Is Duke Lacrosse Defense Poisoning The Jury Pool?


This week’s televised denial by a Duke lacrosse player to rape charges showed that lawyers in the case, with its overtones of class disparity and racial tension, are going to new heights in playing to the public, says the Christian Science Monitor. “This is all about poisoning the jury pool,” says Christine Goodman, a Pepperdine University law professor. Going public is a strategy that has succeeded in the past, especially for defenders who want the accuser’s sexual history to be part of the trial, but who have been impeded by state shield laws intended to protect rape victims. That was the case for NBA star Kobe Bryant, after his accuser decided not to testify amid public scrutiny of her sexual past.

Because the accuser is black and the players are white, because she works as an exotic dancer and they are star athletes, the case touches on closely held beliefs about race, class, and sex. As a result, legal analysts say, jurors may have difficulty distancing themselves from their emotions to focus on the facts of the case.


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