Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Charges To Be Dropped In Duke Case: UPDATED - DROPPED

Numerous sources are reporting that the remaining charges against the trio of Duke lacrosse students will be dropped, with some reporting that the decision may come as soon as today. Well, there have been several similar reports over the past couple of weeks, but this time it appears based on the fact that the NC Attorney General's office has completed its own investigation into the charges.

As always, check in with KC Johnson for up to the minute changes in the case, and the ongoing analysis and fallout.

Others blogging: Sister Toldjah, LaShawn Barber (who names the accuser, though I will not), and Powerline notes that the three players have thus far only managed to recoup about $1 million of the $3 million in legal expenses incurred thus far. One suspects that a civil suit might rectify that situation, as could any potential book/movie deals, though the three may simply want to put this horrible episode behind them.

Also, it's an interesting ethical question as to whether one should name the accuser. She claimed to be the victim of a sexual assault, and the law generally extends the protection of anonymity to such victims. However, this case no longer is about a sexual assault or a rape, and the accuser herself may become subject of legal actions both in civil and criminal court (though a criminal case may be quite difficult under the circumstances and the accuser isn't exactly rolling in money to be worth the effort of a civil suit). ABC News says that it is their policy not to name the accuser, even as there's no longer a case. It will be interesting to see if they hold to that line even as other networks may or may not release her name.

According to CNN: The North Carolina Attorney General’s office says it will make an announcement on the Duke lacrosse sexual assault case at 2:30 p.m. ET.

It will be interesting to see how the Attorney General's office phrases the dropping of the charges. Will it issue a pro forma statement stating that the charges were dropped because they could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, or will the AG's Office detail why the charges should never have been brought in the first place.

I think the AG's Office will try to split the difference, but the statement will essentially slam Nifong for his prosecutorial misconduct and failure to meet with the accuser early in developing the case in chief to determine whether the assertions were believable and consistent with the evidence as it was developing.

Nifong's tragic rush to accuse was met with an equally tragic rush to condemn by the Duke faculty who rushed to judge, adjudicate, and condemn the trio without all the facts being considered. This is the full text of the NC Attorney General's speech. A portion includes:
We believe that these cases were the result of a tragic rush to accuse and a failure to verify serious allegations. Based on the significant inconsistencies between the evidence and the various accounts given by the accusing witness, we believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges.

We approached this case with the understanding that rape and sexual assault victims often have some inconsistencies in their accounts of a traumatic event. However, in this case, the inconsistencies were so significant and so contrary to the evidence that we have no credible evidence that an attack occurred in that house that night.

The prosecuting witness in this case responded to questions and offered information. She did want to move forward with the prosecution.

However, the contradictions in her many versions of what occurred and the conflicts between what she said occurred and other evidence, like photographs and phone records, could not be rectified.

Our investigation shows that:

The eyewitness identification procedures were faulty and unreliable. No DNA confirms the accuser's story. No other witness confirms her story. Other evidence contradicts her story. She contradicts herself. Next week, we'll be providing a written summary of the important factual findings and some of the specific contradictions that have led us to the conclusion that no attack occurred.

In this case, with the weight of the state behind him, the Durham district attorney pushed forward unchecked. There were many points in the case where caution would have served justice better than bravado. And in the rush to condemn, a community and a state lost the ability to see clearly. Regardless of the reasons this case was pushed forward, the result was wrong. Today, we need to learn from this and keep it from happening again to anybody.
I think the strongest way to keep this from happening again is to deal with Nifong harshly but fairly. Cooper's statements suggest that disbarment is a distinct possibility.

Drudge has posted the name of the accuser, as has Smoking Gun, and her name has apparently been revealed in a number of legal documents connected with the case.

Others providing analysis of the unfolding events and pressers: Outside the Beltway, Dan Riehl, Hot Air (complete with video), and Ed Morrissey.

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