We will never know why former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong was so aggressive in prosecuting the Duke Lacrosse rape case. Did he have a sincere belief that the three defendants were guilty or was he simply a political opportunist? Many will debate this question for a long time, but I believe it is something of a mute point. Whatever his secret motives may have been, his public actions speak for themselves and they were inexcusable.
Mike Nifong has had to pay for, in the words of his own attorney, making “multiple, egregious mistakes” in his handling of the case. He has lost not only his job as District Attorney of Durham, but has been disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar. Furthermore, he will probably have to face criminal contempt charges and a civil trial should the victims and their families seek restitution for the millions of dollars they spent trying to defend themselves against the false accusations.
Duke University itself has had to pay for its handling of the case as well. The president and board of trustees, realizing that the players had grounds to pursue civil damages from the university have reached an undisclosed settlement with the players and their families.
I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect Mike Nifong and Duke University to pay for their rush to judgment. After all, they helped the national news media and others defame the character of these three players. They should have remembered that the players were innocent until proven otherwise. Instead, they got caught up in the media frenzy along with everyone else.
I do not, however, think the blame should stop there. What about the “victim”? Why is it that this anonymous stripper can get away with destroying the lives of three innocent people? Why doesn’t she have to pay for what she did? If there is any justice, she should be the one to got to jail for what she did to these young men.
During the trial, there were lots of victim’s rights advocates taking the side of this anonymous stripper. They tried to defend her against attacks on her credibility. That is understandable. We would all like to think that people do not just make up stories to tell to juries about people who never actually did them any harm. I certainly wouldn’t want to create a system in which victims are afraid to speak out.
Nevertheless, when it is abundantly clear that the “victim” has deliberately lied about something this important, she is no longer a victim. It is now clear that this accuser is guilty of great injustice and I think she needs to be punished for it. As much as we need to have a system where victims can speak out, we have to make sure that we also protect innocent people from false accusations. To do this we must punish the people who make false accusations.
The guilt does not even stop with her, however. The cable news networks loved this story. After all, they have lots of airtime to fill and nothing does that better than a new sensational story. It didn’t matter that the three defendants were innocent until proven otherwise. The media didn’t actually say they were guilty. They just reported what other people said – and of course broadcasted the pictures of the accused to millions of people. Now that it is proven that the accuser was lying, I wonder why they do not gave her identity the same publicity. I guess it makes for better ratings to sully the names of innocent people.
It does not appear that the three defendants will be able to seek any damages from the news media or the accuser herself. If there was, we certainly would have heard about it by now. Nevertheless, I think that anyone who condemned these innocent young men prematurely should at the very least make a very public apology. That would not, of course, do anything to pay back the millions they have spent defending themselves or restore their good name, but it would be a start. Is an apology so much to ask after a year of injustice? I think not and if I was one of these players it is what I would expect and demand.