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Lax: As The End Draws Near, More Questions Arise

The North Carolina State Bar really ripped into District Attorney Mike Nifong in documents filed Monday. The bar accused him of "semantic hair-splitting" and said that the conduct he engaged in is "seldom, if ever, excusable."

According to the Herald-Sun, John Banzhaf III, professor of law at George Washington, thinks Nifong has actually made his situation worse:

"He makes the case for his own disbarment even stronger. He tries to defend clearly indefensible conduct...[The bar] literally shreds Mr. Nifong's arguments and turns his hair-splitting against him."

The full document can be found here (PDF).

So here's where things stand, just to back up a bit: the district attorney brought charges despite a lack of DNA. The alleged victim (AV) had problems identifying her assailant. The adjusted lineup, consisting of photos of only lacrosse players, made it impossible not to finger lacrosse players, unless the AV said the assailants weren't lax players, which she didn't. The exculpatory evidence, DNA and alibi, was ignored. The AV's story shifted time and again. Multiple samples of DNA not belonging to anyone on the lacrosse team were discovered.

The D.A's problems grew so severe that he was forced to turn the case over to special prosecutors, who are reviewing the evidence and attempting to speak to the AV and the second dancer. Allegedly, neither women is cooperating, and according to ABCNews, Kim Roberts says she won't talk unless she is subpoenaed (which begs the question: why?)

We'll return at a later date the the broader credibility problems of the AV, but even leaving that aside (and there are serious reasons to doubt her credibility), this case grows increasingly hard to put up with. Barring some bombshell discovery which frankly we can't conceive of, sometime in the near future, charges will be dismissed, and then a whole different series of questions will arise.

The bar, and perhaps another prosecutor, will ask questions of Mr. Nifong, and one hopes he will gain a new respect for the rights of the accused.

Other people will have more difficult questions to answer, including many people at Duke.

In the 20th century, the American Left achieved some incredible things for the betterment of mankind. Among them you can count the Civil Rights movement and many victories in court which assured a fair shake for people who stand accused of crimes.

We instinctively know now that we should be advised of our rights, that we have a right to counsel, that people in prison cannot be treated like animals.

If you want to sum it up, the American Left, in the 20th century, deserves enormous credit for advancing the notion that human dignity should not be surrendered simply because someone is accused of, or convicted of, a crime, and for following up on Jefferson's deep distrust of state power and for creating a level playing field for defendants.

If you read even a bit of legal history, you'll come across cases like Sacco and Vanzetti, where the judge openly cursed Italians in the courtroom, or the case of the Scottsboro Boys, where the state of Alabama willfully ignored the innocence of the accused. Or even the Dreyfuss affair.

But at Duke at least, the Left has taken a different direction. The professors who tried to shove this case into an ideological straightjacket should have apologized long ago, or at least admitted that they rushed to judgment.

And we aren't suggesting that the Left is alone in this sort of behavior; the right does it too. But in our corner of the world, three young men have been terribly wronged. Yet few apologies or retractions are forthcoming from those who rushed to condemn them.

It's growing increasingly hard to avoid the conclusion that the real "crimes" here are that the lacrosse players are white and (at least appear to be) privileged (not all of them are from what we understand).

For too many, there is no interest in truth when it collides with ideological predisposition. When this case is dismissed, which seems inevitable, aside from a flurry of lawsuits which will hit Duke as an institution and a number of individuals as well, people should be held accountable for their positions and their unwillingness to be...well, honest. Bob Harris of all people crystallized the case when he was caught on camera telling Mike Nifong that, no, the case wasn't about Duke, "it's about honesty. And you're not honest."

We mean no disrespect to Bob Harris when we say this. He is a wonderful man and very bright and accomplished. But: for all the academic firepower Duke has, for the amazing intellects and formidable accomplishments, why is it that a sports announcer nailed this case, absolutely pegged it, and the geniuses who sneer at him and the world he represents can't even admit they were wrong? They don't have to apologize. But why is it so hard to admit they were wrong?

Harris was right when he told Nifong it's about honesty. But he might have also said it's about character. And for highly intelligent people, who are entrusted with young students and their intellectual growth, for them to perpetuate lies, to accept and encourage prosecutorial misconduct, is just an unbelievable abdication of character. And Duke deserves better.