Abstract The author will examine a public accusation of misconduct against the Duke Lacrosse team and their actions pertaining to a party they hosted at a residence in Durham, NC. After the party, there was an accusation of sexual abuse and rape against some of the players on the team made by one of the females who were paid for entertainment. The author will examine the accusations made against the players along with the actions of the District Attorney (DA), Michael Nifong that ultimately got him disbarred.
The author will examine DA Nifong’s ethical decisions as they pertain to his job and the influence he had on the public along with the ethics of the involved individuals in the case. ? Introduction The problem to be investigated is the Duke Lacrosse scandal, which decimated a top collegiate athletic program and cast a negative shadow over one of the top academic universities.
Duke University had one of the top men’s lacrosse programs in the county, which had won numerous national championships. Unfortunately, the decisions and actions of some of the team members threatened to destroy the reputation of the lacrosse program and the entire university. The media and society have developed a large appetite for scandal that is still evident today, whether it is due to sex, drugs, cheating or spying (Mazanov & Connor, 2010).
The real life drama of the Duke lacrosse team was spread out over several months and included the lacrosse season being cancelled, three players indicted on rape charges, a crooked prosecutor, turncoat faculty members and administrators, irate neighbors and even dirty cops, all of whom had their own personal agendas (Jennings, 2009). The story was also fueled with the racist overtones, which alluded to the rich white athletes who sexually abused the poor inner-city black female stripper.
This case is a reminder of the destructive power of racism fueled by political correctness and a desire to gain political influence by any means. These stereotypes may make for an interesting storyline and television, but should not have been the basis for a criminal prosecution. Discussion The following is a brief summary of the Duke University Men’s Lacrosse Team scandal according to Taylor and Johnson (as cited in Krauss, 2007). During the evening of March 13, 2006, the Duke Lacrosse team hosted a house party at a local Durham residence where some of the players lived during the school year.
The party started just like every other normal college party with music and alcohol. The players decided to hire two female strippers for the evening’s entertainment for $800 apiece. The players specifically requested two Caucasian dancers, which the agency agreed to provide, but sent two African-American females to the location. The Duke Lacrosse team consisted of predominately white players, except for one of the athletes still decided to pay the exotic dancers. Once the two dancers were paid and started to perform one of the entertainers, Crystal Mangum, collapsed on the stage.
After Ms. Mangum gathered herself and performed a crude lesbian sex act with the other dancer, the players were disgusted and felt they had been deceived by the company who sent the dancers. The team asked the two females to leave the residence. Ms. Mangum was upset and informed her colleague she was going to get as much money from the players as she could and collapsed on the floor once again. Ms. Mangum’s dancing partner left the house and yelled a racial slur at a player who ill-advisedly responded with a racial slur back in her direction. Ms.
Mangum appeared to be unconscious and the players called 911 and she was taken to a local hospital. While at the hospital, Ms. Mangum informed one of the nurses that she was gang raped by three white Duke boys. The police were contacted and responded to the hospital, but did not find any validity in Ms. Mangum’s story. Ms. Mangum agreed to submit to a rape examination at the hospital where DNA samples were taken. The DNA test eventually confirmed none of the Duke players had any sexual contact with Ms. Mangum, but the semen from four other men was discovered inside her and on her clothing. (pp. 14-121) On March 16, 2006, the Durham Police Department searched the residence where the alleged crime occurred and showed Ms. Mangum’s photographs to twenty-four of the lacrosse players (Jennings, 2009). Ms. Mangum was unable to identify any of the possible assailants, but identified several of the players who attended the party. On March 23, 2006, all forty-six members of the Duke Lacrosse team reported to the Durham Police and submitted DNA samples for analysis (Jennings, 2009). A few days later, the Durham District Attorney (DA), Michael Nifong, held the first of many of his press conferences.
DA Nifong accused the players of being engaged in a conspiracy of silence, but stated the evidence in the case was clear and strong (Jennings, 2009). Soon after DA Nifong’s press conference, eighty-eight faculty members from Duke University took out a full page ad in the newspaper condemning the white males, college athletics and racism (Jennings, 2009). On April 4, 2006, Duke’s President, Richard Brodhead, cancelled the team’s lacrosse season, stating the actions of the team were sickening and repulsive (Jennings, 2009).
On April 10, 2006, the District Attorney’s Office received the results of the players’ DNA tests, which showed none of the players had sexual contact with Ms. Mangum (Krauss, 2007). On April 11, 2006, DA Nifong informed the media the accuser had identified at least one of the suspects and he was not concerned with the lack of DNA evidence (Krauss, 2007). On April 17, 2006, a grand jury indicted two Duke Lacrosse players, Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty, for rape, sexual assault, and kidnapping (Jennings, 2009).
