This is a story of 21st Century America. A woman claims she was raped and sodomized by three young men. The men are all young, white and members of the Duke University lacrosse team, a sport presumed by many to be played only by the rich. Their accuser is black, the unmarried mother of two children, a stripper and perhaps a prostitute as well.
Within days, a large swath of the left-leaning mainstream media, left-wing Duke faculty and an aggressive white District Attorney seeking the votes of a largely black population are declaring the guilt of the three Duke lacrosse players. Justice be damned; this to them is an issue of class, race and gender.
KC Johnson is a history professor at Brooklyn College and CUNY. Thousands of people, including myself, became familiar with him through his blog, Durham-in-Wonderland, which chronicled the events in this outrageous travesty of twisted law enforcement, political correctness, biased reportage and racial politics.
Stuart Taylor, Jr. is a columnist for the National Journal and a contributing editor for Newsweek.
Outrage is present on every page in measured tones as the authors outline the depradations of Mike Nifong, the man who willingly incited Durham's black population in a quest for their votes by referring to the victim's allegations as true, by calling the Duke lacrosse players "privileged white boys", by asking why would the targets of a rampaging DA hire lawyers if they had done nothing wrong, publicizing untrue details of a non-existent crime and worse.
But Nifong, who was ultimately disbarred for his prejudicial comments and his subsequent withholding of exculpatory evidence is only part of the story. Nifong was helped by apparently dishonest or incompetent police officers, by the Duke Medical Center which hired a feminist idelogue as a Sexual Assault Nurse trainee and who changed her stories to fit changing needs, by a gospel singing investigator who thought nothing of intimidating defense witnesses and helping the alleged victim change her story (again) to smooth over the gaping holes in the prosecution case.
It would be awful enough if the story was just about this cast of people who wanted to railroad three young men into thirty year prison terms to serve their narrow, selfish interests.
But there was the Duke faculty, particularly those who taught in African-American, women's studies and similar departments. Before any evidence was available, 88 of these faculty members (Group of 88) signed an ad that essentally presumed guilt. All of them were left-wing activists who saw everything as a matter of race, class and gender. To them this was a case made in heaven. There could be no doubt about the accuser's shifting stories because the accused were rich white boys.
The well justified and supremely well documented outrage pours from every page as the authors examine these left-wing activists and their impact on the case, Duke and academia as a whole.
How any one can read this book and not wonder how to rid academia of its rot is beyond me.
Finally the book takes to task the largely left-wing oriented media who seized upon the race, class and gender issue and pilloried the three defendants without questioning the increasingly shaky case. The treatment of these boys at the hands of the media was deplorable, especially from the New York Times, which as could be expected has failed to apologize.
If the reader begins this book with the naive presumption that the press can be trusted, that illusion will be destroyed by the last page.
Most people know that the North Carolina Attorney General took the extraordinary step of declaring all three defendants innocent and further declaring that no criminal acts of any kind took place. The whole thing was a farce cooked up by Mike Nifong and his enablers to win an election. Too bad if three innocent kids had gone to prison for thirty years.
So far only Mike Nifong has been punished in any way. Maybe there will be a criminal investigation for violation of civil rights. Duke's record in the affair is absolutely shameful, its President, board and faculty caving into the left-wing agenda. None of the faculty members who prejudged the defendants has been disciplined. Some have moved on to even loftier positions. Their racist statements will chill the reader and leave one wondering why they are in positions of trust, teaching young adults at a university where the tuition is $44,000 annually.
This is an important book about an major abuse of the judiciary, police, press and academy. Hopefully it will serve to wake many people up to what has been happening since the 1960s. If nothing more, "Until Proven Innocent" demonstrates what happens when the presumption of innocence is tossed on the trash heap in pursuit of a poltical agenda.