Integrity Matters
April 18, 2007

Justice prevails in Duke case, but takes time

Question: (E-289)

CBS's "60 Minutes" reported on three wrongly accused Duke University students who played Lacrosse. They were declared innocent, having survived the irresponsible accusations of Durham, N.C., District Attorney Michael Nifong. Was there any integrity in such a miscarriage of justice?


Because of the strength of the American justice system, once again, right has won and wrong has lost. To date, there was no miscarriage of justice, but lives still were turned upside down, needlessly costing millions of dollars for legal fees and causing unimaginable emotional pain. The rogue prosecutor, Nifong, will likely be disbarred for abusing the innocent, violating integrity, and breaking the law. His aggressive style ran roughshod on individuals' rights, beginning with the core principle of innocent until proven guilty.

Fortunately, important checks and balances remained in force. The media followed the story and eventually got their facts right - exposing Nifong's trumped-up charges. North Carolina's Attorney General, Roy Cooper, monitored the situation, finally ending the nightmare when he announced there was insufficient evidence to pursue a criminal case against the three Duke Lacrosse players - and declaring them innocent.

"The moment Cooper announced our innocence, I completely broke down," Reade Seligmann told CBS in an interview that aired Sunday. "Finally, we got our lives back."

Seligmann, Dave Evans and Collin Finnerty were vindicated even further when Attorney General Cooper delivered a scathing assessment of prosecutor Mike Nifong's baseless case.

"It's disappointing and really outrageous that it was not stopped sooner," he said. "These contradictions were clearly pointing to the fact that this attack did not occur."

Recalling how an overreaching prosecutor reduced them from confident student-athletes to reviled rape suspects, the players said they at times despaired that they would find justice."

Reade Seligmann said his lawyer approached Nifong with proof - eyewitnesses, cell phone records and a security-camera video of him at a bank machine - that he was no longer at the house when the attack allegedly occurred, but Nifong refused to look at it.

Though Cooper's long-awaited pronouncement brought them some peace, the players said this ordeal will never be over for them.

"You can try to move on, but rape will always be associated with my name," Evans said. "When I die, they'll say, 'One of the three Duke Lacrosse rape suspects died today.'"

The American justice system must remain a beacon to the world. An irresponsible prosecutor does not destroy freedom's foundation. Integrity means that all people have the right to a fair and speedy trial and should only be charged when sufficient evidence exists. Three exonerated Duke University students are vivid reminders that integrity matters and vigilance remains the price of liberty.

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