The Duke Lacrosse Team and the Prosecutor
- Pages: 16
- Word count: 3807
- Category: Community
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The Duke Lacrosse team and the prosecutor were involved in a racially driven rape case at Duke University in Durham, NC in 2006. The focus of the investigation by the District Attorney was to convict three of the members of the team with first-degree sexual offense, kidnapping, and the rape of an African American female stripper. The purpose of this paper, is to explain where the judicial responsibility of a prosecutor failed, how race can play a major factor in how a case is being handled and how justice was served by the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office. By the end of this paper, the reader will have a better understanding of the series of events that took place in the Duke Lacrosse rape case and how the three white males had everyone against them until their names were cleared of all charges.
The Duke University lacrosse rape case in 2006 impacted the prestigious institution of learning that is known for academics and athletics. This turn of events for a nationally ranked team shocked the community and the nation. When three Caucasian members of the team Colin Finnerty, Reade Seligmann, and David Evans were charged with rape, kidnapping, and sexual offense on an African American stripper, this became a racially biased case. The district attorney Mike Nifong jumped to conclusions to convict these members of the lacrosse team and some feel that his decision was politically driven since he was in a tight race to be re-elected and need the black vote. The problem to be investigated is how this affected the integrity of the university, what the prosecutions intentions were, and what was the outcome of this nationally recognized case. Impact on Stakeholders
Duke University is a prestigious institution of higher learning that is highly recognized for its academic standards and rich tradition of athletics. The stakeholders of the university were shocked as these allegations of misconduct by members of its nationally ranked lacrosse team swept media outlets all around the country. At the time of this incident, the Duke Lacrosse team was ranked the second best team in the nation with high hopes of bringing home a national championship (Wilson & Glater, 2006). University stakeholders from sponsors to the students were impacted by these accusations caused by the hiring of two strippers to perform at a house party by members of the lacrosse team.
Incidents like this can cause supporters to stop donations and ruin the integrity that the university has worked hard to maintain. According to Kim, Parks, and Wertz (2010), “Primary stakeholders include employees, investors, customers, other resource suppliers, community residents, and the natural environment which is essential to the success of a corporation” (p.216). Just like a corporation, Duke University is a business that provides an environment of higher education and it takes these stakeholders to keep the institution running. The lacrosse rape case caused attention to anyone involved with the university. As the story received extensive media coverage and legal arguments were being made on both sides, Duke University’s reputation was put to the test and a public relations strategy was needed (Fortunate, 2008). As a native of North Carolina, residing in Raleigh about 20 miles from Durham, this was a major topic for an extended period of time and is still mentioned from time to time. This case quickly became a racially driven. According to Jennings (2009), “The Duke community was swift and severe, as eighty-eight faculty members took out a full page newspaper as condemning the white male, college athletics, and racism” (p.568). The members of the Duke Lacrosse team did not have much support from the faculty as the accusations were the headliners for many major media outlets.
The impact of these allegations by the Duke Lacrosse team was tremendous. The President of the University Richard Brodhead canceled the entire season and called the situation “sickening and repulsive” (Jennings, 2009, p. 568). Once again the support from the highest level at Duke University was not there for the three members of the lacrosse team at the center of the allegations. The African American accuser Crystal Mangum had support from the NAACP, Reverend Jesse Jackson, and the Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong. The coach of the team also resigned from his job as the season was canceled.
Mr. Nifong from the beginning of the investigation seemed to have his mind set on convicting these white males of the allegations they faced from the accuser. The unethical manner in which Mike Nifong proceeded in the investigation tested the judicial system. The tactics that were used in the case undermined that you are innocent until proven guilty. A Duke was facing a crisis little did the judicial system in North Carolina know that they were about to have their work cut out for them as Mr. Nifong continued his journey to find these three lacrosse players guilty. According to Garoupa (2009), “The role of prosecutors in any given legal system is the importance to enforce and effectively apply the law, in particular criminal law and other areas of the law” (p. 25). The stakeholders of the judicial system are tax payers like me and others in the profession. When incidents like the Duke Lacrosse rape case happen the community can sometimes affect the decisions made by the judicial system and prosecutors (Franklin, 2010).
The impacts on all of the stakeholders from this case from the University to the Attorney General’s Office were affected. When you have white Caucasians being accused of raping black women, no matter where the incident takes place, these actions are going have repercussions regardless of the outcome. Espinoza and Willis-Esquenda (2008), said, “Racial bias in legal decision making has been considerable attention over the past few decades, focusing on African Americans to the exclusion of other minority group” (p.365). This had become a very racial case and many felt that Mr. Nifong was using this case to help him win the black vote which would allow him to be able to run for re-election as the District Attorney of Durham County. The supporters of the players felt that Mr. Nifong used this case to help him advance in his political career by retaining the title of District Attorney for Durham County (Wilson & Barstow, 2007).