On May 12, 2006, David Evans was indicted for the same charges because there was a possible match to his DNA found on a fingernail that was located at the crime scene under a trash can (Jennings, 2009). The press coverage started to go national and the media attention was significant giving DA Nifong even more of an audience. During one of the pre-trial motions, Brian Meehan of the DNA lab that performed the analysis of the players’ DNA, informed the judge DA Nifong did not note in documents he turned over to the defense that the DNA of several men was found on Ms.
Mangum’s clothing, body and underwear (Jennings, 2009). Mr. Meehan informed the judge the omission in the report was an intentional one that he and DA Nifong agreed to in advance (Jennings, 2009). On December 22, 2006, Ms. Mangum finally admitted she did not know what really happened, causing DA Nifong to drop the rape charge, but he continued prosecution for the sexual assault and kidnapping (Krauss, 2007). The case was again spun into the national spotlight when on December 26, 2006, the North Carolina State bar filed misconduct charges against DA Nifong (Jennings, 2009).
Due to the pressure of the pending investigation against him, DA Nifong withdrew himself from the case. On April 11, 2007, the North Carolina Attorney General dropped all charges against the accused and announced they were innocent (Krauss, 2007). On June 15, 2007, DA Nifong announced his resignation as district attorney, but he was disbarred by the state panel (Krauss, 2007). Unfortunately, this was not the end of the nightmare for the players, coaches and Duke University. The unprofessional and unethical actions of DA Michael Nifong has stunned and disgusted individuals associated with criminal law.
DA Nifong appeared to use the case as a political stage to gain re-election to the office of district attorney. DA Nifong was accused by the North Carolina State Bar of serious ethics charges, which included withholding evidence from the defense, lying to the court and even the state bar investigators (Montaldo, 2007). DA Nifong made numerous misleading and prejudicial statements in the public press and also to the court about the three players accused in the case, which incited racial tensions in the City of Durham.
Due to the outrageous details of the Duke Lacrosse case, it almost immediately became a media sensation. The national news coverage was widespread and public opinion of the players’ guilt was already determined. DA Nifong made the personal decision to use the media platform on the case to obtain his personal goal of being re-elected and completed over seventy interviews (Ford, 2006). The lack of evidence against any of the players was not a problem for DA Nifong and all he needed to pursue the case was when Ms. Mangum misidentified one of the players as a possible assailant (Jennings, 2009).
DA Nifong was an experienced attorney and handled high profile cases in the past, so the implication he ignored the unsubstantiated story of Ms. Mangum and the lack of any plausible evidence gives credence to him using the case for personal gain. DA Nifong used the free media and the spotlight to give credence to his re-election campaign. Unfortunately for DA Nifong, the case he so emphatically decided to prosecute quickly started to implode. The DNA results from the players did not substantiate any sexual contact with Ms. Mangum, but DA Nifong still pressed further with the case (Montaldo, 2006).
DA Nifong was quickly spiraling out of control with this case. The incidents DA Nifong knowingly mislead the media and judicial systems were starting to catch up to him. When DNA test were conducted on Ms. Mangum returned with the DNA of four other men on her clothes and body, DA Nifong hid the truth from the defense attorneys and even conspired with the director of the lab to further conceal the truth (Jennings, 2009). DA Nifong was trying the case in the public forum to make himself appear genuine to the people of Durham, North Carolina to gain re-election.
DA Nifong was a white male in an elected position and most of Durham was African American (Krauss, 2007). If DA Nifong was not to try the case, at the very least, he would have been prosecuted in the court of public opinion and never re-elected to the position he held in such high regard. DA Nifong would have been known as the white district attorney who backed the rich white lacrosse players who raped a poor innocent black female. Race related stress has been found to contribute to disparities between African Americans and whites in the United States (Richman & Jonassaint, 2008).
The case would not have been given time to let the evidence determine the ramifications of the crime and DA Nifong’s reputation would have been destroyed and he probably would not have been re-elected. A possible solution would have been to keep the public informed of the case and let the evidence dictate the direction of the prosecution. Unfortunately, there always seems to be racial tensions between different ethnicities when it comes to race related issues and crimes against another person’s race. The exposure to race related issues and stress have an impact on physiological stress responses (Richman, 2008).
Race related problems from the past that individuals have experienced can have an effect on how current and future race issues are handled. Impact on Stakeholders The top collegiate athletic programs are multi-million dollar businesses that can assist in funding a university. Simply put, college athletics is big business. The stakeholders at the Duke University include the Board of Trustees, University President, Athletic Director and coaches along with the athletes. The board of trustees is the governing body of the niversity and includes thirty-six professionals who have an association with the university (“Duke University,” 2008). The board of trustees includes former students who have an influence in the business world and have succeeded in their personal lives. The Executive Committee consists of thirteen members of the Board of Trustees and can exercise all powers of the board in the interim between meetings (“Duke University,” 2008 ). The Executive Committee oversees the management and daily operations of organizations affiliated with the University, which includes the athletic department.
