The Smartest Thing Yet Said About the Duke Case

There were a lot of stupid, over-the-top comments made yesterday by many of the people involved in the Duke lacrosse case during and after the point at which North Carolina's attorney general declared the three young defendants "innocent" of the sex assault charges against them. Some of the comments about the "injustice" of it all made the young men seem like the second coming of Nelson Mandela. Some of the comments about incompetence and maliciousness made hapless Durham County District Attorney Michael Nifong seem like Major Strasser in the film Casablanca. Instead of focusing upon those comments, let me focus instead upon the one comment I heard Wednesday that gratified and encouraged me.

It came from David Evans, one of the young men vindicated Wednesday. He acknowledged at a press conference after he was exonerated that he prevailed in large part because he was able to afford the best attorneys in North Carolina-- and also that many, many others there charged with similiar crimes are not so fortunate. About his parents he said: "I don't take lightly the fact that their hard work, their success and their sacrifice has allowed me to be represented by such fine lawyers. Many people across this country, across this state, would not have the opportunity that we did. And this could simply have been brushed underneath the rug just as another case and some innocent person would end up in jail for their entire life. And it's just not right. And I thank god every day that my parents have worked as hard as they have."

Evans continued: "So first and foremost, I hope that people can realize innocent people can be charged of a crime and it is up to the justice system to determine guilt or innocence, not the news, not speculators and not people with some other agenda. That is why there is a legal system. And today the legal system has prevailed." Amen. To me, Evans' comments go to the heart of the legacy of the Duke case. There is a chance that three poor young men (white or black) might have been able to rouse up competent attorneys who in turn would have outed prosecutor Michael Nifong for what he turned out to be. But not a good chance.

More likely than not our imaginary poor students would have been railroaded into a conviction and left to rot in some state prison somewhere. Sadly, it happens all the time in this country and we only hear about it when some lucky inmate is freed because DNA exonerates him or because some witness somewhere recants. The problem has been made worse over the past few decades by prosecutors, legislators and judges who have made it more difficult for convicted felons to raise issues of actual innocence during or after the appellate process. "Streamlining" is the word these people use as they narrow down the legal options available to men and women whose prosecutors "nifonged" them into a conviction.

On Wednesday, David Evans spoke for those people. Good for him. I hope he continues to speak out for them and that he never forgets how much of a difference his family's money played in ensuring his freedom.

By Andrew Cohen |  April 12, 2007; 12:12 PM ET
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This particular Duke column is one to keep for the anthology. Level-headed analysis, and an excellent point of emphasis.

Posted by: JP2 | April 12, 2007 01:55 PM

Thanks for posting those extended comments. I can't abide reading all the fluff on this and you made sure I didn't miss this. THAT is what these blogs are supposed to do for readers.

I agree that the young man's comments were very thoughtful and mature. I hope he finds a way to act on those views.

Posted by: AC | April 12, 2007 02:34 PM

Andrew- As one of the kings of stupid, over-the-top comments yourself I find your judgement laughable.

everything you writes makes my skin crawl at your own sense of entitlement and privledge.

You rushed to judgement in the Duke case, maybe a fool of yourself repeatedly and now are playing holier-than-thou.

If you weren't so immature and unfocused, one could actually call you a hypocrite.

Posted by: Kettle black | April 12, 2007 02:37 PM

Andrew Cohen, May 2006:

"...don't blame the prosecutor, either. After an early case blunder in which he promised more than he could deliver, Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong has generally resisted the temptation to ride the whirlwind of media coverage and duel it out with defense attorneys via the media. He must be dying behind his self-imposed cone of silence, unwilling or unable to fight an even fight for the hearts and minds of potential jurors. His only vindication will be at trial, but that must seem these days like a long time coming for him and his star witness."

I wonder that Mr. Cohen is not now also trying to remind us not to forget about world hunger. It wouldn't have demolished his sermon about the price of justice in America to have acknowledged first that he was one of the clowns in the early media circus that surrounded the Duke case.

