August 31, 2006

Witness for the Prosecution?: Imagine you are the world's most powerful newspaper and you have invested your credibility in yet another story line that is falling apart, crumbling as inexorably as Jayson Blair's fabrications and the flawed reporting on Saddam Hussein's supposed WMD. What to do?

posted by justgary to culture at 03:48 AM - 12 comments

I have to admit, I stopped paying close attention to this story when it became clear that everyone involved, on all sides of the story, had an agenda of one kind or another. This piece is no exception. The Times (as well as the many other national papers who aren't as much of a perennial journalistic lightning rod) clearly got crucial parts of this story wrong out of the gate, and there may have been an attempt to back-justify the position they took. But I'm still waiting for someone to actually present all the sides of this story, instead of attacking one side or defending another. That kind of writing just smacks of self-interest, and frankly I don't buy it. That said, I don't think such a piece has been written (or broadcast) yet, and maybe it's not yet possible to do so. This piece is vicious and Times-bashing enough that it comes off as a smear piece itself. Certainly it doesn't read like (pardon the phrase) a fair and balanced breakdown of the facts as we now know them. Color me skeptical. I'll wait for a piece that doesn't sound like the writer is more interested in slamming a newspaper than actually presenting all the sides of this complicated and multifaceted story.

posted by chicobangs at 06:10 AM on August 31

Well, no charges laid, no trial = a bad day for the NYT, which I wouldn't mind so much, execpt it costs me $12 a month just for the Sunday edition. It be nice to know that their proverbial axe is at least sharp if they're gonna grind the hell out of it. I totally bought the idea of the rape. It made perfect sense to me. I am just as much a victim of my own prejudice in this case. But Duke still sucks.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 07:57 AM on August 31

Like Chico, I tuned out early. It's easy to forget that a paper like the Times needs multiple sources on record to be able to print something as fact. Bloggers have the luxury of not having to be quite as thorough, and hindsight is 20/20. On the other hand, no doubt this was poorly handled by almost all media, and the current environment of rather-be-first-than-right is frustrating. But The Times wasn't the only guilty party that bought what Nifong was selling. D.A.'s have the bully-pulpit and can typically get their side out before the defense is even put together. Like Weedy, my predujice got the best of me. Interestingly, the first story I read that raised doubts was in the New York Times. Can't locate the link, but i'll try to find it.

posted by SummersEve at 08:37 AM on August 31

People are willing to let their disdain for an athletic program color their judgement in a criminal case that was clearly a matter of she said/they said from the start? Does Duke suck THAT bad?

posted by mjkredliner at 09:02 AM on August 31

My problem with this story is that we have to believe that the woman, the police, and the prosecutors have a vendetta against some guys from Duke's lacrosse team. Why? I get that race relations in the area could be of concern, but I don't think police and prosecutors put their neck out and perjure themselves for rape victims and especially not for a woman that falsely cries rape.

posted by bperk at 09:31 AM on August 31

You know, maybe the defense is right. But we're not going to know for a while. We don't have all the facts. I read this Times piece, and I had no problem with it. The author of the Slate piece wants the Times to make lots of inferences and for them to come to the conclusions that he already has. But I've yet to see a believable motive for why the prosecution is going ahead with the cases if they are just going to get embarassed and laughed out of court. The early theory about the DA needing support for his re-election made little sense; it wasn't like he was in deep trouble or anything. And if the prosecution is committing misconduct, they are obviously not going to be able to quietly push through a conviction without anyone noticing; this whole thing will blow up on them far more badly than if they had dropped the case earlier. So I think I'll wait till all the facts are clear before forming an opinion as to what's what. I also think it's clear that the media, including the Times has been reporting the doubts about this case for a long time. They may not have done that at first, but they have since. The media is certainly guilty of overkill in this case, but that doesn't make it any different than lots of other cases.

posted by spira at 09:33 AM on August 31

People are willing to let their disdain for an athletic program color their judgement in a criminal case that was clearly a matter of she said/they said from the start? Ha! Nice. No - not that stupid. My particular prejudice is for the silver spoon jockos that typically inhabit lacrosse dressing rooms. Or in simpler form: Dude, frat boys are jerks. (My that's a big paintbrush).

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:15 AM on August 31

Some of the initial press reports stated definitively that hospital staff had found physical evidence consistent with a sexual assault. The Slate piece states definitively that no such evidence was found, period. No injuries, no trauma. That single thing makes all the difference in the world in how the he said / she said is perceived.

posted by Amateur at 11:37 AM on August 31

Oddly enough, without rape taking place, you basically have the same situation as the Vikings had at their boat party. Notice you didn't have any groups rallying around those players in support of them. In this case, we have young guys buying hookers and having sex with them in which they undoubtedly payed for. Those Vikings players (for about 2 months) were the most disgraceful, disgusting group of athletes in the world. Things were said like "How dare they" etc. In the Duke case, this young men "almost had their lives ruined because of lies". Now most are happy with this group of young men because evidence is pointing to the fact that a rape most likely didn't happen. So now these young men are considered "innocent" "off the hook" "not ruined" etc. In one case you have people denouncing a group of men for such inappropriate behavior (Vikings) and in the the other case you had people joining forces to fight for the right of these young men to do exactly what the Vikings players did and even referring to them as innocent. Maybe the vikings players should have had one of their "dancers" make a phony rape claim so they would look "innocent" too.

posted by Bishop at 11:56 AM on August 31

I'm not really sure there's much of a similarity between those two things, Bishop. Fred Smoot's Wicked Ass Party was a larf. Misdemeanor charges and no one lost their job. Outrage from Christian groups aside. Now it's a punchline. Actually, for most people - it already was a punchline. A double-ended punchline. Rape claim at underage drinking party with hookers at school? Liiiiiiittle different.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 12:29 PM on August 31

Weedy's right on this. Completely different scenarios, especially when you add in the race card that got thrown down in Durham. Lake Minnetonka was a laugher from the start (however disgusting and irresponsible it was).

posted by nicotine winning patch at 03:19 PM on August 31

Ha! Nice. No - not that stupid. /Picks up penalty flag, puts back in pocket, gives frat boys warnings instead.

posted by mjkredliner at 06:05 AM on September 01

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