Institutional Failures: Duke Lacrosse, Universities, the News Media, and the Legal System
Howard M. Wasserman
Florida International University (FIU) - College of Law
December 16, 2010
INSTITUTIONAL FAILURES: DUKE LACROSSE, UNIVERSITIES, THE NEWS MEDIA, AND THE LEGAL SYSTEM, Howard Wasserman, ed., Ashgate Publishing, 2010
In spring 2006, three white members of the Duke University men's lacrosse team were indicted in the alleged sexual assault of an African-American dancer at a team party. The allegations proved to be unfounded and the players ultimately were declared actually innocent, but only after a campus and media firestorm that resulted in numerous media apologies, the disbarment of the District Attorney, and multiple lawsuits.
The many features of this now famous controversy are best understood in the context of the three major socio-legal institutions in which the drama played out. The legal system, Duke University, and the news media all struggled to respond to and handle the case, tinged as the events were with race, sex, violence, class, privilege, and notions and perceptions about sports. The problems, missteps, mistakes, and injustice in the CSE resulted from each institution's failure to operate properly, from the incentives built into each institution that affected individual behavior, and from the inability of each institution to communicate and cooperate with the others. To understand the Duke lacrosse controversy is to student these institutions and to answer questions about the performance of each.
By examining the conduct of these institutions and the individuals within them, the authors in this collection of essays consider the role each played in the case, how each contributed to the crisis and its resolution, the ways in which they interacted with one another, and the lessons this case teaches about the appropriate functioning of each.
working papers series
Date posted: December 15, 2010
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