Posted by: Zathras | April 12, 2007 02:46 PM

What would truly impress me would be if at least one of these young men devoted themselves to making sure it didn't happen to anyone else. I know Evans is already in i-banking, but Seligmann addressed the money issue in his comments. Perhaps he could go to law school and represent indigent criminal defendants that suffer the fate that he avoided because of his ability to raise money for his defense.

That would go a long way towards getting back his reputation that he "lost".

Posted by: OD | April 12, 2007 03:06 PM

This story was all about personal gain. Professional ambulance chasers(Al Sharpton types) used if for personal enrichment. Nifong, no need its obvious. The Group of 88 for power and position in the academic hierarchy. Media to get viewers and sell stories. Attorneys always make out on stories like these.
None of these groups care at all for the people caught in the middle. Hey they are off looking for the next ambulance to chase.

Posted by: richardb | April 12, 2007 03:07 PM

North Carolina's attorney general declared the three young defendants "innocent" of the sex assault charges against them.


I find it disheartening that by referring to them as quote unquote innocent you continue your false characterization of these three young men. Do not attempt to veil your past contempt for these young men with frivolous praise and commentary about the justice system. How about apologizing to the young men for the circus that you helped perpetuate. They were found to be INNOCENT!

Posted by: Katherine | April 12, 2007 03:09 PM

"North Carolina's attorney general declared the three young defendants "innocent" of the sex assault charges against them."


I find it disheartening that by referring to them as quote "innocent" you continue your false characterization of these three young men. Do not attempt to veil your past contempt for these young men with frivolous praise and commentary about the justice system. How about apologizing to the young men for the circus that you helped perpetuate. They were found to be INNOCENT!

Posted by: Katherine | April 12, 2007 03:15 PM

Hey Katherine: Just curious, do you know what the "stripper" was actually hired to do? You might be surprised to learn that the comparisons some have made to Chippendales -- you know, just a little naughty but innocent fun -- are not really accurate.

Posted by: Loudounian | April 12, 2007 03:24 PM

Cohen, you weasel, we are still waiting for your apology for being Nifong's most ardent supporter in the national media.

What do you think that people have forgotten so quickly about your shameful propagandizing to make sure false convictions moved forward in this case.

Posted by: accountability | April 12, 2007 03:40 PM

These young men have no obligation to "impress" anyone or to make amends as if they did something wrong.

Posted by: me | April 12, 2007 03:44 PM

You tried your best to make this case all about money. It never was. Nothing happened that night. The stripper lied and the DA ran with the story to win an election and get a bigger pension. The 88, NAACP, New Black Panthers used the case for their own agenda.

The parents hired the best defense they could, just as any parents would to expose the hoax. These families suffered for over year. Durham and NC should get down on their knees to thank these families for exposing the weaknesses in the NC Law enforcement and NC Justice system. Now it's up to NC to fix it. DOJ should get involved.

As AG Cooper declared, Collin Finnerty, Reade Seligmann and David Evans are INNOCENT!

Let the lawsuits begin.

Posted by: brittany | April 12, 2007 03:56 PM

brittany: just curious, who do you think these lawsuits should be against?

Posted by: Loudounian | April 12, 2007 04:22 PM

The Duke players have been treated badly by the prosecution but remember what happened that evening. A group of very wealthy young men hired strippers, who obviously were not born with a silver spoon in their mouths, to "entertain them" When you lie down with dogs you do get up with fleas. Any wealthy person should realize that when they "hire" someone at a social disadvantage for entertainment they are at risk of being a target of lies for monetary gain. I don't think the players deserved any of this.

Posted by: pkm | April 12, 2007 04:25 PM

Luodounian- I think they should sue Andrew Cohen since when he appears at the bar, it will be the closest to a courtroom that this legal fraud has been in a decade.

Posted by: my idea | April 12, 2007 05:17 PM

Andrew:
When is Nifong's "vindication" coming?
It's really scary how bad your judgment proved to be.

