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The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities Hardcover – April 8, 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (April 8, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451681798
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451681796
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #202,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In 2006, when members of the Duke lacrosse team were accused of raping a stripper hired to entertain at a party, the case shone a harsh light on growing concerns about the blurred line between athletics and academics. The relationship between sports and the academic side of college life has long been troubled, with student athletes often exempted from attending classes and their bad behavior routinely overlooked. The Duke case was complicated by the fact that the alleged victim was a black woman and her alleged attackers were privileged young white men. The case had all the elements of controversy—race, sex, tensions between town and gown, and the larger issue of how universities balance the corrupting influences of the prominence and profitability of their sports programs. Cohan (House of Cards, 2009) explores the social dynamics that clouded every aspect of the case. Drawing on interviews and official records, Cohan details the events of the night and the growing turmoil on campus as news of the alleged crime spread, setting in motion the university’s machinery to protect its reputation. Cohan explores the usual disconnects that occur in high-profile crime cases between what is reported by the press, chronicled in official records, and perceived as public opinion and what really happened. A gripping account of a sensational case. --Vanessa Bush


“Meticulous…evenhanded…Mr. Cohan captures brilliantly the theater of the absurd that is played out on campuses every year over one controversy or another… Our tour guide in this chamber of horrors, Mr. Cohan, is remarkably dispassionate as he sets forth the fallout from the initial charges: the lacrosse season canceled, three of the team's players indicted, a community in upheaval as a bitter debate over race, sex and class raged, fueled by (often intemperate) media attention.” (The Wall Street Journal)

“At once a masterwork of reporting and a devastating critique of a university that has lost its way…what Cohan has done, to superb effect, is to bring a forensic level of reporting to the event, so that we are forced to throw out its long-accepted narrative and look at it with new eyes.… Every parent planning to send a child to an “elite” college dominated by an overly powerful athletic program should buy this book. For those with children thinking of Duke, it is required reading.” (The New York Times Book Review)

“Exhaustive, surprisingly gripping…The Price of Silence proves its worthiness…When the story broke, it had plenty of salacious aspects…but the story turned out to be far more complex, a drama made rich by the characters’ apparent refusal to play their assigned roles…remarkable…Cohan has added a lot of new details to the narrative…extremely impressive…Ultimately, Mr. Cohan’s account is valuable for what the case says about wealth and our legal system.” (The New York Times)

“Fascinating...What Cohan’s extraordinary 600-page tome shows is that there is a yawning gap between the lofty rhetoric and grubby reality of American elite universities... It is around the issue of sports that the tangled questions of power, money, racism and culture crystallize particularly clearly…as anthropologists know, every society has power networks and rituals that enable groups to coalesce. But another truism of anthropology is that rituals are most effective in upholding power structures – however distasteful – when nobody talks about them at all, be that on Wall Street or university campuses. In that sense, then, the good news about the 2006 scandal was that it spurred debate about standards.” (Financial Times)

The Price of Silence is the definitive account of what happened up to and after Crystal Gail Mangum made her accusation. Its 600-page length might at first seem more appropriate to a presidential biography or a history of one of the world wars, but The Price of Silence earns its heft, and unlike most biographies and histories, it rarely loosens its grip on its reader’s attention.” (Salon)

“In his new book The Price of Silence, William D. Cohan presents the first authoritative account of what happened on the evening of March 13, 2006 and the chaos that followed. Cohan’s clear-eyed reporting tracks how administrators, lawyers, police, media personalities, Mangum, and the exonerated players reacted to the spotlight and the shadows it cast. In the book, Cohan speaks with a number of important figures who had never before spoken publicly about the scandal, including both Mike Nifong and former Duke University Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Steel.” (Men’s Journal)

“Top-notch investigative journalism defines this examination of ‘one of the most improbable legal sagas in American history’. . . meticulous . . . not just an edge-of-your-seat courtroom drama and a cautionary tale, but also an illuminating fable about the power of status, talent, authority, and belief. Throughout, Cohan’s spare prose and objective tone cast his subjects in a humane light, even when their behavior is stunning . . . the definitive account of the case.” (Publishers Weekly, STARRED review)

"Cohan seemingly leaves no stone unturned in covering all aspects of the case... undeniably gripping drama... A comprehensive, illuminating and highly readable study of a notorious episode in the annals of the American justice system." (Kirkus, STARRED review)

“The relationship between sports and the academic side of college life has long been troubled…Cohan explores the social dynamics that clouded every aspect of the case…Cohan explores the usual disconnects that occur in high-profile crime cases between what is reported in the press, chronicled in official records, and perceived as public opinion and what really happened. A gripping account of a sensational case.” (Booklist, STARRED review)

“[Cohan] is sharp about following the money…[he] receives extra points for fairness.” (Karen Long Newsday)

“Acclaimed investigative journalist Cohan turns from his previous focus on Wall Street to the 2006 Duke Lacrosse Scandal…Cohan tells the complex story, drawing on public records and interviews, to portray the sports players and the three indicted students, the police investigators, the expert defense team, the academic leadership, and the district attorney who generated a media storm over the case until it was dismissed and he was disbarred. With both detail and clarity, the author engages the reader in the paradox of the emergence of Duke as a nationally ranked university where scholastic excellence vied against a “party hard” social scene. ..This excellent presentation of media-generated hysteria over a criminal investigation offers insights into police work, prosecutorial excess, and an extensive and expensive legal defense, set in a North Carolina city where the wealthy university was neighbor to an economically stressed black community and seemed to echo national tensions.” (Library Journal, STARRED review)