The stakeholders of all entities involved in the case were affected in some manner. The other members of the team had to live through this and had a full season of hopes and dreams of winning a national championship taken from them. The integrity of the university was challenged, which lead to decisions of canceling the season and accepting the resignation of the coach. The support of the Duke community was not there for the defendants as the accuser claimed that she had been a victim of a horrendous crime by these members of the lacrosse team. Outcome and Fairness of Punishment
The Duke Lacrosse rape case was a test to the judicial system here in North Carolina. The District Attorney Mike Nifong’s interest was for personal gain instead of justice being served. As the elections grew closer this case was a prime opportunity for him to attempt to secure the bid for re-election by gaining the black votes as this racial case was perfect timing for the cause. Mr. Nifong mentioned the case during some campaign appearances and secured the black vote weeks after the three white players were indicted (Wilson & Barstow, 2007).
The use of DNA testing was a huge factor in the case. DNA typing has a broad and positive impact on the criminal justice system (Pyrek, 2007). As the investigation continued and DNA testing had taken place there was no evidence to support that these players were guilty of raping Crystal Magnum. When evidence from the test was given to the defense lawyers Mr. Nifong did not note that DNA was found on the accusers clothing from many men and did not link the players (Jennings, 2009). This was an unethical tactic and was the beginning of the truth coming out. DNA analysts, “are often called to court to testify regarding results obtained on evidentiary items examined in their laboratory” (Butler, 2012, p. 515).
As Mr. Nifong was guilty of withholding evidence and the accusers story was not a clear as in the beginning, the case took a turn in the players favor. According to (Jennings, 2009), “the accuser admitted that she could not be sure what had really happened and as a result, Mr. Nifong dropped the rape charges, but continued with the prosecution of the kidnapping and assault charges” (p. 569). This new outcome was a step in the right direction and the case was starting to take shape. The abuse of power by the District Attorney was the start of a career ending situation. Prosecutors have the decision making power and have the authority to develop a case that goes against the defendants and the judicial system (Franklin, 2010). As this case was moving in the favor of the lacrosse players other aspects of the case where being brought to the surface. The accuser I the earlier stages of the investigation looked at photo lineup of men which only consisted of the lacrosse players and that is not standard practice of the judicial system which requires individuals that are not connected like a team for instance (Jennings, 2009). This was another plus for the defendants as the accuser’s story was not making sense. Mr. Nifongs actions were starting to test the trust in the system. The public’s views of the judicial system’s perception of fairness in how criminal cases are handled were impacted (Buckler, Cullen, Unnever, 2007).
The outcome and fairness of the case finally came to an end as Mr. Nifong withdrew from the case after misconduct charges were filed against him by the North Carolina State Bar and the Attorney General’s office took over case (Jennings, 2009). As these three lacrosse players had been presented as predators of society things were starting to fall into place for them. As the prosecutors had failed to do his job the Attorney General Roy Cooper and his staff took the raines of this case and wanted justice to be served. With the mix up stories by the defendant and the misconduct by Mr. Nifong the national audience was interesting in the truth of the matter.
This situation affected many people and the right decision needed to be made to clear and prove the innocents of these three members of the Duke Lacrosse team. According to Jennings (2009), “On April 11, 2007, the North Carolina attorney general not only dropped all the remaining charges against the three young men, but also announced that the young men were innocent of any of the charges” (p.569). This was the outcome that helps put the trust back in the judicial system and proved the innocents of these men as their lives had been turned upside down.
The lives of everyone involved in this case have been changed for better or worst. The three lacrosse players went on to other schools but they do have their innocents. As for Crystal Magnum, the accuser she has placed herself in trouble again. She is in jail for the stabbing murder of her boyfriend and it is unfortunate that a life was lost but karma definitely worked against her. Mr. Nifong was disbarred by the North Carolina Bar on June 15, 2007 as he turned his resignation at his hearing (Jennings, 2009). The right outcome was presented for these three men and hopefully this is a lesson for others in the judicial system to perform their jobs correctly and not for personal gain. Discussion
The Duke Lacrosse case had many twist and turns that ultimately lead to the innocents of Colin Finnerty, Reade Seligmann, and Davis Evans by the Attorney General Roy Cooper. During this case the Mike Nifong, the DA for Durham County, used this case for political gain. As these accusations can to the surface, Mr. Nifong, was in a close campaign to have the opportunity to be able to run for re-election as the District Attorney (Wilson & Barstow, 2007). If he could secure the black vote during a racially driven case that the Duke lacrosse presented, he definitely had a great opportunity to win the bid. Jennings (2009) stated, “Mr. Nifongs handily won re-election” (p.569). Mike Nifong thought he was in the right situation at the time and committed unethical judiciary actions that lead to disbarment by the North Carolina Bar.
Mr. Nifong intentionally withheld valuable evidence to the defense, which did not help his case and showed that he may have had personal gain from this case. The use of DNA testing and presenting the results correctly has exonerated the innocent and convicted the guilty (Pyrek, 2007). This case was nationally known throughout media outlets due to the racial impact and involvement by an institution as prestigious ad Duke University. Mike Nifong’s intentions could have cost these three gentlemen a life behind bars over a clear political motive to retain office as the elected position of District Attorney of Durham County. This is a prime example of why anyone should be social responsible for their actions, especially in the judicial system. Justice was served in more than one way within the Duke Lacrosse case.