Posted by: Rich | April 12, 2007 06:34 PM

Mr Cohen,

If we are to discuss this case, we should acknowledge what has caused the continuous media circus. It wasn't the wrongfully accused young men. It wasn't the victim who hopefully finds the help she needs. It wasn't the defense attorneys either, who were only responding to the swirl. It was the media itself.

It is quite laughable that the many talking heads (whether on CNN/Fox/MSNBC, or in the major newspaers) which have proliferated in our society, have appointed themselves the protectors of journalistic freedom, yet are fully willing to violate one of the most basic rights we all hold dear. The right to a presumption of innocence.

I think Ms. Katherine Graham would be considerably disappointed by your lack of journalistic ethic. Editorials are an important part of the news when BASED ON TRUE FACTS, not when the facts are abused to fit the author's agenda. Unfortunately you have violated that tenet on these pages numerous times, in regards to this case. I view your performance on this topic a black mark on the Washington Post. Only an apology to all involved would suffice. I doubt you will provide it.

Posted by: Will DeRiso | April 12, 2007 06:57 PM

I practised law for many years. I have learned that the innocent do get convicted. The courts often make mistakes. One reason is that witnesses have their own agendas which exclude the truth. Judges and juries have their prejudices that are irrational. Often speculation and assumption is a substitute for a rational consideration of the evidence. Their is an appellate court system that exists because lower courts often make mistakes. Two matters come to mind where injustice is apparent: Guantanamo Bay and the Death Penalty. The US is so neurotic about terrorists that it cannot stop presuming that the detainees are guilty. This is as vindictive as the jailing of Japanese residents during WWII. If people do not realise that Bush is dangerous then more injustices will occur.

Posted by: Robert James | April 12, 2007 07:47 PM

uh oh. rich people beware...when you hire someone at a "social disadvantage" , you may be subject to lies...how about when you set out to exploit...women, strippers, you might get exploited, too.

Posted by: lbattaile | April 12, 2007 09:39 PM

Check out this collection of before and after quotes about this case:

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/columns/story?columnist=wojciechowski_gene&id=2835342

Pretty amazing.

Again - where are Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson? Shouldn't they, as self-appointed moralizers, admit they too made a rush to judgement?

Like THAT will ever happen!

Posted by: Before...and After | April 12, 2007 10:49 PM

Loudounian,

While I recognize the poor judgement diplayed by all of the young men who attended the party, I do not believe that poor judgemnet warrants the hell that the accused were put through. Nor do I think that Mr Cohen's article was the type of article that these young men deserved from someone who has repeatedly put his personal agenda before journalistic integrity. For Mr Cohen to describe the accused as "innocent", is a sarcastic dig that implies that the only reason the gentlemen were exonerated was because they could afford an expensive defense team. The fact that they did not actually committ the crimes that they were accused of seems to be lost on our trusty columnist.

While I appreciate your attempt to educate me on the realities of the activities happening at the house that night,I am well aware of the shananigans that go on at certain parties. I have had first hand experience with peers that lived somewhat parallel lives to the Duke lacrosse players while in college, as well as a roommate that worked as an exotic dancer to pay for school. Some of the parties I was aware of could be only describe as pure debauchery. I am also not naive enough to believe that the mix of alcohol and testoterone could have provided for a hostile environment.

The possibilitiy that things got out of hand and that bigoted comments were made exist, in fact it is probable. However, it has been proven that no one was held against their will, no one was sodimized, and no one was raped. A crime was not committed at this house and 3 young college students lives were thrown into turmoil for over a year.

The intention in my repsonse to Mr Cohen's article was to express my disdain for his inability to recognize the fact that the young men were found innocent of the charges that had threatened to ruin their lives. His sarcasm in refering to the young men is indicative of the arrogance displayed by columnists like Mr Cohen, and his inability to admit his errors. Mr, Cohen, along with many other journalists, owe these young men an apology. An apology Mr Cohen proved he is not willing to give with this column.

