Saturday, November 11, 2006

Nothing should be surprising any more about the Duke University rape case. Still, it is a little staggering that, after all these months, District Attorney Mike Nifong has still not interviewed either the accuser or the accused.

Rape is a felony with serious consequences for all concerned. You might think the district attorney would have some interest in determining whose story is credible and whose story is full of holes.

But that is only if he is interested in seeing justice done. This column predicted, months ago, that Mr. Nifong would let this case drag on until the public loses interest in it and then let it quietly fizzle out after the media spotlight is gone.

After all, the case has already served his purpose in getting him his party’s nomination for district attorney. It has also served the purposes of local racial activists by giving them an occasion to march, shout, denounce and threaten.

It has served the purposes of the Duke University faculty by allowing them to come out on the politically correct side of the issue by condemning the upscale white guys and showing solidarity with the black accuser.

Why ruin all this by getting bogged down in facts?

While the law enforcement officials have apparently been too busy to interview either the accuser or the accused, they have had time to spend hours grilling a black cab driver who said that one of the accused was in his taxi, going to an ATM, at the time when he was supposedly committing rape. Bank records corroborate what the cabbie said. But being hassled by the cops when he would rather be out working to earn some money may make him less ready to say it again to the media.

Such harassment can also serve as a shot across the bow of anyone else who might think of coming forward with facts that undermine the district attorney’s version of events.

While District Attorney Nifong is at the heart of this tawdry perversion of the law, many others have joined in the rape of justice. A local newspaper responded to the recent “60 Minutes” expose of how phony the rape case is by editorializing that the Duke lacrosse players are not model citizens. Their neighbors have complained about their playing loud music, and one of them got into a brawl somewhere.

Surely no one is so feeble-minded as to believe playing loud music or even getting into a brawl proves you are a rapist. But it shows how desperate some people are to take sides instead of wanting the truth to come out and see justice done, whatever that might be.

It is especially painful to see the local NAACP joining the stampede to convict the Duke players, not only without evidence but in defiance of a growing body of evidence that points in the opposite direction. How many black men have been railroaded to jail or even to the gallows by the same lynch mob mentality, whether carried out by a jury or by the Ku Klux Klan? And is all that the NAACP has learned from this tragic history is that it just depends on whose ox is gored?

Anyone who expects either higher intellectual standards or higher moral standards from the academic intelligentsia should be disabused of such notions by the way so many Duke University professors and administrators have kow-towed to the shrill shouters and threateners, on and off campus, by joining in the lynch mob rhetoric.

It would be sad enough if this was just about three young men at Duke University. Unfortunately, this shabby episode is only one sign of a much more pervasive moral dry rot in our academic institutions and in our other institutions.

It took centuries to establish the rule of law, at the cost of painful struggles, blood and tears. Nor did the blood and tears end when law was established, for maintaining the rule of law requires fighting those who wish to pervert the law for their own purposes and who will abuse their power to do so.

Will we destroy this and other pillars of our civilization even before our enemies have a chance to finish us off?

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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