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Saturday, September 08, 2007

More thoughts on the Duke Lacrosse Hoax:

Penitentiary: Let's look closely at that word. Of course, it means a place of corrections/prison, but let's look at the root word, penitent. Penitent refers to expressing sorrow for one's mistakes. Taking that forward to the word "penitentiary", then, it would be reasonable to infer that a penitentiary is "a place for those who are contrite," or "a place to make people contrite."

The reason I made the above point is that a friend suggested that prisons should be only to incarcerate those who pose a continuing threat to society. I could scarcely disagree more. Forty-six young men were vilified in the national press, had their basic civil rights abused in a manner reminiscent of the Scottsboro Boys during the days of segregation, and they had their physical safety threatened as a direct result of the words and actions of people in power at Duke University, the Durham District Attorney's office, the Durham Police Department, and various media entities. My friend mentioned prison overcrowding as a reason for his stance. Fine. Free those whose only "crimes" harmed themselves. Free everyone who's in prison for drug possession and selling, and free those arrested for prostitution and soliciting prostitutes. However, whenever such abuses occur as we saw here and with the West Memphis Three, justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done. Prison is not simply for incarcerating those who are a continuing danger to society. It is for those who, through their criminal acts, have caused serious harm to others. Also, especially in this type of case, it serves as a warning and deterrent to those who would follow their example. In that latter case, it is, literally, to make an abuser of their power penitent. Society suffers as a whole when those who abuse their power, be they priests, prosecutors, police officers, professors, etc., do not face justice or are not seen to be facing justice. It is for that reason that I advocate a long prison sentence for anyone found guilty of such abuses, because without faith in the system, without a reason for people to have faith in the system, society suffers, and those wounds take decades to heal, if ever.


1138 said...

It only serves as a deterrent to those who think they will be caught.
I think Nifong should face the full effects of the Civil court system where his punishment can be lifelong and not simply a measured period of incarceration.
Why should innocent members of society have to pay for his incarceration - let Nifong pay for his crimes, not the taxpayer.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

He's almost bankrupt now. To redirect, why should innocent members of society have to worry about those who are given the greatest trust being given a slap on the wrist when they abuse that trust in such an egregious manner? Oh, I'm all in favor of duking it out (no pun intended) in the civil court system. However, if crimes were committed, as they at least appear to have been done, then every last person responsible should also face the criminal justice system.

I find myself going back to the olden days, when those guilty of particularly bad crimes had their heads put on pikes as a warning to the following generation. We live in a more civilized time, but I think at least the spirit of that must be maintained in such a scenario. Incarcerate their sorry asses for 30 years, and order a review of EVERY case they handled, be it so lowly as a speeding or jaywalking ticket. That's what they wanted to do to innocent people. That's what they may have done to other innocents who were not nearly as well off. Bring on the pain. Let them suffer as they have wrongfully caused others to suffer. Justice demands it.

As banal and evil as Mr. Nifong's deeds were, he could not have done so without a significant amount of help. Take down his co-conspirators. Put him in prison. Bankrupt Duke University and the City of Durham, NC. Let their collective fate stand as a warning!

1138 said...

"Bankrupt Duke University and the City of Durham, NC. Let their collective fate stand as a warning!"

To the ruined lawless slum of broken residents that had nothing to do with this - the former Durham, NC a city largely populated by good law abiding people that you have decided to champion the destruction of in what can only be described as a fit of revenge.

The has and dealt with Mr. Nifong and you have no evidence that his case are or are not being appealed.
I think the appeal to baser instincts about collective fates regardless of facts that you propose was the same one used in an attempt to railroad some young men who made a bad decision - let them be examples, damn the facts.
The system worked this time, it wasn't pretty, people got hurt and bystanders were offended and fascinated, but you cannot deny that the system did work.
I'd have preferred that the case had been taken to trial and court and these young men been proven innocent rather than the trial by media that we got, where none of us will ever know the facts of the charges nor have actual proof of Mr. Nifongs depravity.
But that's the way it worked - this time for a group of white "boys", a prosecutor that felt invulnerable and a black woman who took her clothes off to go to school, oh and let's not leave out a University that doesn't properly regulate or police it's athletic program.
I personally know of four families that decided they were not going to send their children to Duke AFTER this whole thing washed out - white families of course it is Duke after all.

