[Megan] There are a lot of people asking why those celebrating the release of the Duke Lacrosse players weren't so excited about various other innocent guys who were let off after actually spending years of their lives in jail . . . poor black men, often accused of raping white women. To some extent, this is a fair point. But only to some extent. After all, the reason these guys got so much publicity in the first place is that they were white rich men accused of raping a poor black woman. That's also, as far as I can tell, why Mr Nifong was so eager to railroad them. Had they been black men, the charges might well never have been brought, or quietly dismissed when the DNA didn't turn out.
The real issue, I think, is not the publicity, or that we care about white people more, but that it has become very, very clear that having a good lawyer really, really matters. In this case, the victim was sufficiently unhinged, and the DNA sufficiently strong, that it probably would have been dismissed anyway; but there remains the awful, and not altogether unlikely, possibility that had they been poor (white or black) these boys would have gone to jail for a crime that pretty clearly didn't happen. Inexperienced and overworked public defenders are no substitute for a good trial attorney. Attorney incompetence seems to be the main culprit in almost all cases where someone actually innocent goes to jail. This is intolerable. But no one wants to put real money into the public defender system.