Prosecutors should perform their job without being bias, knowing that innocent people are not being convicted. Mike Nifong did not do that in the Duke Lacrosse case. This nationally profiled case showed how the system can be corrupted as the prosecuting may have other obligations. According to Fortunato (2008), “Duke University was presented with a public relations crisis on March 13, 2006 at a party held by members of the lacrosse team resulted in the indictments of three of the teams players who were alleged to have beaten, strangled, and raped an exotic dancer who they hired” (p.116). The accuser was an African American woman and the defendants where three white males. This case was racially biased had the support of the black community, as Nifong, was in charge of the case and running for re-election. There is no doubt in my mind that Nifong knew that there was a chance that these three lacrosse players were innocent.
After the evidence was withheld and proper protocol was not taken he really had no way out. He proved that the system in some cases do have bad seeds, for say and in this case, he was weeded out in the end. According to Tetlock, Visser, Singh, Polifroni, Scott, Elson, Mazzocco, and Rescober (2007), “The prosecutorial mindset bears striking resemblance to descriptions of collective reactions to normative transgressions and how outrages people are by disrespect of their way of life and how satisfied they are when people put themselves above the law” (p.196). Mike Nifong really thought that because of his power he was above the law and basically was trying to frame these guys of a crime that they did not commit. Poor decision making by the prosecution can lead to individuals going to prison and pulling time for crimes that did not commit. With the use of DNA testing some cases have been reopened and justice has been served to the individuals that have been falsely imprisoned. In the Duke Lacrosse rape case it is a pure example of a prosecutor not being responsible which lead to the right decision of disbarment.
The true college experience is something that some people have never had the opportunity to have and others like me had an experience that will never be forgotten. Going to parties and hosting them while in college is very common. This is exactly what the Duke lacrosse players had in mind when they decided to pay $800 for two strippers to perform at their house back in 2006 (Jennings, 2009). This was a style of party that happens and I remember the same kind as I was a student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. It is all in good fun until something like an accuser crying rape happens.
Parties are definitely a way to release stress by drinking alcohol and engaging in acts of affection in some situations. According to Huang, Jacobs, and Derevensky (2011), “College students engage in a host of risk behaviors, including excessive alcohol use, unsafe sex, and illicit drug use” (p.302). All of those activities may not take place, but can be found at college parties. A social life in college is something that I feel is necessary to network and meet new people, that essentially may end up being your best friend. As an athlete for a university, like Duke with its rich heritage, parties are a way to unwind from the stress of athletics and academics. When alcohol is involved, there is definitely some risk and the Duke Lacrosse team found them out as they added that extra element to the party. Martens, Pedersen, Smith, Stewart and O’Brien (2011), “Research has shown that college students participating in athletics drink more than other students and serve as important predictors of alcohol-related outcomes” (p.456).
Attending parties into the late hours of the night is definitely part of the college culture. The Duke Lacrosse players were just trying to have some fun when they decided to hired the strippers. It was to their disadvantage of the motive that one of the strippers had that lead to nationally recognized racial case. Parties can lead to negative outcomes when strippers and alcohol are combined but are an integral part of the college experience (Buettner, Khurana, & Slesnick, 2011). College students especially athletes can use the Duke University rape case as an example how a fun night of entertainment can lead to life changing events. Some people deal with losing friends to driving while impaired to allegations of rape in the Duke Lacrosse case.
These events are all life changing and sometimes the outcome is not a fortunate for some as it was when justice was served for the three Duke lacrosse players. The key is to be responsible and think before you act. In the situation that these gentlemen found themselves in was unfortunate that someone wanted to take advantage of wealthy white men and the District Attorney had a plan for political gain as a motive. If I could stress anything to college students from my experience and the stories of others, it is to be aware of your surroundings, do not drink and drive, practice safe sex, do not indulge in alcohol abuse and make sure you have a reputable company when hiring strippers. Also, do not let the partying out prioritized your schoolwork, because in the world we live in today a good education is need to receive competitive jobs and salaries.
The Duke Lacrosse case that took place in 2006 was a learning experience for all entities involved. With national recognition by major media outlet covering the case Duke University had to make the decision to cancel the entire season where the team was ranked second in the nation. With the accuser being an African American female and the defendants being three white males at the prestigious Duke University, this case rapidly become very racially driven. The District Attorney Mike Nifong had it set in his mind that these gentlemen were guilty and used the situation to possibly help him in the re-election process. As the case proceeded and evidence was not reported properly the case what taken over by the Attorney General’s Office that lead to the clearing these gentlemen’s names of all charges and complete innocence. In the end Nifong was disbarred and this case is a perfect example of how the judicial system was corrupted and corrected in the same instance. After all the allegations and being cleared of the charges Colin Finnerty, Reade Seligmann, and David Evans agreed on a settlement with Duke University that the amount was not known (Jennings, 2009). In the end justice was served and these three former lacrosse players can enjoy what life has planned for them, because they definitely were challenged by the possibility of prison.
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