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Latest On Lax

As reactions continue to pore in about the lacrosse case, some distinctly negative comments have begun to arrive. Former Duke professor Houston Baker, now at Vanderbilt, responded to an e-mail from a student who wondered if he would get a fair shake in Baker's class if he dissented. Baker's response, according to Durham in Wonderland:

On a night when 32 pople [sic] have been slaughtered. When the Chancellor of Vandebilt [sic] has issued an amazingly compassionate statement about the horror, you write to me about fairness? Shame on you.

It's a pretty lame way to avoid answering a question, frankly.

Baker has not been the nicest guy to e-mail: when a (not-indicted) player's mother wrote him to express concern about how he had written about the case, Baker told her that the player's were "barn animals" and that she herself was the mother of one. If you'd like to ask him yourself, you can reach him here: houston.a.baker@Vanderbilt.Edu

Cash Michaels, who has written extensively about the case, and in our opinion slanted his coverage heavily, has a more matter-of-fact article up, although not without spin. Here are a couple of examples:

  • "The AG told reporters he saw no reason to prosecute the accuser, given that she honestly believes that she was raped."
  • "The defendants’ families, their defense attorneys and their many supporters were convinced from the beginning that the dancer was lying after she left a drunken lacrosse team party March 14 of last year."

That's not exactly what Roy Cooper said. He told 60 Minutes that "she actually believes" her multiple (and differing) accounts of the alleged assault. And it should be said that Crystal Mangum withdrew the rape allegation in December, saying that she could no longer be sure she was penetrated by a penis. He also made it very clear that he believed she had some serious psychological issues and that there was nothing to be gained by pressing charges. It was not, as Michaels suggests, simply that "she honestly believes" she was raped.

And as for the second quote, Michaels has rarely missed a chance to describe the party as "wild", "drunken," or to (in our opinion) imply in some way that an out-of-control atmosphere made trouble inevitable. He at times provided a useful counterpoint, but it was undermined by his constant spinning.

His column also features quotes from a number of people, including the following:

  • Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP: “We respect the integrity of the Attorney General’s investigation and supported the involvement of special prosecutors. If his office believes the State lacks sufficient evidence to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that all the elements of each crime took place, then it is the State’s constitutional duty to dismiss the charges. We trust that the SBI has left no stone unturned in the investigation of this case.”
  • Outgoing North Carolina Central University Chancellor James Ammons: “The Attorney General’s Office made an assessment today that brings closure to the Duke Lacrosse case.”
  • NCCU law Professor Irving Joyner: “Based upon my personal knowledge of and respect for Attorney General Roy Cooper, I accept his determination that insufficient evidence existed to further the prosecution of the three defendants in this case. I also know Mary Winstead and Jim Coman [the special prosecutors] and hold them in high regard. As such, I can accept their conclusions that this case should be dismissed. The Attorney General’s staff had an opportunity to carefully and independently review the evidence, speak with the accuser and make evidentiary assessments that I am not in a position to make...I do regret the perception that was created before the verdict was announced that the State allowed the defendants, their family members and friends to know of its decision and come into town for a press conference and celebration while it was denying to African-American leaders that an announcement was being made to dismiss these charges. The announcement could have been handled better, but I am satisfied that this case died based upon an objective and independent review of all of the evidence and, without any evidence to the contrary, represented the best judgment of our Attorney General.”

Victoria Peterson, noted Durham gadfly, said this (found again on Durham In Wonderland):

"I don't really care what you think, if you think that the girl was lying or telling the truth, but what happened to the judicial system we have in this country where the jury is the only one who can say if someone is innocent? If he thought there wasn't enough evidence, he could dismiss the charges, but this man [Cooper] took it a step further, he said “We believe these three are innocent.”

In another note, prosecutorial abuse is nothing new. The Chicago Tribune ran a major series back in '99 about the issue. It's sobering, and while attention has focused on Mike Nifong, it's clear to us that it's a bigger problem.

And finally, here's the latest installment in the News & Observer's series on the case.