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Documenting the Duke Rush to Judgment

In the aftermath of the Duke lacrosse rape case, lawyers in North Carolina are learning lessons from the faulty rush to judgment against three college athletes.

From the start, when players Reade Seligmann, David Evans and Collin Finnerty were wrongfully indicted for raping a stripper in 2006, there was a stampede by the media, some members of Duke faculty and one overzealous prosecutor to prove them guilty, say authors Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson.

In their new book, Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case, Taylor, a columnist for National Journal, and Johnson, a history professor at Brooklyn College and CUNY, document the facts of the case and how they were misconstrued to assume guilt.

The players were accused of kidnapping, raping and assaulting a black exotic dancer who performed at a team party. North Carolina's attorney general dropped all charges against all three. The case's lead prosecutor, former Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, was disbarred after an investigation found that he broke several rules of professional conduct, including lying to both the court and bar investigators and withholding critical DNA test results from the players' defense attorneys.

In the book, authors Taylor and Johnson interview the three defendants, their families and their legal teams, but they also focus attention on Duke's administrators and faculty, who they say hung the lacrosse team members out to dry.

The book singles out several Duke faculty members who were particularly scathing in their attacks against the players. Local and national media also come under scrutiny for their slowness in accounting for the publicly available evidence.

Scott Simon spoke with Stuart Taylor about the questions the Duke case raised about the culpability of the press and the climate on many American campuses.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.