Just what America needs, yet another highly charged nationally publicized court case that deals with race, class and sex. Of course, the indictments against two Duke University lacrosse team members, for allegedly assaulting and raping an exotic dancer at a recent party, are the stuff that 24-hour cable news shows thrive upon.
As many commentators have noted, there is much tension between Ivy League Duke University, with its wealthy, predominantly white student body, and the working-class and heavily black neighborhood that surrounds it in Durham, N.C. Local residents have often been at odds with the school — not atypical in any university town, where townies view the “privileged” students with disdain — over many issues, including noise and traffic.
Civil-rights leaders have flocked to the cause of the 27-year-old stripper who says she was attacked by the wealthy white suburban lacrosse players, who hail from New York and New Jersey. And the district attorney, involved in a tough re-election race, was quick to declare the boys’ guilty and pander to a crowd seeking “justice.”
Everything seems to have been put on the table, from past discrimination and ill treatment of African-Americans to the arrogance and elitism of athletes.
Lost in the shuffle, in the concerns about race, justice, discrimination, bad morals, politics, privilege, wealth, college sports programs and so forth is the one thing that actually matters. Is there any real evidence that the men committed the serious crimes of which they are accused of committing? Surely, if evidence is there, then the suspects should be prosecuted. But if there is no evidence, then there should be no prosecution, period. The justice system is about justice, not about making broader points about society and fairness.
So far, the DNA evidence came back negative on all 46 white members of the lacrosse team (the single black member was not required to submit to the test because the accuser said she was attacked by white players), which suggests that those accused could not have committed the crimes. ABC News reports that at least one indicted player has a solid alibi, including an ATM statement printed during the time of the alleged assault.
Yet the D.A. rushed to judgment and already has secured a grand jury indictment which, as everyone knows, isn’t hard to achieve given that grand juries only hear one side of the story. Jesse Jackson is promising to pay the accuser’s college tuition and … well issues of race, class and emotion have propelled this into a circus.
We don’t know what happened that night, but we do know the nation would be far better off if issues of guilt and innocence were the only ones considered in such cases.