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Duke and the System

A friend notes, over IM, that “the reason the system worked in the Duke case was because these were upper-middle class white folk with good lawyers.” Exactly. I should have said that in the initial post. This is precisely what makes the sense of beseigement, persecution, and systematic abuse that’s surrounded this controversy so baffling. Obviously, what happened to those kids wasn’t right and I feel bad for them over what they’ve been through. That said, on the whole prosperous white men are treated very well by the criminal justice system.

Poor defendants — especially minority ones — are railroaded regularly thanks to desperately inadequate legal representation. Nobody speaks up for these people. George W. Bush for years quite literally signed their death warrants. But I don’t see any of the Duke-agitators pressing for increased funding of public defenders offices or any other reforms that would address the real systemic problems facing criminal defendants who don’t deserve to have the finger pointed at them. The Duke case attracts attention precisely because it’s so un-representative of how sexual assault and the criminal justice system play out in the United States. It’s a man bites dog story. In the real world, though, we don’t demand that attention be paid to the urgent problem of men biting dogs.

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