Friday, December 08, 2006

The Big Game

Recently, Duke student Dan Baum submitted the following letter to the Herald Sun:

What happens after the verdict in lacrosse case?

It's time we started talking about the lacrosse case in a different, more important way. District Attorney Mike Nifong was elected, his initial handling of the case is in the past and the case will now head to trial. Therefore, there's no need to continue this heated debate about things that won't change. Instead, we need a productive discussion about what happens after the verdict comes out.

Unfortunately, I think there's so little faith in our legal system that whatever happens in court, a substantial portion of our community will leave angry. If a guilty verdict is handed down, wearers of "Innocent" wristbands will be up in arms about the bias of members of the Durham community against Duke. If the court finds them innocent, cries that they bought their way out of trouble will follow from others.

As a Duke student who has had the privilege of discussing this matter with my classmates, students from NCCU and Durham residents, I've found that most people have made up their minds about whether or not a rape occurred. Most do not see a verdict changing their minds either. So once this decision comes down, in the face of the inflammatory media, our community will still have serious healing and reconciling left to do.

We need to start talking about this now, figuring out how to continue to work and make progress once the trial and the hordes of media have come and gone. Because a verdict is not going to solve anything.

Professor KC Johnson commented on Baum’s letter at his Durham in Wonderland blog yesterday.

The Herald-Sun recently published a revealing letter from Duke student Dan Baum that powerfully explains the need for a change in venue.

On the Duke website, Baum says (in language that could have been written by the African-American Studies Program) that he seeks “to create a safe space for engaging and thought-provoking discussions on issues ranging from identity and diversity to human relations in general.”

In his H-S letter, meanwhile, Baum contended with that Nifong’s re-election, the D.A’s “initial handling of the case is in the past and . . . therefore, there’s no need to continue this heated debate about things that won’t change.” Imagine such a response regarding the situation in the early 1960s Deep South—the local sheriff trampling on the rights of African-Americans had just been re-elected in a racially polarized election, so “therefore, there’s no need to continue this heated debate about things that won’t change.”

I mention Baum’s statements only to establish that he seems not at all sympathetic to the players targeted by Nifong. Nor does he seem particularly troubled by the issues of prosecutorial misconduct or “separate-but-equal" justice that have marred Nifong’s approach to Duke students.

You can read the rest of Professor Johnson’s post here: Baum Letter and Durham Trial

Frequent Hoax commentator, attorney Michael Gaynor, also discusses Baum's letter and Professor Johnson's disection in an article today.

Professor Johnson focused on "a revealing letter from Duke student Dan Baum that
powerfully explains the need for a change in venue" and appeared in The Herald-Sun. What the letter revealed was Mr. Baum's ignorance and naivety, at best."

The balance of Mr. Gaynor's article can be found here: [link not yet available, will update]

Today, Joan Foster offers her thoughts on Mr. Baum's letter.

The Big Game

I read Dan Baum's letter online . . . while half-listening to my husband and his friends discussing college football "championships" in the other room. Like most wives, I know better than to join in these debates, heated and impassioned as they can become. They are fans, you see. And sometimes, listening to them, I surmise the ACTUAL games themselves do not matter. No indeed. These fans have pre-determined who the real champions are . . . regardless of the final score of any game. I surmise from their conversation that the opposing, non-favored team has never played as tough a schedule. Their wins are the result of hometown refs, or some ridiculous circumstance of "luck," not skill. As I said, they are fans.

So, I read Dan Baum's letter in the Herald Sun . . . and if he is to be believed, much of the Durham jury pool is filled with "fans" as well. They have already decided the "winner," the truth-teller in The Big Game that is coming up this Spring in Durham . . . innocent or guilty.

