Nine months after a stripper leveled rape charges against three Duke University lacrosse players; eight months after long-time lacrosse coach Mike Pressler was fired and Duke’s lacrosse season was prematurely terminated; seven months after District Attorney Mike Nifong conspired with the crime lab DNA analyst to conceal the fact none of the DNA taken from the “victim” matched any of the accused Duke students, in order to press an inflammatory but false case for political gain; six months after Duke University refused to allow the two accused undergraduates, Colin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, to return to classes at the school, the powers that be at Duke have decided to extend the presumption of innocence until proven guilty to Finnerty and Seligmann.
That’s mighty decent of them, don’t you think?
The problem is, the presumption of innocence is supposed to apply from the beginning. It doesn’t wait in the wings until the charges fall apart under a barrage of revelations of the prosecutor’s egregious misconduct.
The North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence is part of the Duke University School of Law. The professors and students who staff the NCCAI are right there in Durham, on the same campus as the Regents and Administrators who decided Finnerty and Seligmann were guilty as soon as the accusation was made. They could have dropped by the NCCAI offices to learn how innocent people are convicted of crimes they didn’t commit, or just looked at the NCCAI’s website at http://www.law.duke.edu/innocencecenter/ Perhaps they would have understood that they were making Duke part of the problem, on the one hand, while Duke worked to rectify exactly such problems, on the other hand.
Attorneys for Finnerty and Seligmann have said that Duke’s action in inviting them back speaks to the integrity and mission of the school, as well as to their clients’ (obvious) innocence. They give Duke far more respect and credit than it deserves.
Duke University has shown utter disregard for the rights afforded all of us under the U.S. Constitution. Duke University has set an example that is a stain on academia. Duke University should be ashamed.