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Arment Dietrich

Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

By: Arment Dietrich | April 15, 2007 | 
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In a case of media sensationalism and an, accused of, lying district attorney, the charges against the Duke Lacrosse players finally have been dropped.

The attorney general in North Carolina dropped all charges Wednesday against the three former Duke lacrosse players accused of sexually assaulting a stripper at a party, saying the athletes were innocent victims of a “tragic rush to accuse” by an overreaching district attorney.

Newsweek, put the boy’s photos on their cover and wrote a six page story about the case (that story is what convinced me they were innocent).  But every time they interviewed the young lady, her face was covered and her voice was altered.

The Duke players didn’t get to play lacrosse; in fact, the school canceled the 2006 season.  One of the accused had a job offer out of school that was withdrawn.  The two accused that were still in school were suspended.  And the lacrosse team coach was fired.  This case was wrought with ethics violations and it destroyed the lives of many people.  It also stirred furious debate over race, class, and the privileged status of college athletes.

Duke did everything right.  It’s unfortunate for the young men and for the lacrosse coach.  But in crisis communications, that’s precisely what you do.

The “rogue” district attorney, Mike Nifong, is up against charges of lying and withholding information.

And the media…wow, did they look for a story!  This is sensationalism at its best.  They crucified the young men before DNA was taken and eliminated.  Most were convinced they were guilty long before charges were dropped because the story was all over every media.  What happened to innocent until proven guilty? And they continue to use bad journalism.  How about the blog posting by Terry Moran of ABC News?  He doesn’t think we should feel sorry for these young men because…

…there are many, many cases of prosecutorial misconduct across our country every year. The media covers few, if any, of these cases. Most of the victims in these cases are poor or minority Americans–or both. I would hate to say the color of their skin is one reason journalists do not focus on these victims of injustices perpetrated by police and prosecutors, but I am afraid if we ask ourselves the question honestly, we would likely find that it is.

Seriously?  Prosecutorial misconduct happens across the country all the time and it’s not covered by the media because most of the victims are poor or minorities?  Is he implying that, because these kids went to Duke, the media paid attention?  I guess we should only feel sorry for those wrongly accused if they’re poor or minorities.  Not those who are smart enough to go to a really good university and whose lives are ruined when they are accused of a crime they did not commit.  Are we certain he doesn’t report for FOX News?  And what a shame!  He’s from Chicago.  I’m embarrassed for us.  Good to see I’m not the only one who feels this way

I know rape crisis counselors are going to fret about this case for many years, but I’m thankful David Evans, Reade Seligmann, and Colin Finnerty can begin rebuilding their lives.  Now the media can go back to reporting on something such as the Iraqi green zone being invaded.

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