They didn't want their children being involved with a school like that.

Also you may want to note that the "boys" are suing for $30 million dollars - the city only has a %r million dollar policy, the "boys" have been declared innocent and action has been taken - and further action was stopped because of the suit against the city.
I see it as a white collar version of what the stripper tried to do to them.
And innocent people in Duram will lose their homes as a result - not that these booze drinking, stripper handling "boys" would care.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

Silly me, and here I thought trials were to determine guilt, not innocence. Have you read the NC AG's report? Have you read the exhaustive material that has been available as part of the public domain to outline exactly what happened that night? If they haven't been cleared and proven innocent, I don't know of a single soul who has, and that includes the people released as a result of the efforts of the Innocence Project.

I accuse you of intellectual dishonesty. I guess that, if it doesn't fit your worldview, you ignore it in this case. They never "handled" that stripper. There's no proof that they were drunk that night; in fact, photos taken during the party show pretty much universal boredom among the attendees. Two of the accused were caught on security cameras at an ATM well away from the party at the time the false accuser (depending on which of her myriad stories you believe) claimed she was being attacked.

As far as saying that some innocent people will lose their homes in Gomorrah, er, Durham, well, I guess you haven't heard about the sub-prime mortgage crash. I doubt you'll be able to prove much causality on that score. As for the $30 million, they spent around $3 million defending themselves against a case that should never have been brought based on early and painfully obvious flaws. I guess you only support punitive damages whenever it suits your purposes. This isn't about revenge; this is about righteous indignation. This is about seeing that this type of thing NEVER happens again in Durham, because next time, it could be and could have been to someone who couldn't defend themselves. Oh, and as for this being a white collar version of what the stripper tried to pull, there is one HUGE difference: They were genuinely victimized; she wasn't. It's about justice. Look into it.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

1138, I had initially considered deleting my above reply, but frankly, the only thing I would change is one accusation, and even that would be a modification rather than a removal. I don't believe you're intellectually dishonest in every, or even most cases. I genuinely respect you and your perspective. However, in this instance, I believe you have allowed your underlying beliefs to interfere with a fair and impartial review of the case. I know my stance is extreme, but it is extreme to make a point, and it is extreme because I feel this situation warrants it, though possibly to a milder degree than what I advocate. Still, there's a deep rot in that city, because the Durham PD's and Durham DA's office's own procedures were grossly violated just to allow this to happen. Had it been one person who was guilty of wrongdoing... well, I'd be all in favor of throwing the book at that one person and calling it good. However, the truth is far, far more heinous.

The rot goes all the way to the North Carolina legislature, and to a still flawed, though greatly improved, open discovery statute that led to the wrongful conviction and unconscionable time on death row of Alan Gell, admittedly, not a very likable man or a sympathetic character, but also not a man who deserved to be on death row for a crime he did not commit and could not have committed, again based on the time line and due to the efforts of an unscrupulous district attorney who, if memory serves, now serves as a judge in that, ahem, great state. This (at the time) gaping flaw in North Carolina's statutes also caused Darryl Hunt to spend 19.5 years in prison for a rape and murder he did not commit. Hunt was convicted in 1984, the DNA cleared him in 1994, but inexplicably, he was not exonerated until 2004. Tell me why I shouldn't care enough to see that this rotten city is cleaned up. Tell me why I shouldn't want to see a variant on Dr. Howard Dean's tactics used to improve the status of justice in America. I'm rather curious.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

My thoughts are echoed and expressed in a much less extreme manner at LieStoppers. Both Joan's comments and a few of those in that comment thread cover it nicely. I cite the rather lengthy post at 6:55 a.m. by an anonymous poster, a post at 7:52 a.m. by another anonymous poster, and a post near the bottom of the comments by jim2 at 10:54 a.m., and finally by yet another anonymous poster just below that. Most of that comment thread is garbage, but those four stand out well above the rest.

1138 said...

