Posts Tagged ‘Duke lacrosse’

“Airman Who Alleged Rape Faces Court-Martial”

Amber Taylor points us to this AP article:

A female airman says she faces a court-martial next month because she refused to testify against three male airmen she accused of rape.

The woman is charged with one count of committing indecent acts and one count of consuming alcohol as a minor. The defense says the charges involve the same men she accused of raping her.

The woman dropped the charges after feeling “pressured”; the men agreed to nonjudicial punishments in exchange for immunity and their testimony against the woman. If the story is true (and that’s a big if: the only substantive comment in the coverage is from the defense attorneys, as the prosecutors are forbidden from commenting in detail while the case is pending), it is certainly something shocking: you’d expect that sort of thing in remote parts of Pakistan, not in the armed forces. Of course, as the Duke Lacrosse case showed, there are many other scenarios where a woman could allege rape, back down from her allegation, and legitimately be charged with wrongdoing. Court-martial is scheduled for September 24.

Nifong’s media and law-school enablers, cont’d

An article in the new American Journalism Review (Rachel Smolkin, “Justice Delayed”, Aug./Sept.) lays out at length the sins of the media in covering the allegations of prosecutor Mike Nifong in the Duke lacrosse case. Leading offenders such as the Durham Herald-Sun, New York Times and TV’s Nancy Grace all come in for their share of reproach, but of note also is this on Wendy Murphy, feminist lawprof and frequent broadcast commentator on the case:

One prominent guest on Grace’s show and others was Wendy Murphy, an adjunct professor at the New England School of Law and a former assistant district attorney in Middlesex County, Massachusetts. On April 10, 2006, after defense attorneys announced that DNA results found no links to the athletes, Murphy told Grace, “Look, I think the real key here is that these guys, like so many rapists–and I’m going to say it because, at this point, she’s entitled to the respect that she is a crime victim.”

Emerging questions about the investigation did not prompt Murphy to reassess. Appearing on “CNN Live Today” on May 3, 2006, she posited, “I’d even go so far as to say I bet one or more of the players was, you know, molested or something as a child.” On June 5, 2006, MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson asserted, relying on a Duke committee report, that the lacrosse team was generally well-behaved. Rejoined Murphy: “Hitler never beat his wife either. So what?” She later added: “I never, ever met a false rape claim, by the way. My own statistics speak to the truth.”

Asked to evaluate her commentary, Murphy said in an interview: “Lots of folks who voiced the prosecution position in the beginning gave up because they faced a lot of criticism, and that’s never my style.” She notes that she’s invited on cable shows to argue for a particular side. “You have to appreciate my role as a pundit is to draw inferences and make arguments on behalf of the side which I’m assigned,” she says. “So of course it’s going to sound like I’m arguing in favor of ‘guilty.’ That’s the opposite of what the defense pundit is doing, which is arguing that they’re innocent.”

The last passage prompts Mark Obbie at LawBeat (Jul. 18) to reflect: “Has there ever been a clearer argument for the utter show-biz meaninglessness of such ‘debate’ shows?”

On a different note, the much-anticipated book on the controversy by Stuart Taylor, Jr. and K.C. Johnson, “Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case”, is due out a month from now and is already selling well on Amazon. More: John Steele Gordon, “Racial Role Reversal”, WSJ/, Jun. 20.

Prosecutorial abuse “rarer than human rabies”?

So claims Joshua Marquis, vice president of the National District Attorneys Association, commenting on the Nifong-Duke lacrosse case. (Adam Liptak, “Prosecutor Becomes Prosecuted”, New York Times, Jun. 24). The reaction of Washington-based writer Carey Roberts: “Not by a long shot,” as witness a list with familiar names on it like Wenatchee, Wash. and the Scheck/Neufeld Innocence Project, as well as investigations by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Chicago Tribune, and more. (“The Nifong case – how rare?”, Washington Times, Jul. 29).

Committee votes to disbar Nifong

The Duke lacrosse prosecutor acted as a “minister of injustice”, said State Bar prosecutor Douglas Brocker. The disciplinary committee wound up agreeing unanimously on nearly every element of the ethics charges against Nifong, who’s agreed to quit as Durham prosecutor. (Aaron Beard, “N.C. Panel Disbars Duke Prosecutor”, AP/Chattanooga Times Free Press, Jun. 16; “Nifong stripped of law license”, Sports Network, Jun. 17). We’ve covered the case extensively from early on; K.C. Johnson at Durham in Wonderland, who’s led the blog charge on the issue, notes that the New York Times’s Duff Wilson is still slanting his coverage of the case (Jun. 16).

