Duke lacrosse: A call to action

There are few greater evils a person can suffer than to face trial for a heinous crime he did not commit.

In civilized society, and in America more than all other nations, we make every reasonable effort to prevent the occurrence of this horror. When it does happen, it is largely the sad product of bizarre circumstance-where the evidence simply points in the wrong direction.

But the evidence in the lacrosse rape case does not point to the men who are facing trial. Even more stunning, it not only fails to implicate Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty or David Evans but in fact supports the opposite claim-that these men are innocent of the crime for which they have been accused, arrested, indicted and arraigned.

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Our fellow students are not on trial because of evidence, but in spite of it.

This is a moral, social and legal outrage. It is an assault on our peers, our community and the core values of our nation.

To successfully unleash this depraved injustice, it seems our DA has managed to go against criminal procedure, legal precedent, constitutional protections, hundreds of years of common law and thousands of years of ethics tracing back to the Old Testament.

Nifong must have confused America with a police state.

Let's quickly review the record:

Nifong made it clear to the world that he believed the alleged victim even though he never spoke to the woman about the events of that night.

He defrauded the court telling them the sweeping DNA tests he wished to perform would "immediately rule out any innocent persons," but then decided DNA didn't matter.

He speculated that no DNA was present because the players might have used condoms even though the alleged victim claimed no condoms were used.

He withheld from the court the fact the alleged victim had failed to identify her alleged attackers in a photo lineup.

He tossed aside procedure and used a lineup without non-suspect fillers.

He refused to hear powerful exculpatory evidence from Seligmann's attorney before indicting him.

The alleged victim identified one student as an attacker who wasn't in Durham that night.

She has given accounts of the alleged rape with varying numbers of alleged attackers and one version where she was only groped.

Some have said she was drinking that night while on a powerful muscle relaxant, Flexeril, which is not supposed to be combined with alcohol.

The second exotic dancer, Kim Roberts, contradicted the alleged victim's version of events and also claimed that the alleged victim asked her to mark up her body on the night in question.

One person's semen was found in the rape kit-that of the accuser's boyfriend, which begs a simple but crucial question: How do three men brutally gang rape a woman without condoms and sanitize the area in such a way as to leave not a single spec of their DNA but to preserve her boyfriend's from a previous sexual encounter?

If anyone should be on trial here it's Mike Nifong.

Yet he's leading in the polls, with a massive 6-1 margin over Cheeks in the black community in a recent News & Observer/WRAL poll.

If the voters won't put a stop to this, then who will?

This travesty has been allowed to continue because we live in a nation paralyzed by racial paranoia. It's not that leaders don't recognize this is an injustice the same way they would if the races were reversed-it's that because this case has been turned by professors, activists and of course Nifong himself into a white vs. black issue, they are terrified that their efforts to put a stop to Nifong's crusade would be perceived negatively by the black community and that there would be a political price to pay. And these political concerns trump their commitment to justice.

So it us up to us, the Duke community.

First, all who are registered to vote in Durham need to vote for Cheek tomorrow. The only justifiable vote is a vote to oust Nifong.

Second, everyone-staff, students, parents, alumni, faculty, trustees-need to demand that President Richard Brodhead do what he has thus far refused to do: criticize Nifong and implore the state provide a fair rendering of justice for his students. Duke is a vital institution in Durham and very important to North Carolina. If Brodhead chose to use his influence it would have a significant impact. But first, we must use ours, on him.

So call his office or send an e-mail. Tell him he can't just wait out a trial. When the process is corrupt supporting that process only furthers the corruption. Tell him the rights of Reade, Collin and David matter more than his fear of radical faculty. Tell him he must take a stand. There is no easy refuge, no safe middle ground between justice and injustice.

President Brodhead, make your choice-will you protect your students? Or will you stand by as the flame draws ever nearer the stake?

Stephen Miller is a Trinity senior. His column runs every other Monday.


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