Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Righting a Wrong

I was reading a news story this week about the Duke University woes surrounding the now old news about so-called spoiled rich kids running amok as BMOCs (Big Men on Campus).

You remember the story – three lacrosse players on the top-ranked 2006 Duke lacrosse team were accused of raping a female “entertainer” at a party attended by lots of frat boys out for a fun evening. The entertainer, a young black woman, claims she was sexually assaulted by three white guys from the lacrosse team. Her story changed more frequently than a baby’s diapers. She simply was not credible. What followed was a despicable miscarriage of justice. Duke University immediately declared that their esteemed academic institution was innocent of any wrong-doing, roundly condemning the three lacrosse players, and declaring them guilty before an investigation was even started. In other words, these young men were guilty before proven innocent. And they were thrown to the wolves.

The snowball effect began in earnest. The coach of the lacrosse team was pressured to resign; the lacrosse team’s schedule was cancelled for the season; the families of the players were abandoned by the school; and the Durham County Attorney General, Mike Nifong, who was up for reelection, declared the boys guilty before any investigation or evidence had been gathered. Everything was centered on the admission of the girl’s verbal statement that she had been raped. The following are just a few of the remarks made by Nifong who never interviewed her: He repeatedly said that he was "confident that a rape occurred," calling the players "a bunch of hooligans" whose "daddies could buy them expensive lawyers." Nifong initially garnered strong support in some quarters such as the Duke faculty and administration, the national media, and feminist and minority groups, for his willingness to pursue sexual assault charges (

The story quickly got out of control as the university and the state’s attorney general looked to protect themselves. They used the media to portray these young men as out of control rich white kids who have no regard for others. They were painted with an entitlement attitude, elevating them to an elitist class. The only problem is – this is not an accurate picture of these young men or their families. Instead, they found themselves publicly branded with all the vile, crass diatribes associated with misogyny, sexism and racism. They were lambasted daily by the authorities of Duke University and the government officials of Durham, North Carolina, including the police department.

So where should these young men turn for help if the University, the Police Department, the County Attorney General, and the media all had these young men accused, tried and found guilty before a single shred of evidence was ever brought to light? The bull’s-eye was squarely on them.

Folks, the United States of America is where a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. May it ever be so.

The three Duke lacrosse players brought a federal lawsuit against Nifong; the city of Durham; the lab where the DNA tests were conducted; and the former police chief along with several others in the department. I hope they win. But how do you get your reputation back?

Nifong was removed from his position as DA, losing his law license. He has now claimed bankruptcy due to the lawsuits brought against him. Pardon me if I do not shed a tear. He shamelessly abused his position and should have performed his job as DA the way his constituents would have expected.

Now there are thirty-eight additional Duke lacrosse players who are bringing a civil lawsuit against Duke University for “turning its back on them.” These young men have also suffered from the injustices foisted on their teammates. Although the athletes have attempted to resolve their own discrediting, there has continued a bunker mentality within the walls of this academic institution. Sad.

Please understand – I am not in favor of this present trend in our society where everyone wants to sue someone over the slightest matter. Spilling hot coffee on yourself after removing the cover while in a motor vehicle is foolish. The person who ordered the hot drink should learn from this by not doing it again – not by suing McDonalds for providing her with what she ordered. Seems like there are way too many folks looking for deep pockets to pick.

But in this case, where the lives of these college students have been tarnished, possibly beyond repair, I believe they have every right to correct this wrong that was brought against them by those in society who should have been defending their rights, not abusing their rights.

Think about it. Suppose you were unjustly accused of a crime, and you had the very authorities who are supposed to protect your rights coming after you. Where would you turn? Who would be there in your defense?

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