Last week the editorial board at the Harvard Crimson aptly dubbed the scene around Duke University — where three lacrosse players have been accused of rape by a student at North Carolina Central University whom they had hired as an exotic dancer for a party — a “media circus.” And a circus just isn’t a circus without the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd.
Lately, the smell has gotten rather rank.
On CNN this morning, American Morning’s Miles O’Brien posed the following question to Jesse Longoria, Duke University’s student body president: “Given what we know right now about no DNA link being there, do you think it’s appropriate for the prosecutor perhaps to drop this case now?” Translation: Care to speculate, undergrad? Fortunately, Longoria, who may be wise beyond his years, made this translation as well, and declined to weigh in on something about which he has not a clue. Replied Longoria: “Well, I really don’t want to speculate on specifics of the case. All I can say is I agree everybody here at Duke wants to find the truth and give the officials the room to find that truth.”
Must have been disappointing to O’Brien, who earlier responded to another guest’s comment that there has been “no animosity” between Duke students and students at North Carolina Central University (where the alleged victim is enrolled), that the two universities “have great relationships” and “work very well together” with a dejected Are you sure? — or, in O’Brien’s precise words, “So there isn’t anything simmering there?”
On Fox News’ Special Report With Brit Hume yesterday, Hume extended a similar speculation invitation to his own guest — Fox’s “senior judicial analyst,” Judge Andrew Napolitano — asking the former New Jersey Superior Court judge to peer into his crystal ball and predict what the prosecutor in the Duke case will do next. Asked Hume: “You have got a chance to get a sense of [the Durham prosecutor] from his public appearances and indeed from the — you saw the way he reacted, fairly strongly, I thought today, to the demands that were being made on him. What is your sense about him? How do you think will he come out?”
Unlike the judicious student body president on CNN, the ex-judge jumped right in, doing some expert face-reading from the prosecutor’s appearance at a forum at North Carolina Central yesterday. “My sense is [the prosecutor] is going to give into the crowd he faced today, Brit, and that’s the wrong thing to do.” When Hume then asked the judge “Why do you say that?” Napolitano explained, “Just looking at his eyes and face and response to the crowd, he desperately wanted to please them.”
The judge had also put his crystal ball to work the day before on Fox’s The O’Reilly Factor. At one point O’Reilly commented that the accuser’s “word is questionable because she’s had dustups with police before … [we’re] not talking about Mary Poppins coming in testifying here,” and went on to ask (or rather, tell) Judge Napolitano, “So you believe that tomorrow, the next day … the case is dropped.” To which the judge replied: “Correct,” and then went on to predict that not only will the prosecutor “drop” this case, he will open another — against the accuser herself.
Said Napolitano, the prosecutor has “got to prosecute this woman [the accuser]… She cost them $100,000 in investigating time and DNA tests … she has to be prosecuted.” And when O’Reilly asked, “You think they’ll go after her?” the judge took a final look into his crystal ball and answered, “I think they will.”
Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.
Case closed. New case opened. Justice is swift — on TV. It’s just in real life that it gets complicated.