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The Never-Ending Lax Case

We're about halfway through the book Until Proven Innocent, the book by KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor, which very impressively brings together all the different aspects of the Duke lacrosse case. What's surprising is just how it can still make you angry to read how this all happened. Whether it's people at Duke, the media, or whoever else, it's unbelievable to see it all organized and laid out, and in particular to see dates correlated and to know what was said or done, when and where, and in what context. A lot of people made conscious decisions to ignore or disregard evidence of innocence and just kept right on going.

As you know, President Brodhead has apologized for his role in the case. He was necessarily one of the primary figures in the case, as was the Durham Herald-Sun.

The paper editorializes on Brodhead's apology, saying it's "debatable" whether he needed to or not, and that "he showed an admirable capacity for honest self-analysis."

But if any player in the case could use some honest self-analysis, it's the Durham Herald-Sun. The paper joined the lynch mob early and even now, after there was no DNA, after the attorney general publicly declared the three indicted players to be absolutely innocent, even after the D.A. has been disbarred and ordered to jail for concealing exculpatory evidence, even after all of that, the paper can't manage their own long overdue apology. They probably can't be sued, but it would be nice if they could.

One of the things which the book has put into a sharper focus is the miserable state of the Durham police department.

On Wednesday, we learn that some other interesting things were kept from the public, among them:

  • Police talked to Crystal Mangum more than they told us, specifically on March 28th, 2006. Neither Ben Himan or Mark Gottlieb noted this meeting in their records.
  • Mayor Bill Bell urged police to hurry up and resolve the case because he was worried about racial violence.
  • Bell, city manager Patrick Baker, and former police chief Steve Chalmers attended a meeting "two days before authorities agreed to conduct a photo lineup that violated city policy but prompted indictments of three innocent men," according to the Herald-Sun. This was on the 29th.
  • There was a second meeting on the 29th, with Himan, Gottlieb, Ron Hodge (deputy chief), and various other people. Then the detectives met with Nifong. Then Himan met with Nifong again the following day.

We haven't finished the book yet, but this news just underscores the lack of trust the public is entitled to have in the police department. Why in the world is Durham still paying clowns like Himan and particularly Gottlieb?