::Lacrosse Attorneys Blame Durham Paper
By Raleigh Chronicle Staff
Thursday, April 12, 2007
RALEIGH - During the press conference on the dismissal of charges against their clients, attorneys for the three Duke lacrosse players blasted the media and in particular, blamed the Durham Herald-Sun newspaper for some of the problems their clients encountered.
The press conference at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Raleigh was broadcast live across the country on many cable channels such as CourtTV and CNN, giving the local attorneys an opportunity to speak out nationally about their experiences after their clients were alleged to have raped an exotic dancer only to have all charges dropped a year later.
In another press conference earlier in the day on Wednesday, NC Attorney General Roy Cooper had proclaimed Reade Seligmann, David Evans and Collin Finnerty "innocent" of all charges.
Lead defense attorney Joe Cheshire and later, attorney James Cooney III seemed to have the most scathing remarks on how the media handled -- or mishandled -- coverage of the case.
Attorney Cheshire commented that on "March 30th of last year when the press was completely out of control...and every one in the country was pilloring them as hooligans and rapists", he said he told the media that they were "wrong" about his clients.
Although Cheshire said that he felt the media were "misled" by Nifong, he still blamed them for the way his clients were portrayed by "hucksters" in the media, often in a bad light.
"[Attorney General] Roy Cooper said a word today - i-n-n-o-c-e-n-t and I want to make sure everyone got that and knows how to spell it," he said. "These men were, are, and always have been innocent."
Cheshire said that Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong "appealed to the racial divide" and "so-called community activists" stirred up people into a frenzy when the evidence just wasn't there.
"Both sides white and black need to turn themselves away from community activists and who see race in everything...[and] see hate," said Cheshire. "Everything is not racial, everything is not class...everything is not politically correct."
Attorney James Cooney III was even more critical of media in the case and how they reported on Mike Nifong's statements without scrutiny early on.
"If Mike Nifong had his way these men would be in jail for 30 years," commented Cooney.
He also blamed the The Durham Herald-Sun newspaper specifically. The Herald-Sun is the town's daily newspaper and the Duke lacrosse attorneys in their opinion seemed to that feel the paper backed Nifong from the beginning.
Cooney characterized the Herald-Sun as one of the "cowards" in the whole ordeal since he claims they never questioned Nifong's handling of the case.
"To this day, [the Durham Herald-Sun] has not written a single editorial critical of Mike Nifong," claimed Cooney.
Cooney said the paper and others were "afraid to speak truth to power" by not questioning Nifong's tactics.
Instead of "demanding proper processes" in the case, Cooney said the Herald-Sun "published editorials about how bad all the lacrosse players were."
Despite the tone of the Herald-Sun's coverage, Cooney said "you'll not see a word of apology from them" and he claimed that they were still "publishing lies" up until just a couple of weeks ago.
Cooney claimed that the Herald-Sun failed in its responsibilities since he believed it never brought attention to Nifong's flawed investigation and legal tactics.
"One wonders what would have happened if the newspaper stood up for proper processes and if the teachers [at Duke University] had stood up for proper processes," he said.
Cooney and the other attorneys did not mention any of the local newspaper articles or other media investigations that actually helped their clients.
For example, the News & Observer daily newspaper in Raleigh ran a series of articles about how the Durham Police Department's photo lineups used to identify the three students were improper and even against the police department's own guidelines.
In addition, before the NC State Bar charged Nifong, the N&O reported on possible ethics violations under the code of conduct for attorneys, based on statements Nifong was making to the media.
Local television stations also ran extensive news coverage and highlighted one of the key pieces of evidence in the case when they showed that a cab driver claimed he was taking one of the accused lacrosse players to an ATM and a late-night restaurant during the time the alleged rape was supposed to have happened. ::