The Executive Committee considers and acts upon matters that are referred to the Committee by the Board for study and possible resolution, serves as a forum for the consideration of significant institutional issues and priorities that transcend the jurisdiction of the other standing committees of the Board, and assumes responsibility for monitoring the performance of the President and making appropriate decisions involving the compensation and financial benefits of the President and certain other officers and employees (“Duke University,” 2008 ).
The lacrosse scandal ruined the reputation of the university in the eyes of the public not only in Durham, North Carolina, but across the nation (Ford, 2006). The case made the University appear it had no control over the student athletes who were doing as they pleased. Alumni held donations to the university until the outcome of the criminal case, possibly causing the university millions (Ford, 2006). Prospective students did not attend Duke because of the case and the racial tensions in the city and on the campus. The Board of Trustees showed no support for the players in an attempt to avoid a public relations problem (Ford, 2006).
The president of a university is individual whose concern is for the good of the university and the student body. Athletics is not a top priority for the president of the university, but sports are a large function of the university’s success. The money made from sports programs is partially used to build academic buildings and fund academic programs. Ultimately, the president of the university is the individual who decides what is best for the entire university and not just the good of individuals. The president at Duke during the scandal was Richard Brodhead and he also gave no support to his student athletes.
President Brodhead referred to the players’ behavior as sickening and repulsive and he cancelled the team’s upcoming lacrosse season (Jennings, 2009). President Brodhead, like DA Nifong, did not look at the evidence in the case and merely made the assumption of guilt based on public opinion. President Brodhead had the responsibility to protect the university and its reputation. The scandal partially ruined President Brodhead’s reputation as a fair and partial administrator (Falsely-accused duke lacrosse, 2007). At the time of the scandal, Joe Alleva was Duke’s athletic director. Mr.
Alleva spent thirty-two total years at Duke and was the athletic director for ten years until he resigned April 4, 2008. Duke athletics flourished under Alleva’s direction including six different Duke teams winning national championships and forty-four teams winning ACC championships (“Duke Director of,” 2008). The reason for Mr. Alleva leaving Duke University where he was extremely successful is not known, but the decision was not far removed from the stressful lacrosse scandal. The effect the case had on the lacrosse coaches and team was detrimental to the success of the program.
The 2006 season was cancelled by school administrators leaving the future of the athletes and their program unsecure (Jennings, 2009). Even though the players were close and were accused of covering for each other and hiding the truth, not all the players were at the party or involved in the investigation. The entire team of forty-six members was punished for the inconsiderate actions of a few costing them a year of play. Some of the players were so upset with the decision of the president to cancel the season, they transferred to different colleges. Outcome and Fairness of Punishment
DA Nifong was the most controversial individual associated with the scandal because of his appointed position within the judicial system. On May 2, 2006, DA Nifong won the Democratic primary winning the opportunity to run for re-election (Jennings, 2009). On November 7, 2006, Nifong won re-election based on the notoriety he received from the Duke case (Jennings, 2009). In the end, DA Nifong lost everything he worked hard to obtain in his career due to the unethical decisions he made in the Duke case. DA Nifong’s reputation and career were destroyed and he even served a day in ail as part of his sentence (Krauss, 2007). Judges have an obligation to report ethical violations when they see such lawyer misconduct and inadequate assistance, fee extortion, or frivolous claims (Middleton, 1982). Ultimately, DA Nifong was disbarred and lost any chance of future employment within the judicial system. The state bar found former DA Nifong had committed at least two dozen violations of the state’s rules of professional conduct (“Falsely-accused Duke Lacrosse,” 2007). The main instigator, Ms. Mangum, fabricated a police report and stimulated a racist overture throughout the City of Durham.
During the police investigation, it was determined Ms. Mangum was a drug addict, an actual prostitute and mentally ill woman (Krauss, 2007). No criminal charges were ever filed against Ms. Mangum for filing a false police report. This case exemplifies Ms. Mangum’s lack of any possible lack of moral turpitude and was an indicator of her future outcome. Since the Duke case, Ms. Mangum has been arrested for assault with a deadly weapon, arson, and child endangerment, along with some drug charges and prostitution. On April 3, 2011, Ms.