June 14 roundup

  • Encouraging kids’ adoption is a great thing to do, but there are right and wrong ways of going about it [U.K. Daily Mail]

  • Defensive medical testing: “Every day I work as a doctor, I must choose between committing malpractice and committing insurance fraud.” [Dr. Paula Hartzell in Medical Economics]

  • After serving 2+ years for consensual sex with fellow teen, Genarlow Wilson (Feb. 8, Mar. 6) may walk free, or maybe not [CNN; views of some Andrew Sullivan readers]

  • “We need to eliminate nuisance lawsuits through ‘loser-pays’ provisions.” [candidate Giuliani @ NRO]

  • Boston Herald (May 11, etc.) pays $3.4 million to local judge to settle libel verdict [Globe]

  • Blind squirrel finds acorn dept.: American Prospect weblog promotes a good idea, abolishing peremptory challenges [Tapped; more]

  • Disciplinary hearing begins against Duke DA Nifong []; you’d think lacrosse player’s out-of-town alibi might have raised a red flag [K. C. Johnson via Cernovich]

  • Another flap, this time from Oklahoma, about a doc who vows to turn away malpractice-suit advocates as patients [Enid News & Eagle via KevinMD]

  • No shock, Sherlock: mud-slinging, money-flinging found to be big problems in state high court races [AP]

  • In that curious saga of Madison County, Ill.’s oft-suing Peach family (earlier posts here and here) Armettia Peach has settled her leaky-roof case against Granite City [M. C. Record]

  • New York “plastic surgery addict” loses case claiming doctor should have counseled her against going under the knife so often [six years ago on Overlawyered]

Duke recriminations

North Carolina attorney general Roy Cooper deserves credit for making it clear to all that the players were innocent and not merely unprosecutable (Stuart Taylor, Jr., “An unbelievable day”, Newsweek, Apr. 12 (web-only)). Cooper may not deserve so much credit for sparing the false accuser any public legal consequences (John Podhoretz, “Let the liar be named and shamed”, New York Post, Apr. 12). Durham DA Mike Nifong is in richly deserved trouble, of course but it would be wrong to let the press off the hook for its many sins in covering the case (Howard Kurtz, “Media Miscarriage”, Washington Post, Apr. 12; K.C. Johnson, Apr. 12 (on the New York Times’ reporting; check other entries at his blog for the sins of the Durham Herald-Sun, Newsday, etc.)). And let’s not forget the Duke faculty, or at least large portions of it (Vince Carroll, Rocky Mountain News, Apr. 12).

See these links for our extensive earlier coverage of the case.

My bad

One of the common minor medical malpractice “tort reforms” that have been proposed in recent years is the “apology law.” That’s the law which permits doctors to apologize to patients for bad outcomes without having those apologies thrown back in their face at trial. (Reasonable, if relatively trivial.)Rhode Island is now looking at joining the 15 or so states that have enacted such apology laws, and over at the New York Personal Injury Law Blog and crossposted at Bizarro-Overlawyered, plaintiff’s attorney Eric Turkewitz endorses the bill, saying:

I’ve always believed, based on the manner in which calls come in to my office, that poor communication (bad bedside manner) is the primary reason patients call attorneys. They are angry, or confused, or both.

Now, the practical implication of that for doctors is clear: doctors should apologize. But he doesn’t seem to reflect on the implication of that for lawyers. If med-mal cases are brought based on anger over bad bedside manner rather than wrongdoing, then our med-mal system will punish bad bedside manner rather than wrongdoing.

In any case, Turkewitz mocks an insurance company which advises doctors who apologize — even if those apologies are protected — to apologize for the outcome but not to admit error, claiming that this sensible advice “encourages more of the same thing that has gotten docs into trouble in the past.” But Turkewitz doesn’t mention that even this extremely modest reform is too much for some trial lawyers. As quoted in the same article he cites:

Providence lawyer Steven Minicucci, who handles malpractice suits, said displays of compassion are rarely useful in building such cases. But an apology and an admission of error could be key evidence. He opposes the Rhode Island legislation.

“I like to call it the `I’m-sorry-I-killed-your-mother'” bill, Minicucci said. “If a doctor comes out and says something like that, he shouldn’t be able to immunize himself against statements like that by couching it in an apology.”

You’ve got to love that “rarely,” in “displays of compassion are rarely useful in building such cases.” Rarely, but hey, sometimes a trial lawyer can turn compassion against the doctor. And we wouldn’t want to stop that.

Speaking of apologizing (and updating an earlier story), I’m pretty sure that Mike Nifong’s apology to the Duke lacrosse players (“To the extent that I made judgments that ultimately proved to be incorrect, I apologize to the three students that were wrongly accused.”) is not going to cut it.

March 8 roundup

  • Why the tort reform movement is really a civil justice reform movement. [Point of Law; University of Dayton Law Review]
  • What to do about private securities class actions. [Wallison @ AEI]
  • Law firm sued when witness trips, dies, in courtroom accident. [Lattman]
  • Nifong responds to criticism of his handling of Duke Lacrosse case; KC Johnson not impressed.

  • Big corporations have bogus consumer fraud lawsuits, too: NutraSweet maker sues Splenda maker over “Made from sugar so it tastes like sugar.” [Legal Intelligencer]
  • The effect of a malpractice suit on a physician. [Levy via Kevin MD]
  • “Are our institutions or is our sense of justice stronger because of [the Libby] prosecution?” [Fred Thompson; WaPo oped; also many posts by Frum]

Duke lacrosse update

When last we checked, the North Carolina State Bar had filed ethics charges against Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong for his handling of the Duke lacrosse rape case. (Dec. 29) After receiving an extension of time, Nifong has filed his reply to the charges. Blogger K.C. Johnson, who absolutely owns this story, has the details: here and here. The short version, according to Johnson:

The thesis of this filing: Nifong did nothing wrong, and if he gets the chance to engage in massive prosecutorial misconduct in the future, he’ll seize it. This is a man unethical to his core.