“William Cohan’s fascinating The Price of Silence shows that the Duke lacrosse case was not just a controversial legal investigation that became a heated media circus, but also a conflict that illuminated the fierce pressures on America’s elite universities as they battle for power and prestige and money. Cohan’s deep character study of the principal figures involved also reveals the case as a crucible of fate that created distinct winners and losers." (Bryan Burrough, Vanity Fair contributing editor and the author of Public Enemies and The Big Rich, and coauthor of Barbarians at the Gate)

“William Cohan’s scrupulously reported and grippingly written account of this elite campus horror story makes clear that if you thought you knew what happened at Duke, as I did, there is much more to learn. This is a story that ought to disturb anyone who cares about contemporary college life. For the first time, Cohan gets many of the central characters to speak—and what they have to say is eye-opening.” (Jane Mayer, longtime staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of The Dark Side, and coauthor of Strange Justice and Landslide)

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Customer Reviews

I deeply regret wasting the time and money on this book.
Walter A. Bradley
Nifong, of course, had not been relentless in his attacks on the innocent lacrosse players!
Hershel Parker
Author Cohan's many public statements cast doubt on both and also on his book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

111 of 115 people found the following review helpful By Mark Wylie on May 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
William Cohan, an investment banker turned journalist, is known for his three lengthy books on leading Wall Street investment banks. I read his book on Lazard Freres several years ago and found it to be very detailed and informative, but also long and repetitive, and I got bogged down in it more than once. In his newest book, he turns from the financial sector to writing about the criminal justice system, producing an enormous doorstop of a book on the "Duke lacrosse case" of 2006, in which three varsity men`s lacrosse players at Duke were falsely accused of rape by a stripper. The case led to the disbarring of Mike Nifong, the district attorney who brought the charges against the players, for numerous ethical violations.

The publisher's description of this book informs us that "Readers who think they know the story are in for more than one surprise." Cohan's own remarks, made in promoting his book, make it clear that he personally believes that readers should change their view of the case after reading The Price of Silence. I came to this book as a reader with a clear view of the case, having followed the case in 2006 and 2007 at Jeralyn Merritt's TalkLeft blog, and then read Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and K.C. Johnson, when it came out in paperback in 2008.

If asked, prior to reading The Price of Silence, to summarize the case, I would have done so as follows: Early in the morning of March 14, 2006, a stripper named Crystal Mangum claimed that she had been raped by three or more Duke lacrosse players when she had danced at a team party a few hours before.
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202 of 214 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Panoff on April 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Imagine the Wall Street Journal printing a review that slams Cohan as dishonest? You can read Dorothy Rabinowitz!! [...] Now imagine a prosecutor who failed to protect his staff from sexual harassment, who played favorites in his dominion of traffic court, who once shouted to an attorney loud enough to be heard down the hall: he didn't care if his client didn't do it; now that he was indicted maybe he would say who did. Imagine that. Now imagine that that was the same prosecutor Cohan feels sorry for and wishes us to believe he was "honorable" and only made a few mistakes. This book is a waste of time and an indictment in itself that the American publishing houses no longer vet the material and fall down in the editing process. Only recently could a THANKED person be allowed to write a review for a major paper. So disappointing.

The worst part of this book is that it uses innuendo to try to restore the idea that "something happened" when it was declared that no crime was committed that night, not the false accusations and not the slime-wad accusation Cohan tries to insinuate that something happened that no one would be proud of. He mistakenly tries to apply the boorish actions of some persons who attended to tarnish the reputations of those indicted who were declared innocent. He insinuates that there is a nefarious unexplained accusation of DNA from one player supposedly found on the fingernail of the false accuser, when the false accuser's DNA wasn't even found! He claims to be dispassionate but rudely cuts off any line of questioning in his public appearances.

Years ago a book was published called "A New Kind of Science" that failed to impress because little if anything in the book was new.
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165 of 181 people found the following review helpful By sceptical on April 20, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Journalists are supposed to provide context and analysis to what they report. Mr. Cohan's book about the Duke lacrosse case is sadly lacking in both of those qualities. Most of it is a rehash of past published material.

In the minimal new reporting, he recounts interviews with disbarred DA Mike Nifong, one of his lawyers, and convicted murderess and mental patient Crystal Mangum, as well as the discredited SANE report describing Mangum's hysterical behavior in the Emergency Department. He presents their assertions without perspective and without analysis, thus allowing "fantastic lies" to go unchallenged. The book is one-sided because most of his sources are from Nifong and Mangum supporters. Because of confidentiality agreements, the lacrosse team members could not allow interviews, neither for legal reasons could North Carolina investigative files be released. Reporters face difficulties when they cannot get sources from both sides of an issue to comment. The lazy approach employed here is to just quote one side and not substantially challenge those assertions.

Supporters of Mangum and Nifong have pursued a revisionist line that "something happened" during the lacrosse team party in March, 2006. They ignore the multiplicity of different stories given by the accuser Mangum, including a new version for the book. They ignore the lack of DNA evidence connecting the lacrosse players with Mangum. They ignore the intensive investigation by North Carolina Atty. Gen. Roy Cooper which found the three indicted players innocent. They ignore the exhaustive investigation and trial of Mike Nifong by the North Carolina Bar which led even Nifong to admit that the three indicted players did not carry out the actions with which they were charged.

Now, Mr.
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