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Until Proven Innocent

Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case

Stuart Taylor Jr. and K.C. Johnson

St. Martin's Griffin

Until Proven Innocent Download image

ISBN10: 0312384866
ISBN13: 9780312384869

Trade Paperback

464 Pages



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The Duke lacrosse team members' alleged rape of an African-American stripper shocked the communities of Duke University and Durham, North Carolina. The unraveling of the case against them continues to captivate the nation. Stuart Taylor Jr. and KC Johnson argue that law enforcement, a campaigning prosecutor, biased journalists, and left-leaning academics repeatedly refused to pursue the truth while scapegoats were made of these young men.

The authors sift through the multiple facets of the story. They question the actions of a DA running for office; the inappropriate charges that went unrecognized by many academics at Duke; the seeming unwillingness of local and national media to take account of the publicly available evidence; and the reactions of law enforcement, academia, and many black leaders.

Until Proven Innocent covers all five aspects of the case: personal, legal, academic, political, and media. Based on interviews with key members of the defense team, many of the unindicted lacrosse players, and Duke officials, it also includes interviews with all three of the defendants, their families, and their legal teams.

Taylor and Johnson‘s coverage of the Duke case was the earliest and most comprehensive in the country. Here they shed new light on the dangers of rogue prosecutors and police and a cultural tendency toward media-fueled travesties of justice. The context of the Duke case has vast import. In this telling, it is captivating nonfiction with broad political, racial, and cultural relevance to our times.


Praise for Until Proven Innocent

"Taylor and Johnson have made a gripping contribution to the literature of the wrongly accused."The New York Times Book Review

"Superb . . . A book that not only reads like a legal thriller but also exposes deep problems with America's legal system and academic culture."The Economist

"Written by Stuart Taylor Jr. and KC Johnson, Until Proven Innocent reads like a fast moving detective story but has the moral impact of a bomb . . . Many of the details of the Duke scandal are already well known, but Taylor and Johnson have many keen insights and observations that are worth highlighting."—Stephen H. Webb, Reviews in Religion & Theology

"Brutally honest, unflinching, exhaustively researched, and compulsively readable, Until Proven Innocent excoriates those who led the stampede—the prosecutor, the cops, the media—but it also exposes the cowardice of Duke's administration and faculty. Until Proven Innocent smothers any lingering doubts that in this country the presumption of innocence is dead."—John Grisham

"This compelling narrative dramatizes the fearsome power of unscrupulous police and prosecutors . . . especially when the media and many in the community rush to presume guilt. The inspiring story of how the defense lawyers turned the tables on a dishonest DA points to the crying need for reforms to give defendants of modest means a fighting chance when law enforcement goes bad."—Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union and professor of law at the New York Law School

"The authors demonstrate that the Duke case was symptomatic of the dangerous decay of important institutions—legal, academic, and journalistic . . . With this meticulous report, the guilty have at last been indicted and convicted."—George F. Will

"A gripping, meticulous, blow-by-blow account of the whole grotesque affair. It is beautifully written, dramatic, and full of insights, exposing how vulnerable the prosecutorial system is to abuse and how ready the liberal media and PC academics are to serve as leaders of the lynch mob. A must read for anyone who cares about individual rights and justice."—William P. Barr, former attorney general of the United States

"A chilling, gripping account of how our judicial system can go terribly wrong. This is an important book that brings the Duke story to life and exposes troubling facts about our justice system and our citadels of higher learning."—Jan Crawford Greenberg, ABC News legal correspondent and author of Supreme Conflict

"The analysis of the notorious Duke rape case in this book is hard to accept. According to Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, this episode was not just a terrible injustice to three young men. It exposed a fever of political correctness that is more virulent than ever on American campuses and throughout society . . . Unfortunately for doubts, the authors lay out the facts with scrupulous care. This is a thorough and absorbing history of a shameful episode."—Michael Kinsley, columnist for Time

"It was an unhappily converging 'perfect storm' of: (a) unsubstantiated allegations of rape by a hired dancer at a Duke lacrosse team party; (b) the professional and political motivations of the local prosecutorial community, including the now-infamous, now-disbarred and undoubtedly soon-to-be-sued district attorney; (c) academic politics at a well-known national university; and (d) just in case the foregoing were not enough, race and class . . . National Journal columnist Taylor (Pulitzer-nominated for his Supreme Court coverage at the New York Times) and Johnson (History/Brooklyn College) have done their investigative homework . . . they provide a solid analysis of a prosecution gone wrong and of academics relentlessly pursuing their own politically correct agendas, even in the face of the facts. The authors single out in particular the utter collapse of due process for accused students at a highly respected school."—Kirkus Reviews

"Guilty until proven innocent was a concept expressed by Duke University's president Richard Brodhead, among others, betraying a stunning misapprehension of America's justice system in the case of the Duke lacrosse players wrongfully indicted for raping a black stripper in 2006. As well reported in detail by respected legal journalist Taylor and Brooklyn College historian Johnson, the facts of the case speak for themselves: rogue prosecutor Mike Nifong willfully disregarded evidence of the boys' innocence; Duke administrators hung the team members out to dry; much of Duke's faculty and the media rushed to assume guilt in the racially charged case (the New York Times comes in for special opprobrium) . . . the closing chapters offer balanced, tautly argued discussions of, and remedies for, the central problems: prosecutorial abuse, the frequency of false rape accusations and academic groupthink."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The Durham heat burned through Devon Sherwood's jersey as he waited for the lacrosse team he longed to join to come from the locker room. It was his eighteenth birthday, September 16, 2005. Shifting his feet on the green turf, he...

About the author

Stuart Taylor Jr. and K.C. Johnson

Stuart Taylor Jr. is a columnist for National Journal and contributing editor for Newsweek, writing about legal, policy, and political issues. A Harvard Law graduate, he covered legal affairs and the Supreme Court during eight years at The New York Times. He is a nonresident senior fellow with the Brookings Institution and was nominated by The New York Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his Supreme Court coverage and by National Journal for a National Magazine Award for his columns on the Duke case.

KC Johnson is a history professor at Brooklyn College and CUNY. He has written over 800 posts of news-breaking analysis about the Duke case on his blog and was a consultant to ABC's Law and Justice Unit for the case. The author of four books, he has a Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Stuart Taylor Jr.

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