Widely-respected legal writer Stuart Taylor takes to the pages of Slate to thoroughly evicerate a rather pathetic effort by the New York Times to rehabilitate the efforts of Durham’s Keystone Kops and bumbling DA Mike Nifong in the interminable Duke lacrosse investigation. Quoth Taylor:
Like the headline, the piece cultivates a meretricious appearance of balance. But its flaws are so glaring that it was shredded by bloggers within hours after it hit my doorstep. They were led by a Durham group called Liestoppers and by KC Johnson, an obscure but brilliant New York City history professor of centrist political views. Johnson alone has produced more insightful (if sometimes one-sided) analysis and commentary on the Duke case—about 60,000 words—than all the nation’s newspapers combined.
The Wilson-Glater piece highlights every superficially incriminating piece of evidence in the case, selectively omits important exculpatory evidence, and reports hotly disputed statements by not-very-credible police officers and the mentally unstable accuser as if they were established facts. With comical credulity, it features as its centerpiece a leaked, transparently contrived, 33-page police sergeant’s memo that seeks to paper over some of the most obvious holes in the prosecution’s evidence.
This memo was concocted from memory, nearly four months after the underlying witness interviews, by Durham police Sgt. Mark Gottlieb, the lead investigator. Gottlieb says he took no contemporaneous notes, an inexplicable and indefensible police practice. Gottlieb had drawn fire before the alleged Duke rape—perhaps unbeknownst to the Times—as a Dukie-basher who reveled in throwing kids into jail for petty drinking infractions, noise violations, and the like, sometimes with violent criminals as cellmates.
Gottlieb’s memo is contradicted on critical points by the contemporaneous notes of other police officers, as well as by hospital records seeming to show that the accuser did not have the injuries Gottlieb claims to have observed. The Times blandly mentions these contradictions while avoiding the obvious inference that the Gottlieb memo is thus unworthy of belief.
JustOneMinute‘s Tom Maguire has more, including excerpts from a New Yorker piece on the scandal. I wish I could remember who I first saw mock this passage mercilessly, which is the sort of thing only someone from Manhattan (the one in New York, not Kansas) could write:
In the order of the social universe of Duke undergraduates, the lacrosse players ranked at the top of the dominance hierarchy. They tended to be the children of white, prosperous families, products of northeastern preparatory schools, where the game is a fixture; after graduation most of them go on to lucrative careers in fields like finance. They were capable, if not overly serious, students, and necessarily well-disciplined athletes. They were also known as enthusiastically social creatures, partyers of the very highest order, and prodigious drinkers, even within a culture inclined to intemperance. In this regard, their marquee setting (in public, at least) was the Saturday-morning football-season event known as Tailgate, a quasi-sanctioned school function held in a parking lot before football games.
You’ve got to love a magazine so pretentious that it has to explain to its readers what tailgating is…