Mangum stabbed and killed her boyfriend during a domestic dispute (“Duke Lacrosse Accuser,” 2011). Duke President Richard Brodhead decided to error on the side of caution and publically denounced the lacrosse team, coaches and athletes for their actions. President Brodhead disgraced his university when he failed to defend his students and staff (Krauss, 2007). Obviously, some of the decisions made by the players were immoral, but not illegal. President Brodhead stated at his press conference, “Given the complexities of this case, getting the communication right would never have been easy,” Brodhead said. But the fact is that we did not get it right, causing the families to feel abandoned when they were most in need of support. This was a mistake. I take responsibility for it and I apologize for it” (Duke University President,” 2007). According to Krauss (2007), President Brodhead was a disaster and instead of standing up for the rule of law, he gave into local politicians whom he feared could harm his status as president. Mike Pressler, who was the head coach for the Duke men’s lacrosse program, eventually lost his job and was forced to resign by the University.
Coach Pressler was an outstanding lacrosse coach and did a great job building the Duke men’s lacrosse program, while maintaining a 100% graduation rate in his 16 years (“Pressler Drops Lawsuit,” 2010). According to Krauss (2007), Coach Pressler stood by his students and disciplined them when they did wrong, building character through sports. Coach Pressler lost his job when he refused to betray his players and he was publically slandered by Duke University personnel based on the lies of Ms. Mangum (Krauss, 2007).
Coach Pressler settled a defamation lawsuit with Duke and is now the head coach at Bryant University in Rhode Island and was on the coaching staff for the 2010 U. S. men’s lacrosse team (“Pressler Drops Lawsuit,” 2010). Unfortunately for collegiate coaches, their reputations are built on the actions of the athlete. This is why collegiate recruiting is such a challenge for coaches and they need to ensure they are signing excellent athletes, but also quality people. Duke officials declined to discuss details of the settlement they made with Coach Pressler, but publicly apologized to Pressler and his family.
The eighty-eight faculty members, who took out a full page newspaper ad condemning the players and their actions, also did not receive any retribution (Krauss, 2007). Only one of the faculty members ultimately apologized to the players for their actions and in the newspaper. The faculty members should have condemned the use of alcohol and strippers for being at the party and not the players as individuals. The line was crossed when they made conclusions without any evidence and condemned the players personally for racism and basically for being athletes. There was no fairness in the outcome for any of the involved parties.
Individual reputations were ruined and careers destroyed. Mr. Seligmann, who was graduating and in his final year at Duke, lost his job offer from Goldman Sachs based on the deception and lies of the case (Jennings, 2009). Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, David Evans, and Mike Pressler all settled financial suits with Duke, but money does not solve the damage done to their reputations. This scandal will follow the three players and Duke University forever. Just because the end results were in the player’s favor does not mean it will never be spoken of again. Conclusion
There is one simple rule executives and people associated with a business or university must realize; planning for a crisis begins before one ever develops (Ford, 2006). In the case of the Duke University Lacrosse Team, educating the players on their correct lack of moral turpitude and the rules and responsibilities the athletes have to each other, the university and society, may have assisted in preventing the scandal. These players are young adults and some are even teenagers who are immature and do not have the ethical fortitude to make the mature correct decisions to avoid plausible negative outcomes.
References Duke director of athletics Joe Alleva to take similar post at LSU. (2008, April 04). Retrieved from http://today. duke. edu/2008/04/alleva. htm Duke lacrosse accuser Crystal Mangum charges in stabbing. (2011, April 04). Retrieved from http://www. cbsnews. com/8301-504083_162-20050323-504083. html Duke University. (n. d. ). Retrieved from http://www. trustees. duke. edu Duke university president apologizes to lacrosse players. (2007, September 08). Retrieved from http://www. foxnews. com/story/0,2933,298602,00. html
Falsely-accused duke lacrosse players seek millions, reforms. (2007, September 08). Retrieved from http://sports. espn. go. com/ncaa/news/story? id=3008640. Ford, R. (2006). Duke and diversity. Public Relations Tactics, 13(7), 6. Jennings, M. (2009). Business ethics: Case studies and selected readings (6th Ed). Mason, Ohio: South-Western Cengage Learning. Krauss, M. (2007). Until proven innocent: Political correctness and the shameful injustices of the Duke lacrosse rape case, by Stuart Taylor, Jr. , and KC Johnson. Academic Questions, 21(1), 114-121. Middleton, M. 1982). Should judges blow the whistle on lawyers? American Bar Association Journal, 68(10), 1207. Montaldo, C. (2007, January 24). Nifong facing more serious ethic charges. Retrieved from http://crime. about. com/od/current/a/dukelacrosse. htm Pressler drops lawsuit. (2010, March 31). Retrieved from http://sports. espn. go. com/ncaa/news/story? id=5045316 Richman, L. & Jonassaint, C. (2008). The effects of race-related stress on cortisol reactivity in the laboratory: Implications of the Duke lacrosse scandal. Annals of Behavior Medicine, 35(1), 105-110.