FRIDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: LATE AFTERNOON VERDICT: VICTOR CARBALLO GUILTY AS CHARGED ALL COUNTS IN THE HORRIBLE RAPE, ROBBERY, MURDER AND ATTEMPTED MURDER CASE. CASE NOW PROCEEDS TO PENALTY PHASE.
Rumpole has two thoughts: we absolutely hate Friday afternoon verdicts.
Joel Denaro has his work cut out for him. This is a very very difficult case to try and defend the life of a client convicted of some of the worst possible criminal acts imaginable.
"We believe these individuals are innocent "
Those six words spoken by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper ended a criminal case against three Duke Lacrosse players that lasted 395 days.
This case was the perfect storm.
Element One: The allegation occurred in the South.
Element Two: Three young white men were accused of rape.
Element Three: They attended the privileged world of an elite university.
Element Four: They were athletes.
Element Five: Their accuser was an African-American woman attending a community college from the other side of town.
Element Six: The community demanded action and the nation was watching.
Element Seven: The prosecutor was about to face a strong challenger in the upcoming primary.
Add it all together and a disaster emerges.
Sex. Race. Wealth. Politics. College Athletics . Only religion is missing.
Here's what happened.: A black stripper says she was raped by white members of the Duke lacrosse team. The boys families hired good lawyers and the prosecutor went before the national media assuring everyone, including the voters in his upcoming primary, that the South's shameful history of double standards was over.
“She said it. We believe it. This will not go unpunished”
Satisfying words. Wealth and race will not allow criminal conduct to go unpunished this time. In a high profile case, a black woman from the south will get justice.
All well and good.
Except the boys were innocent.
Reasonable Doubt and the Presumption of Innocence were sacrificed to the public's desire to right all the wrongs of the past.
You know the stereotype- “these wealthy white boys will buy their way out of rape in the South. Once again, a black woman will not be believed. She will not get the justice she is entitled to.” When you base legal decisions on stereotypes, no matter how well intentioned, justice is never done. And have no doubt about this- we believe this case was less about the good intentions of the prosecutor, and more about his political ambitions.
The Duke case teaches us that every case needs to be judged on its own merits. All the wrongs perpetrated against African Americans in the South, and all the wrongs perpetrated against women victims of sexual assault cannot be righted by prosecuting innocent men-even when the case pushes all the right or wrong buttons.
As the investigation progressed evidence was ignored and kept from the defense. The initial DNA report didn't mention that DNA trace evidence from other men was found in the young woman’s panties. There is competent evidence to belief that the Prosecutor intentionally withheld this evidence.
No DNA evidence was ever found linking any of the players. The identification of the players was done by displaying individual pictures to the woman. Not photo-lineup, no live lineups. The woman identified one of the players-stating that it was him except he had a moustache. The young man had never had a moustache in his life, yet he was indicted.
As one of the accused just said- “my experience with the justice systems leads me to wonder what happens to defendants whose families don't have the ability to hire lawyers to defend them?”
And what does this say about our grand jury system? Perhaps the standard of “indicting a ham sandwich” needs to be re-examined. It is evidently clear this case should never have been brought.
The next time someone questions why we have criminal defense attorneys- mention this case.
The next time someone states that where there is smoke, there is fire, and the police don’t arrest innocent individuals- mention this case.
The next time someone mentions that grand juries take the politics out of charging decisions- mention this case.
This case is just as sameful as the past wrongful prosecutions in the South of black men accused of raping white women, or the failure to prosecute white men who murdered black men. For many years, in many types of cases, Justice has not been blind in the South. This case just continues that shameful tradition.
The system didn't work this time. All that happened is that competent lawyers refused to back down to a prosecutor who played the most insidious card of all- the public opinion card.
See You In Court.