KC Johnson, an obscure but brilliant New York City history professor of centrist political views. Johnson alone has produced more insightful (if sometimes one-sided) analysis and commentary on the Duke case—about 60,000 words—than all the nation's newspapers combined.
As the Times struggles to abandon its prefferred story line, summarized by Taylor as "a fable of evil, rich white men running amok and abusing poor black women", let's turn to the New Yorker. They have decided to sidle up to the issues through the frame of a beleageured college President trying to find the right balance between academics and athletics. While doing so, they engage in some delightful Nifong-bashing:
Last year, when Hardin was appointed to a judgeship, Governor Mike Easley appointed Nifong to finish his term. Nifong, who was just a few years short of reaching his thirty-year mark, subsequently announced that he would run for a full term in the spring. As a Democrat, he needed only to win the Party’s nomination in a May primary to be virtually assured of election. Polls taken by Nifong’s opponent, a former assistant D.A. named Freda Black, showed Nifong, whose name recognition was marginal, running considerably behind her. Black was well known, because in 2003, while Nifong was negotiating traffic cases, she had been Hardin’s chief courtroom assistant on a notorious socialite-murder case that had been carried live on Court TV. In his first week on the job as Hardin’s replacement, Nifong had fired her. She says he gave no explanation. (He has since hinted that it had something to do with conflict of interest.)
On March 27th, after the weekend of protests, Nifong declared that he was personally taking over the lacrosse case, and he began an extraordinary blitz of public appearances, being interviewed upward of fifty times. He repeated the charges of a conspiracy of silence among the players, and suggested that those who failed to come forward might face charges of aiding and abetting the crime. He repeatedly declared his belief that a crime had occurred, and said, “My guess is that some of this stone wall of silence that we have seen may tend to crumble once charges begin to come out.”
He publicly emphasized the racial implications of the incident, telling the Times, “The reason I decided to take it over myself was the combination gang-like rape activity accompanied by the racial slurs and general racial hostility. . . . There are three people who went into the bathroom with the young lady, and whether the other people there knew what was going on at the time, they do now and have not come forward. I’m disappointed that no one has been enough of a man to come forward.”
Nifong also demonstrated on television how he imagined the alleged victim was grabbed and held by her attackers. He suggested that the woman might have been given a date-rape drug, and even held the students’ decision to hire attorneys against them. “One would wonder why one needs an attorney if one was not charged and had not done anything wrong,” he said. He referred to the athletes as “a bunch of hooligans,” and played upon presumed resentment of Durhamites toward the school, which some still called the Plantation. “There’s been a feeling in the past that Duke students are treated differently by the court system,” Nifong said. “There was a feeling that Duke students’ daddies could buy them expensive lawyers and that they knew the right people.”
Mike Nifong, its vocal prosecutor, won the Democratic primary race on May 2nd. Nifong had denied any political motivation in the lacrosse prosecution (“I didn’t pick the crime, I didn’t pick the time,” he told one campaign audience), but the case plainly helped him. After the election, a precinct-by-precinct study by the Vanderbilt professor Christian Grose showed that black voters helped secure Nifong’s victory.