When a three-judge panel of the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals this week dismissed lawsuits brought by former Duke Lacrosse players against the City of Durham, it repeated the fiction that governmental institutions in this country are so necessary to preserving "our way of life" that the individuals working in those institutions should not be held accountable for their conduct no matter how outrageous or illegal it might be. The institutional cover, the justices ruled, is enough to "prove" good faith in the power of the state to act in a pure and righteous manner, even if those who were wronged can demonstrate that government agents were lying.
The lawsuit stems from the false indictment of three former lacrosse players for allegedly raping Crystal Mangum, a Durham prostitute and stripper (who currently is charged with murdering a former boyfriend), at a party in March, 2006. I have written numerous articles on this case, which became famous (or infamous) on a number of fronts and ultimately was dismissed by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper in April, 2007. K.C. Johnson, the college professor whose blog, Durham-in-Wonderland, has well-documented everything in that case, has commentary on the latest ruling from the justices, and it is well-worth reading.
(The justices, however, do leave intact that lawsuits filed against former Durham police officers Mark Gottlieb and Ben Himan, both of whom played up-front roles in the "investigation" and also testified to the grand juries that returned criminal indictments against three of the players, David Evans, Collin Finnerty, and Reade Seligmann. Whether or not the courts decide to protect those two scofflaws in future proceedings is another matter.)