Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Off Topic: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal

I know this is primarily a baseball blog and it mostly focuses on the Yanks and the Sox but it does also give me the opportunity to write on other sporting issues should I so desire. This Duke case has really got to me and I have tried to surpress my feelings but I need to vent so here goes...

Two young men were arrested yesterday on charges of rape, sexual assault and kidnapping, pretty serious charges if there ever were any. You all know the story, a stripper who was hired has claimed she was raped by three white men at a party thrown by Duke lacrosse players where she was hired to strip and dance.

The stripper is black and the men she is accusing are white, it is a subject that will tear a community right down the middle. It is one problem that whilst we have racism in the UK, it isn't at the forefront of issues as it seems to be in the States. So rich white men and a poor black girl, both sides will have very strong views on the other without looking at the evidence, they've already made up there minds.

Now I am just a regular smoe but I have been called for jury duty, I was foreman in a serious sexual assault case so I have a slight insight into how the judge will direct a jury and to how a jury reacts to certain information. As a jury, you look at the charges and rape and sexual assault as the two charges you most don't want to see, even above murder, and when you see the charge sheet, you already look negatively towards the accused, rightly or wrongly, that is what you do.

However as the case starts the jury will try the accused fairly, and only what comes out in court will be taken into the deliberation. We know certain things about this case, firstly that no DNA evidence links any of the accused to having any type of consentual or non consentual sexual relations with the accuser, to have sex with someone and leave absolutely no DNA on the other person is nigh on impossible, this already leads to the defence having a great starting point.

The DA Mike Nifong has already correctly stated that 75-80% of rape convictions have been gained without any DNA evidence, however how many of those cases have involved the police doing DNA tests and not being able to link the accused to the accuser? Try somewhere between few and none.

Is this case politically motivated? Quite possibly, the DA is up for election and doesn't want to alienate his voters so if he didn't indite someone on these charges then his career wasn't going to go forward. He stated very early in this case that he believed there was a crime committed and this has pretty much backed him into a corner. I heard a local black bishop on FOX News earlier stating that he was disgusted that it took so long for charges to be brought, I doubt he has much of an insight compared to the next person, i.e. regular smoes like me, but because of his colour and the colour of his accuser, he is convinced that a crime was committed and that it was these people.

Now, whilst I concede that most people (men and women) regardless of colour would believe a woman over a man in these circumstances, believing someone and convicting them beyond reasonable doubt are two entirely different things. If it comes down to one person's word against another then no jury will convict, they would not be able to tell which parties version of event was the most accurate beyond reasonable doubt, that just couldn't happen.

Also the DA is confident he'll charge a third member of the squad soon but wants to wait until they get more accurate identification, well there is only one person who can identify him and if she still isn't sure then this delay does not help the DA's office one bit. All the lacrosse players pictures have been up and around Durham since this alledged event took place and if she still hasn't decided who the third attacker was then why would she be able to accurately state who it was tomorrow or the next day?

Tonk K on PTI stated last night that we know one thing, the team with the higher priced lawyers usually win, and that maybe so but even your average person looking in with absolutely no bias can see gaping holes in the prosecutions case, no DNA despite tests, several alibis for the accused, the accuser having been found guilty of a serious crime which harms her credibility, the accuser as yet being unsure over the third member of the gang that she alledges attacked her, which leaves her ID of the first two open to question. If the defence can show the jury that the accuser cannot be sure of any of the gang then they will be forced to return a not guilty verdict as in cases where ID is vital, any question of it being accurate has to lead to a not guilty verdict.

I, like everyone except the accuser knows without doubt what happened that night. If there was an attack then those people would of course know to. This case is set to rumble and tear apart a community whatever happens and considering what we know and the fact the players will have the higher priced team, then the chances of conviction in this case currently stands between zero and ziltch.

Some may not like what I've wrote and say I've written it because of my colour, but in all honesty the situation in my book is more about how the strength of a woman's word will near enough always lead to charges being filed, but the strength of one person's word is not enough for a conviction, whether the person is black, white, man or woman or child. I hope that there is more evidence but if there isn't, I'll be dismayed that charges have been filed as mud sticks, and these guys lives whether proven innocent or guilty will never be the same again.

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