Reviewed in the United States on September 29, 2007
I am giving this book 5 stars because of its importance. It is not as well written as Stuart Taylor, Jr., and KC Johnson's UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT, but it contains a good chronology of events and contains much more on Mike Pressler and his family. It's awkward at some points to have Don Yeager as the teller instead of Pressler. Some readers will regret Mike Pressler did not have the time and money to expand his own diary of the events in the Duke lacrosse case as a separate book; I would have paid more to have the actual diary printed here. Nevertheless, this is a very important book. It's most valuable for the portrait of the Presslers. Unless Sue Pressler writes her own book, we may never have a more powerful depiction of the splendid American family, the Presslers, including the daughters. One of the treasures of this book is the letter fifteen year old Janet Pressler wrote to Richard Brodhead on 24 March 2007. Poignantly she tells the President of Duke University, "I would have liked this letter to be one in which I described your heroism in your loyalty, leadership, and decisions during the events of last March , but it didn't turn out that way. The lives of my family and the lives of hundreds of others involved in the Duke lacrosse were irrevocably changed because of decisions made by you and your staff. In the end, our sacrifice made no positive difference. No apology or promise can restore the lives we led last year." Any reader will rejoice at the portrait of a great, loving, honorable American family. Mike and Sue Pressler--what a pair!
The Duke case is a great national story of a rogue prosecutor and his minions, of the rogue mainstream media (who can watch Nancy Grace now without loathing her? or trust the New York Times?), of a racist sexist tenured faculty leaping to precisely the wrong conclusions about victimization in the name of political correctness, of a hapless and ultimately conscienceless university president, Richard Brodhead, whose name on Google is linked forever with the words "pandering," "weak-kneed," "cowardly," "craven," "contemptible," and "rush to [the wrong] judgment." As NEWSWEEK said on 10 September 2007, "Brodhead and Nifong had an almost willful disregard for the facts." "Almost" is charitable. Brodhead said that "the facts kept changing" (p. 210); but as a senior, William Wolcott, says, "Hey, facts don't change. The truth doesn't change." What Brodhead and the Gang of 88 did "was bad enough," in Brodhead's memorable words, but the Gang has gained greater power on committees at Duke, and Brodhead seems set to pass his third year review.
The most optimistic news in this book, as in the Taylor-Johnson book, is the potential power for good in a new twenty-first century resource, the bloggers. Blog-hooligans, the politically correct Duke professor Cathy Davidson called them. The bloggers, having not only more brains than the Duke Gang of 88 but a robust capacity for humor, seized on the insult as a badge of honor. Blog-hooligans for the Truth! Finally, what this book celebrates is an old-fashioned American sense of humor, decency, friendship, loyalty, love. It's wonderful to see at least a few people behaving like, well, like heroes, like the Americans Ken Burns is portraying right now on PBS.