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Times Reverses Itself on Duke Rape Case

The Times, less than five months ago: "By disclosing pieces of evidence favorable to the defendants, the defense has created an image of a case heading for the rocks. But an examination of the entire 1,850 pages of evidence gathered by the prosecution in the four months after the accusation yields a more ambiguous picture. It shows that while there are big weaknesses in Mr. Nifong's case, there is also a body of evidence to support his decision to take the matter to a jury."

The January 12 front-page story,"Duke Accuser Contradicts Herself" on the Duke lacrosse "rape" case, catches it as it enters its final meltdown phase.


Author Duff Wilson begins: "In an interview last month with a district attorney's investigator, the woman who has accused three Duke lacrosse players of sexual assault contradicted critical evidence and parts of her earlier accounts, dealing a new blow to a faltering case."


That's quite a contrast from Wilson and co-author Jonathan Glater's 5,600-word front-page summaryof the case on August 25, 2006, a story so slanted that it was fricasseed by law-writer Stuart Taylor Jr. in Slate four days later. The subhead to Taylor's rebuttal reads "The New York Times Is Still Victimizing Innocent Dukies."


In it, Taylor argued: "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."


Here's the most misleading paragraph from Wilson and Glater's piece in the Times: "By disclosing pieces of evidence favorable to the defendants, the defense has created an image of a case heading for the rocks. But an examination of the entire 1,850 pages of evidence gathered by the prosecution in the four months after the accusation yields a more ambiguous picture. It shows that while there are big weaknesses in Mr. Nifong's case, there is also a body of evidence to support his decision to take the matter to a jury."



Taylor describes that paragraph this way: "A sly formulation. Whoever thought it up chose to focus on the legalistic question of whether Nifong can avoid having his case being thrown out before trial, while glossing over the more important question as to whether any reasonable prosecutor could believe the three defendants to be guilty and force them through the risk, expense, and trauma of a trial."



Taylor again: "The Times piece mentioned most of this exculpatory evidence but understated its cumulative weight and gave unwarranted credence to contrary evidence of dubious credibility, such as the Gottlieb memo. This fits the Times's long-standing treatment of the case as a fable of evil, rich white men running amok and abusing poor black women."


Incidentally, sports columnist Harvey Araton wrote two columns hinting the Duke players were guilty because they were white and the alleged victim black. Here's Araton from June 2: "Shouldn't the judicial system be allowed to work without the accused being martyred, considering the long history in this country of black women being abused by white men of means?"


Araton has yet to return to the subject, even as the case against the players fell apart.