"Most people have made up their minds," says Dan. And, unfortunately I believe he is right on this point. The ideal we all hope for and aspire to . . . is a jury entering a court room . . . with the mindset that is the bedrock of our justice system: innocent until proven guilty. From that point, they would assess the evidence. Or in this case, the lack thereof. But if the comments on our blog, and everywhere, else tell us anything it is that Durham has many fans already wearing the Team Nifong colors. As Dan says, "they've made up their minds." Many will not or can not entertain a presumption of innocence. Things have just gone too far.

Nifong Fans post at the blogs everyday. Here are two examples from the past few days. I will let them stand for themselves.

"Don't attack Duke University....was it the University that raped a woman? These lacrosse players are the ones and only ones to blame. Stop taking up for these criminals. Look at their past actions and behavior! It was a train wreck waiting to happen. They are NOT above the law. All the letters and whining from people like Michael Gaynor, William Anderson and etc will not make this case disappear. The victim's story have a RIGHT to be heard in a court of law. I'm sick of you taking the side of the duke 3 without hearing the whole story of what happened that night. Guess what?? The duke 3 can tell lies just like anyone else!! They lied about who the party was for, what their names were, how many were attending the party. Don't you find some of these things suspicious on their part? Or.... is it just the accuser that you're suspicious of???I'm beginning to wonder if you people really want to hear the truth of what happened!!!"

"it is obvious that the poor man has been deluged with hateful emails from the likes of you duke supporters. he wanted it to stop. you admit emailing the man. the other professors had to put up safeguards because you guys were flaming them as well via the INTERNET. even the N and O article written today by Neff, the defense's shill at the N and o, says a lot of what you people have been sending to the governor and the ag are "obscene rants from phony email addresses", which would be typical of the sort of people you guys are. you all are the ones full of hate. hate for blacks, hate for the victim, hate for nifong. you support those who hate as well, the racist and misogynist lax team, which is why you all think their racial slurs are ok and try to minimize that aspect of the case. too bad for you that everyone in Durham heard the truth and will hear more about their true characters(and it will be ugly and pornographic) if this case goes to trial, God willing."

Last Spring, Durham saw it's politically faltering Inspector D.A. spinning a terrible racial hoax on national TV. Durham is daily fed more red meat from the likes of the Herald-Sun and, perhaps to a lesser extent, the headline writers at the N&O. Nifong was fourth and long in his self-funded, faltering race for D.A. His Hail Mary pass was caught by the hungry media machine. The 88 gave him lots of cover and the Pot bangers cheered and led the mob from the sidelines. Local "refs" on the bench did not deter him. The Hoax culminated in Nifong's dream . . . a winning season.

Now, he awaits the really Big Game in the Spring.

Nifong Enablers continue to back and embolden him. And if Dan Baum and the myriad of Team-Nifong posters we read on line are correct, it is as we feared. Nifong's rhetoric won not only the election, but many minds in the potential jury pool as well. He is their great Quarterback and they want to give him a win.

Consider the Herald-Sun. Nifong's defensive co-captain,Editor Bob Ashley, tells us it is difficult to have an op-ed accepted for publication in the Herald-Sun. Yet the two op-eds on their website that concern the Hoax are both stridently pro-prosecution and filled with distortions. One is the "Give Nifong Credit for Believing the Accuser." This bit of blather is blatantly oblivious to the real damage pursuing a false accusation on flimsy charges does to the true victims of rape that will have to follow. The second is Prof. Crowley's unfortunate missive, "Don't be too Quick to toss the Lacrosse case" which he has now courageously seen fit to publicly retract. Yet, Crowley's self-rejected piece remains on their website (as of this December 7 AM . . . days after his letter withdrawing his comments) or at least its title and a short synopsis . . . still there to possibly influence the uninformed. The letter from Prof Crowley retracting his comments, however, has already disappeared. The editors do not even feel the moral obligation to fully retract the piece. That might, of course, taint their pro-prosecution agenda. Truth is secondary to keeping the local fan base happy, I suppose.