Posted by: Katherine | April 13, 2007 12:05 AM

The lacrosse players' innocence was established early on by a lack of DNA evidence. Nifong ignored this fact and prosecuted the case "the old fashioned way" which means on an anonymous accuser's word and nothing more.

I'm not a lawyer, but I understand every state has a law that allows this, based on the notion that "women don't lie."

Even if Nifong ends up in jail where he belongs, these laws still stand.

Posted by: Ed | April 13, 2007 08:56 AM

It's amazing. You didn't get anything right about the Duke case, yet you act like you still know some unrevealed truth.
I won't be wasting any more of my time on PC idiots like you.

Posted by: RichK | April 13, 2007 10:10 AM

One of Loudounian's remarks above alludes to a P.O.V. I've heard elsewhere about this case but I don't quite understand. Namely, there's an inference that because the lacrosse players hired strippers that they're somehow not innocent.

Since when does hiring strippers make one guilty of the crime of rape?

Personally, I think being a stripper is one of the saddest possible careers choices a person could make. Furthermore, hiring a stripper sounds like one of the stupidest possible wastes of one's money. However, as long as everyone involved is an adult, neither of these activities are criminal. Admirable - no, but hardly criminal. If you're serious about condemning them for the hiring of strippers, then there are thousands and thousands of people across this country who deserve the same level of persecution and financial hardship these three have endured. I expect you hypocrites to race out the door looking for them. GO! Right now!

To those who believe these young men somehow got what was coming to them because they were at a party where strippers had been hired, I wonder if you've considered the economic consequences to the strippers themselves if college kids stopped paying for their services. What do you suppose are their immediate alternatives? Do you suppose that if they couldn't get stripping gigs at college parties these young women would all of a sudden devote more time to studying for their MBAs? Was it a choice between taking off their clothes for money or performing heart surgery that night? Or is it possible that if they can't make enough money taking their clothes off, then they'll cross the line to illegality and start taking money in exchange for sex? (A line which the facts suggest that the stripper already repeatedly crossed.)

There's no gray area here - the North Carolina Attorney General has examined all of the evidence and believes them innocent. Period. Yet, some of you - despite that! - can't seem to get past your desperate, aching NEED to keep judging them and finding them guilty. Look at the self-righteous ass above who bloviates about how the three men could "impress" him, and goes on to suggest how they could dedicate the rest of their lives and how this would earn his approval. Your jealousy is showing. Grow up.

Posted by: Betsy | April 13, 2007 11:58 AM

Cohen you moron - still trying to find a way to taint the victims of this case, and suggesting that what needs to be done now, is that these rich white boys need to be reminded that it's their money that got them off - as if thats the big lesson of this case. How about this for a lesson - dont accuse innocent people of committing atrocious crimes ?

Posted by: EffYouCohenYouWeasel | April 13, 2007 01:51 PM

Yes, Andrew Cohen, David Evans did give a clear analysis of the Duke case, despite the fact that he was and is a certified victim by a rogue prosecutor as well as naive, undiscerning "journalists" such as yourself. You have shown yourself to be incapable of thinking outside your pea-brained, narrow worldview despite the fact that it is your supposed job as a journalist to give clear, level-headed analysis.

Your early, prejudicial "reporting" or "blogging" or whatever you want to call it was and remains prejudicial nonsense.

This whole episode shows how David Evans succeeds as a human being where you fail in your supposed profession.

I'd say you should go back to journalism school but sadly the nation's journalism schools are what breed such contemptuous, narrow minded people such as yourself.

And some wonder why America's once thriving newspaper business is in its coffin ready to be lowered into the ground.

Posted by: Michael Marr | April 13, 2007 07:17 PM

Cohen - you crucified these boys and jumped on the bandwagon to kill them. Had these guys gone to jail (like if,they could not make bail), they would have been beaten, raped and possibly murdered by the other inmates. You are a disgrace and should be fired from the WP.

