Two new books examine Duke lacrosse players’ plight
The vindication of the Duke lacrosse players has hit the nation’s bookstores, with two summer reads documenting the miscarriage of justice: one by a former Duke athlete, the other by the team’s former coach.
Nader Baydoun, a former Blue Devils football player, and R. Stephanie Good teamed up to write “A Rush to Injustice: How Power, Prejudice, Racism, and Political Correctness Overshadowed Truth and Justice in the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case.”
Mr. Baydoun said his passion for Duke, as an alumnus and athlete and as the father of an alumnus, stirred his interest in the rape accusations against three lacrosse players.
“I bleed blue,” he said. “Like everyone else, I was shocked when this story broke.”
The authors eventually reversed their assumptions, saying the politically correct media, the liberaldominated school, and some of its faculty and students unfairly prejudged the young men. Mr. Baydoun said the treatment of Collin Finnerty, Reade W. Seligmann and David F. Evans opened his eyes to problems at his alma mater. In that spirit, the book often uses first-person narration.
“We wanted to tell the whole story. We wanted to do it fairly and truthfully. We hope that this book will help to fully exonerate these innocent young men and to expose all of the wrongdoers who victimized them,” said Mr. Baydoun, now a tr ial lawyer in Nashville, Tenn.
He said Duke President Richard Brodhead and board of trustees Chairman Robert Steel “acted as if they were more concerned with the image of the school than the welfare of the students.”
Duke suspended Mr. Finnerty and Mr. Seligmann and canceled the remainder of the title-contending team’s season shortly after stripper Crystal Gail Mangum made her accusations. By the time the indictments were returned, Mr. Evans had graduated.
The school also forced coach Mike Pressler to resign. Durham Mayor William V. Bell demanded that Duke cancel its lacrosse program outright. The Duke student newspaper ran a full-page ad signed by 88 faculty members calling the incident a “social disaster” and vilifying the team members as symbols of racism, sexism and class privilege. Weeks of demonstrations on campus picked up that theme.
“Much of it was driven by extreme political correctness,” said Mr. Baydoun. “We as individuals need to make sure that we don’t judge people too harshly or too quickly. We need to be conscious of our own prejudices.” Mr. Baydoun also thinks people should take seriously the notion of “innocent until proven guilty.”
Mike Nifong, the Durham County, N.C., district attorney who prosecuted the case, resigned his job and was disbarred last month by the North Carolina Bar Asso- ciation for ethics violations, including “dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation” in public comments about the case.
In dropping the charges and providing a rare declaration of innocence to the three players in April, state Attorney General Roy Cooper referred to Mr. Nifong as a “rogue prosecutor” who pushed his case forward “unchecked” and said special prosecutors had determined after a three-month investigation that the three young men were the victims of a “tragic rush to accuse” by an overreaching district attorney.
Ms. Good, a best-selling author, said she was shocked that Mr. Nifong did not question Miss Mangum’s story, which changed repeatedly, and that he concealed exculpatory evidence from defense attorneys.
“We worked on the book before we knew what was going to happen in the case, and thankfully everything we wrote came to pass. We expressed the opinion there would be criminal charges [against Mr. Nifong], and I certainly hope that comes to pass, because I think he deserves it.”
Another book about the case, released last month, was co-authored by Mr. Pressler and Don Yaegar, who worked 10 years as an investigative journalist for Sports Illustrated.
“It’s Not About the Truth: The Untold Story of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case and the Lives It Shattered” fulfills a promise that Mr. Pressler, now the lacrosse coach at Bryant University, made to his players before leaving Duke that he would tell their story and document their innocence for future generations.
Mr. Pressler condemned the widespread rush to judgment in the early days of the scandal.
“We should wait and err on the side of caution before we start painting people with the same brush,” he said.
Last fall, Simon & Schuster hired Mr. Yaegar to work on a book about the Duke lacrosse case. In January, he met Mr. Pressler and discovered that the coach kept a diary throughout the ordeal and had every intention of writing his own book. The two men combined their efforts on the project.
Mr. Yaegar interviewed nearly every lacrosse player, most of the attorneys, co-workers of the accuser, neighbors, and Duke students and administrators to gather information for the book. He was surprised by “how completely empty the file was of any evidence of wrongdoing from the very beginning.”
Mr. Yaegar said he has noticed a change in the ways universities and college athletic teams handle similar situations, as well as new precautions that people are taking.
“An awful lot of students and college athletes have learned that a stupid decision can cost you the rest of your life,” he said.