What’s Up With the Duke Lacrosse Case?

by Lou on May 16, 2006

Something about the Duke Lacrosse rape case continues to bother me. If the prosecutor thinks he can gain a conviction while the DNA evidence he has points to someone other than a member of the Duke Lacrosse team, he needs to have something mighty powerful in store.

One of the accused players even has receipts from a cab driver, an ATM, and a convenience store, that show he could not have been at the house when the alleged rape took place. The team captain, who was indicted yesterday, said he offered evidence to the prosecutor to establish his innocence but was turned down.

He also said that he passed a polygraph test administered by a former FBI polygrapher. While I know that polygraph tests are not 100 percent accurate, those results when taken together with the lack of DNA evidence and other exculpatory evidence the accused offered to turn over to the prosecutor (which he refused to look at) makes me think something is terribly wrong here.

It appears to be one of those rush-to-judgment events, like the infamous McMartin Pre-School case. (Members of the McMartin family, who operated a preschool is southern California , were charged with sexual abuse of children in their care. After six years of criminal trials, no convictions were obtained, and all charges were dropped in 1990.)

The Duke Lacrosse case seems to have elements of that kind of hysteria playing out. You have a prosecutor eager to cement his reelection so he goes public with his suppositions even before the police could finish an investigation (Are you thinking, “Round up the usual suspects,” here?)

The case is also racially charged because the accuser is Black and the defendants are White, and you have the issues of class along with the status of athletes in a prestigious university layered on top of that. And before the dust settled the Lacrosse coach was eased out the door and the season was cancelled.

Had this case involved the Duke basketball team instead of the lacrosse team, I doubt whether Coach K would have been asked to resign, and I don’t think the team’s season (and the revenue it generates) would have been shut down.

So instead of a simple criminal case, to be tried in a court of law, this has become an event that is now being tried in the press, and has become a sociological witch hunt as much as a criminal case.

I’ve been very careful when thinking about this case. I had to make sure I was able to divorce myself from any biases because I am, and have always been, a huge Lacrosse fan.

My own feeling is that this case will eventually blow away, but not before a greedy prosecutor, who seems to operate in the ready, fire, aim mode, will have sullied the reputation of a school, a team, and a bunch of student athletes who may have been rowdy party goers but who ultimately deserved better. We’ll see.

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