The genesis of this panel is an essay I wrote arguing that the single moniker "Duke lacrosse controversy" encapsulates a broad, multi-faceted legal, political, and social controversy that more accurately consists of five related seriatim sub-controversies. Initially, it was a sexual assault case. An African-American woman, hired as an exotic dancer at a party thrown by members of the Duke University men's lacrosse team, reported to Durham police that she had been sexually assaulted by several white team members. The allegations quickly became a national story, tinged with issues of race, class, gender, privilege, and at some level, the role of athletics and athletes in the university community. It then became a story about an overzealous prosecutor and overzealous police, pursuing and obtaining indictments of three players despite mounting evidence of their innocence and the complainant's lack of credibility. It then became a story of actual innocence. The prosecution's case fell apart in the face of vigorous defense work and the North Carolina Attorney General intervened and, following an independent investigation, declared the three indicted lacrosse players to be actually innocent. It then became about prosecutorial ethics, when the North Carolina Bar instituted an ethics complaint, resulting in the disbarment of Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong for his actions in misleading the court, withholding exculpatory evidence, and making public statements intended to prejudice the targets of the investigation.' Finally, it became a story about the role of civil litigation to remedy unconstitutional and tortuous misconduct in the criminal justice system. Forty-one lacrosse players have filed two separate lawsuits against various government actors, Duke University, and Duke officials. Underlying each phase are issues of race, class, gender, the role of athletics, the role and obligations of university faculty, the role and obligations of university administrators, and the role of the mass media in covering the criminal justice system and how press coverage contributed to the problems in this controversy
James E. Coleman, Jr. et al., The Phases and Faces of the Duke Lacross Controversy: A Conversation, 19 Seton Hall J. Sports & Ent. L. 181 (2009).