The Duke lacrosse case revisited

Stuart Taylor, Jr. and KC Johnson wrote the definitive book on the Duke lacrosse case with the apt title Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case. The case continues to resonate; it represents a sort of reductio ad absurdum for the wretched disgrace of political correctness on campus. As such, it proved both a harbinger and a template.

Ten years after the events giving rise to the case, ESPN’s 30 For 30 series takes a look back in the absorbing documentary Fantastic Lies (video below, about 1:45:00 and worth every minute). The film premiered on ESPN this past Sunday. I wouldn’t even have heard of it if it weren’t for Mary Katharine Ham’s Federalist column “Fantastic Lies: 10 Appalling Moments From The Duke Lacrosse Case.”

The documentary features a few heroes including coach Mike Pressler, the families of the accused players and defense attorney Brad Bannon. Bannon’s impromptu cross-examination of the prosecutor’s DNA expert at a pretrial hearing is shown to have turned the case around; the film captures it at around 1:25:00. The villains are too numerous to identify here, but they certainly include prosecutor Mike Nifong, police officer Mark Gottlieb, Duke president Richard Brodhead and the Duke faculty. Jesse Jackson makes a cameo appearance playing his usual role at the time in the latter category.

The film was directed by Marina Zenovich. The Hollywood Reporter review focuses on the film’s limitations and tacitly dissents from the film’s point of view; the reviewer finds the film wanting without quite saying so. I think Mary Katharine’s column suggests why it is worthy of your attention even if you followed the case closely at the time. I would add that it illuminates the current campus scene and more in its own way.

Quotable quote: “If it turns out that these students are guilty, I want them expelled!”

UPDATE: KC Johnson not only wrote the definitive book on the case with Stuart Taylor, he brilliantly followed the case at Durham-In-Wonderland. His post profiling of Brad Bannon is here; his retrospective post on the case is here.

In the event the video of the ESPN documentary isn’t working, try FIRE’s “Presumed Guilty” (video below, about 12 minutes).


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