Some time ago, the Friends of Duke University published the following E-mail on their website:

I started to post these comments on your FODU website; however, later thought it might be best to run this by you first. I'll leave whether this should be posted to you.

Yesterday morning I had a shocking conversation with one of the guys on the editorial staff of the Herald-Sun. My initial reason for contacting him was to complain about the haphazard website they are running---many days the letters-to-the-editor are not posted. They are apparently in the midst of revamping the site and glitches still prevail.

Well.....I brought up their October "60 Minutes" editorial again which was very petty and cast aspersions on the LAX players in a personal and most unprofessional way. I mentioned that it was not well-written and was unprofessional work coming from a newspaper editorial staff.

I voiced my concern because they have openly and forcefully been aiding Mike Nifong at every turn. The reply that I received from Greg Childress was that countless black men have been falsely accused in the what's such a big deal about these lacrosse players?

I was stunned. Do you know what this means?

This employee of the Herald Sun who uses his perch to promote his personal opinions and agenda actually admitted that he felt it's OK for this to happen because there have been many black men from decades past who were falsely accused.

By this time, I was angry and yelled at him.....asking him if he was a professional (?????)......and what any other case from decades past has to do with this one? I asked him if he considered himself to be a professional then how could he
voice such an irrational excuse.

Then he hung up.

I later called the Herald-Sun publisher Geoff Moser and we had a very long talk. I don't wish to totally alienate myself so that I can get my opinions printed on occasion.....however, there is a MAJOR reason for this guy (Childress) to be fired.....or at least prohibited from commenting on this case in that paper.

Astounding. This guy who writes for the Durham paper actually admitted what it is they are doing to the Duke LAX players.

Debrah Correll

If this exchange is true, it would seem some of the Cheerleaders for the Big Game are angry that Collin, Reade and Dave haven't had a tough schedule in the past. A little False Accusation going their way . . . just levels the playing field in their view. Their informed opinion of the justice of THESE three young men going to trial on a thin-to-non-existent case? According to Ms. Correll's account . . . Greg Childress tells us, "So what's such a big deal?"

It's game time.

It would seem the Hoax has morphed into the Ultimate Sporting Event . . . your team vs. our team. You can see it on the discussion Boards. The pro-Nifong posters, hampered by no evidence, still refuse to yield any yardage. Offsides (purposely) and holding (stubbornly), they are incensed if a posting penalty is called.

The "Vigilante Poster" that papered Durham last Spring is the play book for the Big Game. The entire Lacrosse team stands guilty of what ails and angers Durham and our Greater Society at large. "Pick three, any three," the Team-Nifong fans seem to say. "Put it ALL on them! We're up in the stands . . . demanding a win, deserving a win . . . for our Quarterback Nifong, for the Prosecution . . . for the Past, for our Agenda, for our side!!!"

The Big Game pre-planning has already begun. PR teams are in town . . . cheerleading for Duke and Brodhead. The civil attorneys are scalping tickets to a Big Payoff after the fact. Announcers. . . who are hoping for Judgeships or "Good Vibes" with Quarterback Nifong . . . are giving positive pre-game interviews with the press. And Game Day will fill restaurants and motels, sell newspapers, create visibility and celebrity status for folks who used to stand on the sidelines. What windfalls may well be had . . . all at the expense of Collin, Reade, and Dave! When the media circus is gone, don't worry. Many pockets will be full, many careers will have been advanced. The Big Game has the potential for a Big Windfall for many.

To the rabid Prosecution fans, Collin, Reade, and Dave are not real - no one's son, no one's brother, no one's loved one. It matters not that THEY specifically made no racial slur, or that THEY specifically may not even have been at the party at the time in question. It matters not that there is no evidence of rape. Team Nifong DOES NOT CARE! They don't want specifics! They want these boys, indicted as symbols . . . CONVICTED as symbols. That's the game plan.