I'm not ignoring anything, I'm taking a wider view of it than you are in point of fact.
There are ways and processes to take care of out of control offices like the ones you describe FROM THE FEDERAL ATTORNEYS OFFICE.
Not my punishing a city and state into abject poverty as you propose.

The didn't handle the strippers?

I'm not that stupid, and you aren't either so don't try feeding me a line of bullshit.

There's problems in the case and they don't start and end with officials and they won't be fixed by your recommendation of slash and burn solutions.

I'm not going to go read another thread about a case that only came to public attention because of the status of the accused. Elsewhere you asked me what if the accused had been black.
If they had been they'd have been in jail unless they were the sons of rich men.
Duke should never be allowed to field a lacrosse team again and that's the opinion of someone who's played the game.

All cases brought before the legal system should play out to conclusion - this one wasn't and as a result I'm not a big enough asshole (unlike you) to pretend that I know THE TRUTH of the case.
Each of us will look at it from the distorted perspective of it that we were given.
Unlike you I won't condemn an entire state.
But I know of some "boys" that I don't believe (like you) understand the dangers they set themselves up for. This could have been a murder case with much the same "facts".
But you know I've held high security clearance and you haven't and probably never will, so you and I view personal behavior from very different perspectives.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

You held a high security clearance? What a coincidence. So did Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, and Sandy Berger. This is not said to impugn you in this instance, but it does illustrate a point that not all who hold high security clearances possess the same high level of personal judgment. You're viewing it from a perspective of what could cost someone that high security clearance. I'm viewing it from a civil rights stance, and in this case, the perspectives are quite different.

I'm not condemning an entire state solely because of this one case. I'm condemning it because of Alan Gell, and Darryl Hunt, and a number of other outrages and gross abuses of their legal system. As we all learned in painful detail during the OJ Simpson trial, trials are not about determining innocence. They are about determining the presence or absence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and sometimes, they're about jury nullification, and for you to pretend otherwise is, frankly, baffling. I have never pretended that my tactics were anything other than "slash and burn", but when there's a fire, sometimes you have to make fire breaks to control and eventually extinguish it. It is for that reason that I advocate those rather draconian tactics.

1138 said...

Fine the good people of the state of North Carolina will forgive you then - just because you have a few more names to make it worth condemning them ALL.

My perspective is one that understands the damage that will happen if a person fails to keep good conscience about the company they keep, the actions they take, and the situations they put themselves in.
Those things shape your life and your "fortune" or "luck".
It's not by chance that these "kids" got caught up in a lie by a stripper/hooker/slut - they invited her into their circle.
Call it Karma or anything else you want but it's not like they were grabbed out of bible study and accused. There's what we are handed, and what we make - and in part these kids made the situation they got, like many others do.

You did mean the associations as an insult - the difference is that they could not see the stuff I could and they weren't subject to military justice for violation of the rules. I'm not in their company.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

Whether or not the good people of North Carolina forgive me is irrelevant. Their legal system has a pattern of abuses, further exacerbated by the direct control of the district attorneys over the court dockets, and it needs to get fixed, and the good people of North Carolina created this problem. You go on about personal responsibility, well, this is a perfect case of a state that needs to take responsibility for its collective actions.

The last time I checked, these kids were college students, not members of the military, and not subject to the UCMJ. They engaged in one legal activity and one minor illegal activity. Did they do something I would have done? On both counts, no. I don't drink and never have, and I've never been to a strip club. My point is that different people are held to different standards, based upon what they do. They may have invited her into their circle, but they certainly did not deserve to have their rights abused in that manner. Had they been named in one of the initial lineups, you may have been right that they were culpable. However, it was the criminal actions of various people that put them in this position, and it was clear that Nifong and his accomplices would not have cared how much evidence there was that a person was not there, as long as the person chosen in a criminally flawed lineup was a white lacrosse player, and all this in a bid to help him win an election. The fact that they "invited her into their circle" does not excuse the criminal actions of those who violated their civil rights, and it is those who violated those civil rights who deserve to be punished. The last time I checked, underage drinking and hiring a stripper were not punishable by 30 years in prison and a lifetime of infamy. Perhaps they are in Saudi Arabia, but not in the United States.