Duke Rape Case

New information, new doubts.

The media should be ashamed, said Sidney Zion in the New York Daily News. Three months after the press started feasting on the story of a black stripper allegedly raped at a party by members of Duke University's all-white lacrosse team, evidence in the case is suddenly 'œlooking skimpier than the G-string the accuser wore.' Doctors found no DNA evidence that any of the players had sex with the victim, nor any 'œgynecological evidence' that she was sexually assaulted. It also turns out the accuser made identical allegations—of being gang-raped by three white men—once before. This time, she didn't make the rape charge until police were about to lock her up in a mental-health center. We still don't have all the facts, but it's starting to look as if the media has committed a grave injustice by turning 'œthe presumption of innocence on its head.'

The culprit here, as so often before in American history, is stereotyping, said Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. The only difference is that this time it was whites who were reduced to 'œracial caricatures.' The accuser's story was so compelling because she was poor and black and the young men she accused were 'œwhite jocks' from affluent families. That story line was too familiar to resist, and many 'œrushed to make the Duke case part of the 300-year-old narrative of white men brutalizing black women.' Leading the charge was Durham, N.C., district attorney Mike Nifong, who is facing a tough re-election battle and needs black votes to win. The lesson here is that when criminal cases involve whites and blacks, we have to 'œlook beyond race and focus relentlessly on facts.'

But what if the stereotypes are true? said Buzz Bissinger in Vanity Fair. These specific allegations may well be bogus, but it's now quite clear that the Duke lacrosse team really is made up of arrogant rich kids with a 'œdocumented legacy of boorish, we-can-do-whatever-we-please behavior.' Eleven of the 15 players have been cited for misdemeanors, most of them related to excessive drinking. At the big party on the fateful night, more than one witness reported hearing the drunken players addressing the black dancers with sneering racial slurs. And no one disputes that the next day, a lacrosse player sent a mass e-mail to his teammates in which he joked how sexually exciting it would be to hire more strippers, kill them, and skin them. Not guilty may well be the proper verdict in this case—but innocent? Hardly.

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