Yesterday’s big news (at least, one of the items) seemed to be the dropping of the charges in the Duke lacrosse rape case. Now, I’ve never exactly been sympathetic – these were privileged (read: rich) white kids who have the resources necessary to properly defend themselves against false charges. At the time, I figured that if the allegations were false, it’d work out in the end, and it did. Were these kids “railroaded”? It’s starting to look that way, but time will tell. At any rate, in this case the system worked – the innocent walk free.
But what if you don’t have the resources these kids had? What if you are poor, black, or both? What then? It’s commendable that these kids recognize that there is a problem with people being railroaded by overzealous prosecutors, and that the only reason they escaped is they have the money necessary to do so.
Evans spoke about the need to address problems within the justice system that were revealed during the state’s unsuccessful case. He even cited the financial successes of his parents as one of the reasons the trio was able to escape a false prosecution. It was a sentiment echoed by Finnerty and Seligmann in their remarks.
The issue I have is the idea that problems “were revealed” by this case. Maybe problems were revealed to rich white people, but to those of us who have been paying attention, these problems have existed for decades, if not longer. Does nobody read To Kill A Mockingbird in school anymore? Wrongful convictions (not just accusations, but convictions) have been known to happen, and in most of those cases the suspects were railroaded. This is nothing new. Maybe this will open some eyes, but I doubt it.
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