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60 Minutes Eviscerates Nifong, Again

The previous 60 Minutes piece on the Duke lacrosse case was hard-hitting, but
Sunday's was devastating to Mike Nifong and the case he built.

Among the new information revealed:

  • Brian Meehan, of DNA Security, made it clear that there was no question
    that Nifong absolutely understood there was exculpatory evidence, saying
    that he told the prosecutor about the lack of DNA from any lacrosse players,
    and the DNA found from other men. Nifong is obliged under state law to
    turn over exculpatory evidence.
  • The alleged victim (AV) has more extensive psychological problems than has
    been previously revealed.
  • The parents of the accused lacrosse players are infuriated and are clearly
    considering ways to punish Mike Nifong for what they believe to be
    outrageous abuses.
  • Duke's James Coleman believes Nifong may have committed obstruction of

President Brodhead was briefly interviewed. He defended the
cancellation of the lacrosse season last spring, arguing that with such a cloud
over the program that it was not the time to take the field (the same argument
he made at the time). He also defended Duke's decision to invite Reade
Seligmann and Colin Finnerty back to school, an offer their parents suggested
they weren't sure it was wise to accept, given Nifong's re-election and the
treatment Durham police have given Duke students.

For Duke, the episode was, to borrow a phrase, a social disaster. It
wasn't any better for Durham or the state of North Carolina.

After the lacrosse case, the faked lead tests, the burning landfill, the
various police shenanigans, Durham's reputation has taken a major hit.

North Carolina's judicial system has had a harsh light shone on it, and what
it's shown is not pretty: a prosecutor pursuing conviction at all costs and
utterly disregarding any evidence contrary to his goal.

The case has become a significant controversy in the state, with members of
the legislature suggesting that the state take over supervision of prosecutors
(currently the bar handles it).

It may well be a wildcard election issue in the state in 2008, with no way to
predict its impact.

For Duke, it's going to be an ongoing problem. Brodhead is in a
difficult position, because no matter what he does, he's going to offend various
constituencies. We can empathize. A modern university is to a
certain extent anarchic, and no president, no matter how smart, strong, or
capable, can truly be said to run it, other than fundraising and planning
facilities or programs. Brodhead cannot control the faculty, nor,
generally speaking should he try, except in exceptional circumstances.

But the entire enterprise rests on consistently recruiting new students, and
for parents who may not be familiar with Duke, or Durham, the 60 Minutes piece
certainly forms a frightening image of what is, basically, a very nice town,
albeit a town with issues. Duke has a lot to overcome as a result of this case.

One thing which Brodhead could do, it seems to us, which everyone should
agree with, is to make it clear to the city of Durham that Duke students must be
treated the same as any other citizens and that Duke will not tolerate any
further mistreatment of its students. Certainly parents of students
(present and prospective) would wish this to be so.

In the extraordinary, this refers to the defendants in the lacrosse case, who
have been handy pinyatas for Nifong to blindly smack around and to knock goodies
out of for his various constituencies.

But in a broader sense, Durham police have quite frankly discriminated
against Duke students as a class, which is a violation of their civil
rights. In particular, Sgt. Mark Gottlieb has arrested a significantly
higher number of Duke students than his peers, with some students reporting
threats and violence.

Brodhead, like any university president, has limited control over his
faculty, and for good reason. But he can certainly address the way the
city of Durham and the state of North Carolina have treated Duke students.
He has a number of options, from simply advocating for reform, to threatening to
limit Duke's cooperation with the city on a number of things, to withholding
taxes in protest, to suing the city for violating the civil rights of Duke

There is a wide gap between Duke and Durham, as this case has made painfully
clear. And as Professor James Coleman has made clear, if you can do what
Nifong did to rich people, it's ten times easier to do it to poor ones.
Brodhead has an opportunity to let Duke serve Durham, and to build bridges, by
having Duke help keep the justice system honest. Perhaps law students
could organize themselves and monitor the district attorney's office for any
further abuses, particularly against people who can't fight back as the lacrosse
families have done.

He could, when the time is right, even advocate for major reform in the state
system of justice. Reform is long overdue, and would be one of the few
positives to come out of this whole mess. It would give Duke a chance to
show some leadership on a very important issue, and given the level of attention
the case has drawn, someone needs to step up and address the need for reform.

That would be an impressive legacy for any university president.