Wednesday, 19 April 2006

Back to the future

A reader draws my attention back to the April 2 public editor column in the News & Observer, in which Ted Vaden wrote in regards to the rape allegations against (then unnamed) members of the Duke lacrosse team:

[N&O deputy managing editor Linda] Williams said editors and the reporter discussed the fairness issue at length before interviewing the woman and publishing the story. The governing decision, she said, was to print only information from the interview that conformed with the police reports. “We limited for publication the statements from the woman that were in line with what she said in the police report,” Williams said. Other information from the interview has not been published.

I noted before managing editor Melanie Sill’s rebuttal, which also alluded to the fact that the paper chose not to print additional statements made by the accuser.

One would hope that the N&O will soon make public any parts of the original interview they previously redacted that are consistent or inconsistent with the defense’s statements about the events of the evening of March 13–14.

Student paper rant of the day

When kids learn how to do word processing (whenever and however they learn it—I know I don’t teach it), apparently nobody bothers to teach them to create page breaks by using the “Page Break” function instead of just hitting return a bunch of times. Thus, when I print it out on my printer, everything ends up FUBAR.

This is, in one word, annoying—so annoying, in fact, that I am considering a “no sending me papers via email” rule in the future.

Update: Of all the posts that someone would complain about, it would have to be this one… sheesh.

More afternoon linkage

Some bullet points around the web on the whole Duke lacrosse thing:

  • A Q&A with Lester Munson at
  • Tom Maguire’s comment thread from yesterday is long—too long. He speculates, “my guess is that once the District Attorney gets past his election situation in early May, the wheels will fall off. My sources in New Jersey assure me that there is nothing to this, but who knows?”
  • A few local bloggers of note: John in Carolina continues to hammer the News & Observer for its coverage, Laura of Survival Theory has been on the case with a few interesting comment threads, and those looking for someone who is less credulous of the defense may find my neighbor Lisa B. more to their liking; I only use the term “Townie” out of pure love for my fellow Trinity Park residents.
  • Finally, the latest DukeObsrvr comment thread is worth a skim; I’d say the mood is a bit more pro-defense than the median student, but my sense (from a non-scientific discussion with a few of my students this afternoon) is that the median student at this point is pretty fed up about the whole thing and just wants it all to go away.

Some defense photos now online

NBC 17 has posted seven photos from the night of the alleged attack, as shown on MSNBC’s The Abrams Report this afternoon; these are part of the same set of photos taken at the party and previously described to the press and seen by various news outlets over the past week or so.

Your afternoon roundup

WRAL reports (apply your standard “potential defense attorney spin” detector accordingly) that the identifications made by the accuser were not may not have been of the players’ faces:

An exotic dancer who says three Duke lacrosse players raped her may have identified two of them based on photographs that show scratches on their bodies, a defense attorney for one of the men said Wednesday.

Attorney Bill Cotter said that when 46 members of the lacrosse team submitted court-ordered DNA samples last month, they were also photographed without their shirts. ...

A search of Finnerty’s dorm room Tuesday, however, was a clear sign that the investigation is rapidly continuing. A resident assistant told WRAL that Durham police investigators searched Seligmann’s and Finnerty’s rooms at Edens 2C Residence Hall for two hours Tuesday night.

Sources tell WRAL that the officers were looking for Finnerty’s computer and that they seized several undisclosed items.

The News & Observer adds that “Cotter said Tuesday that police searched Finnerty’s dorm room Tuesday night and said he believed they also served a search warrant in Seligmann’s room in the Edens dormitory. Cotter said it is unusual for authorities to serve a search warrant on someone who has already been indicted.” They also have a handy graphic of the timelines produced by the prosecution and defense attorneys, although it does not include Seligmann’s ATM and munchies trek that is believed to start around 12:15 a.m.

ABC 11 has exclusive results from an opinion poll of Durham County voters, although the most important question—who respondents planned to vote for—seems to have been omitted from the poll. Nifong received a 35% favorable and 30% unfavorable rating from respondents; as this is within the margin of error of the poll, we can’t conclude that Nifong’s favorables outweigh his unfavorables in the underlying population. One of Nifong’s challengers, former assistant DA Freda Black, started taking shots at Nifong Tuesday in a recorded phone message for Durham voters.

Also of interest: photos from Don Ingle, one of WRAL’s news photographers, of the circus around the Durham County Courthouse, and ponderances on the media coverage by WRAL anchor/reporter David Crabtree.

Death Cab for Seligmann

The papers are having trouble verifying part of lacrosse player Reade Seligmann’s alibi for the time of the alleged rape:

Defense lawyers for the players told The Durham Herald-Sun that Seligmann called a cab at 12:14 a.m. and was driven away from N. Buchanan Boulevard five minutes later. In addition, they claimed that an ATM security camera filmed Seligmann while making a withdrawal at 12:24 a.m.

The Herald-Sun called 12 Durham-based taxi companies, all of which denied dispatching a cab to the house where the party occurred the night of the alleged incident.

Also, WRAL has the Tuesday search being of Finnerty’s dorm room, while the accuser’s camp appears to be converging on “she was drugged” as a theory of events:

A cousin of the accuser who has been acting as a spokeswoman for her family disputed that allegations in an interview on ABC‘s “Good Morning America” Wednesday. She identified herself only by her first name, Jackie, to protect the woman’s identity.

“Before she went to the party she was not intoxicated, she was not drinking,” Jackie said. “There’s a great possibility that when she went to the party, she was given a drink and it was drugged.”

Update: More on Seligmann’s cab ride:

Around midnight the night of March 13, Seligmann was already at the party when two women hired from a local escort agency arrived to dance for the boys — $400 each for a two-hour performance. A series of time-stamped photographs viewed by ABC News show the girls dancing at midnight and at 12:02 a.m.

By 12:24 a.m., a receipt reviewed by ABC indicates that Seligmann's ATM card was used at a nearby Wachovia bank. In a written statement to the defense also reviewed by ABC, a cabdriver confirms picking up Seligmann and a friend a block and a half from the party, and driving them to the bank. By 12:25 a.m., he was making a phone call to a girlfriend out of state.

What did Seligmann do after leaving the bank? The taxi driver remembers taking him to a drive-thru fast-food restaurant and then dropping him off at his dorm. Duke University records show that Seligmann's card was used to gain entry at 12:46 a.m.

In addition to bolstering Seligmann's alibi, the taxi driver's written testimony provided a rare glimpse of color in an otherwise darkened night.

"I remember those two guys starting enjoying their food inside my car, but I'm glad I end up with a nice tip and fare $25," the taxi driver said in his testimony.

I’m still not sure why the team captains told police that Seligmann wasn’t at the party, but maybe they can’t tell their fellow players apart either…