.
Asked for an interview last week by NEWSWEEK, Nifong declined, but sent an angry e-mail accusing the national media of getting spun by defense lawyers and sticking to his earlier comments to the press. “None of the ‘facts’ I know at this time, indeed, none of the evidence I have seen from any source, has changed the opinion that I expressed initially,” he wrote. He lashed out at “media speculation” (adding, “and it is even worse on the blogs”). He said that he was bound by ethics rules against commenting any more about the case or evidence.
At this point, even viewed in a light most favorable to the prosecution, it’s just not possible to piece together all of the publicly available evidence in a manner which even supports the contention that a crime was committed, let alone that the three young men charged were involved. The Newsweek article indicates that that the alleged victim may just stop cooperating.
It is not certain that the accuser will go forward with the case. Ten years ago she claimed she had been raped three years earlier by three men, but her father told reporters that the rape never happened, and she never followed through with the authorities. The father has been supportive of her this time around, but he told yet another version of what happened – that the Duke players used a broom handle. Recently, he has said that his daughter is struggling with her “nerves” and may not be up to testifying in a trial. According to their lawyer, Mark Simeon, the accuser’s parents have not heard from their daughter for weeks and are very concerned.
If that comes to pass, as seems increasingly likely, the focus will turn to the conduct of Nifong; in which case things will really get interesting.
Take a look at the rest of the Newsweek story or check out two posts at The Johnsonville News (June 17 and June 15) [Note – Though we are well aware of the alleged victims identity, we are not publicizing it. The Johnsonville News is.] to see how the conduct of the lead detective and the DA have become the story. They were talking earlier, and their statements (or more accurately misstatements) are a major part of the story.
A prominent Duke law professor, James Coleman, last week called on Nifong to remove himself from the case and appoint a special prosecutor. “Either he knew what the facts were and misstated them, or he was making them up,” Coleman told reporters. “Whether he acted knowing they were false, or if he was reckless, it doesn’t matter in the long run. This is the kind of stuff that causes the public to lose confidence in the justice system.”
Coleman seems to have hit upon the problems noted in a defense filling [PDF], and the aforementioned Johnsonville News posts, in that Nifong was professing to have read medial records that don’t appear to have been retrieved (via subpoena) until well after his statements were made.
The rape case may have collapsed, but that case against Nifong is just getting started…