Don't worry, the families were told, the DNA will separate the innocent from the guilty. We know how THAT turned out, don't we? Don't worry, if the evidence isn't there, "they will walk." Trust Team Nifong. Yeah, right.

Collin, Reade, and Dave are just anonymous players on the opposing Team. I am always astounded by how many pro-prosecution posters refer to the "Duke Lacrosse team" being on trial . . . the"Duke Lacrosse team" being guilty of this or that. They slip and reveal themselves. Collin, Reade, and Dave are hated and despised for being "Duke Lacrosse players" and for any other "team affiliation" anyone wants to affix to them . . . not for any attribute of their own. They are stereotyped as "rich white boys," "northerners," "boys from New York" . . . by folks whose normal demand is to decry any stereotyping . . . anywhere at all.

The Team Nifong Fans have stripped them of their individual humanity. They have neither conscience nor concern nor the continuity of their OWN supposed convictions to consider that three INDIVIDUAL young lives are hanging in the balance. Greg Childress' words,"What's such a big deal?" could be the Team Nifong stadium banner. The humanity, the individuality of Collin, Reade, and Dave are lost in their "Rah! Rah!" rhetoric that sees this travesty of a potential trial as a victory of sorts. With Nifong at quarterback, and an inflamed jury pool, even without evidence . . . they could win it all!

So I can agree with Dan Baum's premise in his letter that opinions on this case already seem to be set in stone. But on one comment, I take issue. Dan Baum wants to talk about the case in "a different, more important way." Really.

I will have to ask the Moms what is more important than their innocent sons.

To me, what's "important," Dan, right now, is Collin, Reade and Dave. Remember them? Your classmates? Guys your age? To them and their families, this is no game, no sport, no entertaining discussion-board war of wit or words. It's not about social problems or civil reconciliation or small town politics. It's not a way to secure voting blocks or to make amends for the past. It's not about town-gown relations, or the cache and reputation of Duke university. It's not about Brodhead's career or Nifong's career or Stephens' career or Easley's career. It's not a community bonfire feel-good event. It's not a casual letter to the editor that you can fire off and feel good about. No, Dan, to anyone with a soul or a shred of decency . . . it's NOT the Big Game!!

It's not.

It's indictment without evidence. It's fan-frenzied presumption of guilt. It's 30 years in jail for something Collin, Reade, and Dave DID NOT DO. It's a cruel Hoax and three young lives that hang in the balance.

Thirty years for a false accusation. That's a big hit to take for the team. Even if the Big Game means so much to so many.

What could be "more important" than that, Dan?


Anonymous said...

Another ringer! Thank you so much for your work. I am convinced now that Constitutional Law should be a required course in all undergraduate programs. Even our brightest students are hopelessly ignorant as to the implications of Mr. Nifong's misconduct. And those implications go directly to the heart of our justice system. They cannot and must not be ignored.


ed said...


I think the only thing that could bring the folks of Durham County back from the brink is a seriously painful civil lawsuit.

How about $5 billion?

huesofblue said...


The end of your post was really strong. Very well done!

Anonymous said...

Joan this brought tears to my eyes and my heart is heavy for what these boys and their families must be feeling. I say all the supports speak loud and clear to Washington, D.C. directly. Make those calls to the Whitehouse, DOJ and FBI. Contact your local senators and let them know you don't like what is going on, you expect them to do their job and speak up. Like that Dr. Suess book, "Horton Hears a Who" all the people shout "We are here, we are here, we are here." No one to date in the Federal government is hearing us. I think we need to shout louder. We won't stand for this anymore. This is 9 months too long. We want Federal Intervention and an formal investigation into Nifong and DPD. We want the FBI to interview Crystal and give her a lie detector test. All 3 boys passed lie detector tests, lets see if Crystal can lie her way out of this one. The next week we need to put the srews into our government for sitting back and doing nothing. Mr Nifong is a terrorist worse than any I have ever seen. His actions have upset millions of people. So pick up the phone everyone and contact your Senator, Congressman, DOJ and FBI, call the Whitehouse comment line (202)456-1414, fax a letter to President Bush FAx # (202)456-6208 voicing your complaints against DA Nifong and DPD, and the lack of intervention by the DOJ and FBI and Federal Civil Rights Departmen.
It is not a crime in this country to be white, the extent of this reverse discrimination has gone to far. Send your letters ASAP.

wts said...

