No, There’s No Comparison Between the Freddie Gray and Duke Lacrosse Cases

Shortly after the indictments dropped against the police officers allegedly responsible for killing Freddie Gray, a number of conservative blowhards from Sean Hannity to Alan Dershowitz have shared their outrage of the supposed injustice of it all. But the most hilarious case involves Milwaukee County sheriff David Clarke who compared it to the Duke Lacrosse case.

Obviously, most of this backlash is purely racially motivated by racist agitators. The prospect of black female state’s attorney indicting six police officers for murdering a black male without threat or probable cause causes short circuits of outrage in the brains of many white racists. They view poor blacks as dangerous inferiors to be kept in line by authorities by any means necessary, including but not limited to murder.

But the comparison to the Duke Lacrosse case is particularly stupid. There was plenty of reason to be skeptical in that incident. I myself took my lumps within the progressive blogosphere for urging caution on it from the start, and I ended up being right. From the beginning there was no physical evidence of rape, and the accuser’s story was filled with inconsistencies. That admittedly happens frequently in cases where rape has actually occurred, of course, so it’s not surprising or objectionable that charges were brought in the case. But justice eventually followed its due course in the case as the evidence presented itself, with the greatest damage being that inflicted by the media on the defendants, as well as the damage inflicted on real victims of rape by the public example of a false accuser–since only a small fraction of rape accusations turn out to be false.

The Freddie Gray case, on the other hand, is pretty open and shut as far as the evidence is concerned. The knife carried by Mr. Gray was legal in Maryland, so the police had no reason or probable cause to stop him. They failed, against regulations, to put a seat belt on Mr. Gray. They have a longstanding tradition of punishing suspects by roughriding them unsecured in vans, and have been sued for millions of dollars for doing just that. The evidence strongly suggests that Mr. Gray (if he was not beaten beforehand) was likely shackled hands and feet, tossed into the back of the vehicle and roughrided until a particularly forceful impact severed his spine.

That is murder, and the evidence is very clear on the matter. The only question will hinge on whether the police can be reasonably expected to have thought that the roughriding would do severe physical damage to Mr. Gray–and not even that point is seriously in question. A bevy of lawsuits for physical injury against the Baltimore PD demonstrates that they knew very well the kind of harm that Mr. Gray’s treatment could do to him.

To compare that incident to the Duke Lacrosse case is to exercise a kneejerk racist prejudice against any white person accused of doing harm to a less powerful black person. Justice was done in the Duke case by finding the defendants innocent, and it will very likely be done in Baltimore by finding the defendants guilty.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.