Posted by: lynp | April 14, 2007 12:46 PM

The Duke Lacrosse Case was a true tragedy for those students and their families. Unfortunately, cases similar to that seem to be occurring in many other states. There is a case currently here in Rochester, NY were a Professional Firefighter who is a well known Community Activist and Pastor of a Christian Church is being charged with Rape. The case is based on the testimony of a "PSYCHIC" from another state. Apparently a "PSYCHIC" from out of state started this entire injustice implicating this Firefighter in raping his own biological daughter who has not resided with her father in 16 years, yet District Attorney Mike Green is prosecuting this Firefighter and is pushing this case forward anyway. There was sufficient evidence right from the beginning to prove that the accuser was and is still lying and that the mother of the accuser is a well known Drug Dealer in PA and was conspiring with the "PSYCHIC to have charges pressed against the father and yet the DA in this City is still pursuing charges, knowing all of this up front. This country is suppose to have the best Legal System in the World and yet innocent people are being falsely accused and charged with heinous crimes by over zealous and over reaching prosecutors who seem to only care about their political careers and not the pursuit of Justice. A web site was generated in support of the Firefighter and his family who are being destroyed by the local DA's Office. Get the facts of this case at: www.justiceforpablo.com

Isn't it true that "Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere"?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 16, 2007 04:41 PM

Cohen, stop trying to shift the focus of discussion from the near crucifixion of three innocent men, and the role you and your cohorts in the media played in that outrage - to the priviledge of these rich white young men, and how fortunate they are for having the resources to defend themselves. Thats a different topic, for a different day. Right now - the issue is their innocence, and how morons like yourself were ready, willing, and able to crucify these young men in the media. Stop trying to change the topic, in an effort to divert the discussion from your shameful and pathetic mis-reporting of this case - this is the issue right now. If you want to talk about the price of justice, write a different article, on a different day, in a different context. We are not going to soon forget the role you and your media cohorts played in this outrageous fiasco.

Posted by: AndrewCohenIsAMoron | April 16, 2007 06:32 PM

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Posted by: Gamal | April 19, 2007 03:01 AM

It would be funny if it weren't so sad. All the people in the front rank of politics, the first speakers, th pres, VP, newsmaen and anchors, for the most part ere on the side of conservatism, so as to not stretch the truth tooooo much, but given that sentiment there is a point beyond one does not suggest belevible. But today they are all going Waaaay past the cutoff ponit, and we are getting the exagerations, the liars poker version on each and every story and report on story. Im sad to say that the reason for is basically the ignorance of the American public, not due to television or popular culture as much as the education that doesn't take place, and the public comments we are repeatedly exposed to. The jerking around, the fabrication, the pretense, is all for the top 10% who will benefit from and gain from all this, while the 90%, the remainder who actually do the work and go through the paces, get a reduction in rations and a swift kick in the (w)alls. This is , of course, the long way around for an authoritarian monarchy to lay out its heirarchy, and soon it will go direct, and not engender any questions nor offer bogus reasoning- just do it or die, the usual offer. This is why we have to get back to some empowerment for the actual people and take some off the top.

Posted by: | April 24, 2007 02:02 PM

I have yet to see you or the Duffer explain or lay out the non existent "body of evidence". You and your kind have done more to turn people off the Post, newpapers and the "greater good." When the cuts come due to loss of circulation, you and Araton should get the first pink slips, Nothing you write can be trusted.

Posted by: lynp | April 27, 2007 01:17 AM

It's funny how you finally praise David Evans after all the insinuation about how horrible these "privileged" athletes were as people. When I finally looked into the case after all the fuss, I found quite a bit of material on these players personal lives ... and it seems that they are quite a bit better than average people -- engaging in community service, working hard academically ... even praising and appreciating their parents.

This contrasts sharply with the blow-hards in the XYZ "studies" departments, many of whom seem remarkably unproductive, moving on from one *.studies department to another as they stir up racial or "VictimsRUs" trouble. You fell for their shakedown, you might mop up some of the mess a tad.

Posted by: GaryB | May 8, 2007 05:35 AM

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