Thank you Joan for a wonderful piece. I realized as I read your work that this case is actually full of terrorists and a threat to our national security in ways we never could have imagined.

Anonymous said...

Joan, you're wonderful. With each of your posts I say to myself, "she can't possibly top this," and then you do just that. All of us who hurt for Colin, Dave and Reade and their families owe you, and Joan Collins, and KC, and John in Carolina, and your colleagues at Liestoppers deep thanks for all you have done, and hopefully will continue to do, in this sad case. Thank you, thank you, thank you. A Duke '67 alum.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't anyone believe that DA Nifong has the right people indicted? Remember is is the "minister of justice" and that is what he is doing JUSTICE

Anonymous said...

What happens after verdict in lacrosse case? Simple answer: Three convicted rapist will go to jail, for a long time. You asked and that is the answer.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


Sharon said...

Joan: You have amazed me before with your abilities, talents and magical way with words. Your analysis was a perfect analogy, and a mirror of my recurring thought that this is NOT a game. Thank you for expressing that thought so eloquently.

Anonymous said...

Dear Joan,

Whenever I try (as some people suggest) to "get a life and stop obsessing about this case" you write another piece that inspires me and reminds me of why I am, and need to be, obsessed with this case.

Thank you again for your diligence and eloquence.

California Mom

Anonymous said...


i bet u make a great meatloaf

your posts r redundant

jim clyne

emmy said...

jim clyne, I don't quite get your angle...saw you on Durham in Wonderland. You are obviously one of those people who is *so* much smarter than everyone else, which is why I guess you feel so comfortatble typing like a 6 year old. Whatever...

Joan and crew, this was a wonderful piece. The "big game" analogy was really dead on. I wonder if Dan would feel differently if it was him, or one of his fellow, "protected class" students, who was the target of this persecution? Thank God there are so many passionate, fair-minded, outraged people closely following this case...I'm sure it's at least a small comfort to Collin, Reade, and Dave and their families that they are not out on a limb all alone during this time. And as California Mom said, we'll keep obsessing about this case...we're in it til the end!

Anonymous said...

joan foster,

there are a myriad of Nifong supporters posting because not everyone has idealised these accused rapists-sodomist-kidnappers as you have done and we see through the defense's manipulation and lies and see the truth: something happened at that party and it was not tiddlywinks. the boys as you call them are not proven innocent yet and they now face a trial; a possibility it upsets you all to even contemplate because you all are racists and feel they should never have been even questioned about the black woman's complaint. what i do not understand is why you don't just admit it. it is ironic that you complain in your crappy piece that the accused has been dehumanised when the accuser has not only been dehumanised far more than the young white spoiled brats but she has been vilified and smeared far worse than they have but i guess that is acceptable to you as she is just a black woman and not a rich white male so that kind of treatment is ok with you. you are a hypocritical no writing no rhyming bitch and i hope you have a nervous breakdown when the newest news on these "boys" comes out. word in the street here in durham is that there is a real shocker coming out soon and it involves the accused not the accuser.

Anonymous said...

Another comment for your change of venue files, Mr. Cheshire! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

ha! there will be no change of venue in this case.

Anonymous said...


Well said! it again

Anonymous said...

How can the three men accused have been guilty of raping the alleged victim if none of their DNA was discovered in the rape kit examination? Why would the DA with hold this information from the Defendant's attorneys if it didn't hurt his case?

Nifong should be impeached, removed from office, and disbarred. I hope he faces criminal charges.