If you enjoy comedy, especially the kind in which its humor is derived from the contrast of its content with reality, then you won’t want to miss the upcoming TV-cinematic fare offered by HBO about the Duke Lacrosse case. Although I am sure it is going to be marketed as an objective docu-drama about the Duke Lacrosse case, I cannot help but believe that it will be nothing more than just another thinly veiled volley from the carpetbagger jihad against former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong.
I admire HBO for accepting the inherent challenge of trying to present the beer guzzling, publicly intoxicated, public urinating, spoiled and privileged Duke student athlete partygoers as decent and respectable innocents who are targeted by a ruthless and conniving district attorney for the sole purpose of wooing the black vote as a surefire means of retaining his D.A. position in the May 2006 primary. The entire premise is total folly itself, and actually lends itself as fodder for a hilarious comedy… the only problem is is that this movie is supposed to be taken seriously.
Now I have not read the screenplay, but I believe that the producer’s intention is to sympathetically portray the members of the Duke Lacrosse team in a favorable light by omitting the fact that nearly a third of the 47 lacrosse team roster had had skirmishes with the law (including an assault charge against Duke Lacrosse defendant Collin Finnerty, and an alcohol related charge against Duke Lacrosse defendant and team captain Dave Evans). I would imagine that the made for HBO-TV movie is supposed to tug at its viewers’ heartstrings because of the travails and trauma suffered by the three defendants and their families (although not one of the defendants spent a day in jail and they each received $7 million in an out-of-court settlement with Duke University). Also, remember to disregard reality as the movie will undoubtedly present North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper’s April 11, 2007 “Innocent Promulgation” as a watershed moment that cements the innocence of the three Duke Lacrosse defendants. (Since that day, the media has knowingly embraced that declaration – which they knew to have no legal weight – as a basis upon which to use descriptive terms such as “innocent,” “falsely accused,” and “exonerated” to describe the Duke defendants.)
It is important for the potential viewer of this future movie to enjoy it for its comedic offerings, and not to try and extract anything deep, significant or meaningful from it. Keep in mind that in a range of artistic offerings it is much closer to a Hardy Boys mystery than a time weathered classic such as Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables.”
Instead of wasting its money to buy the rights for the pitiful story of the Duke Lacrosse boys attending a stripper party and its aftermath, HBO should have waited for a story with real merit to come along. It would not have had to wait long, as a tragic story with a Hollywood ending recently unfolded when Gregory Flint Taylor was released from jail… a free man. After spending 17 years wrongfully imprisoned for a murder he did not commit, all that remains, at this time, is a pardon from North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue. Odds are highly in Greg Taylor’s favor that it will come sooner rather than later.
What would make the Greg Taylor story such an inspirational tear-jerker, is that it is about a man of convictions and moral fortitude who would rather face a lifetime in prison than falsely implicate an African American man who he knew was innocent of a murder. It is about a kind and good natured man with a kind heart and good soul, but with personal demons tied to an addiction to drugs and alcohol. It is a redemptive story of a man, who during his 17 year incarceration in one of the most highly improbable places, prevails over his addiction to crack and beer, and betters himself by taking advantage of the educational opportunities available inside the correctional facilities. It is a story of a loving family that is unified and galvanized to fight and leave no stone unturned in order to free its innocent kin. It is the story of an innovative program, the brainchild of former Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake, that helps many wrongly accused, who are otherwise without hope, get another chance at a justice denied. It is the story about a state’s selective justice system based on Class and Color, and the attempts by two of its prosecutors to keep a man they knew to be innocent confined for the rest of his life. It is the story of a man who took the horrendous hand fate dealt him, and with the help of his family and friends, and religious faith endured.
It is anyone’s guess as to why HBO would want to glorify accused members of the raucous Duke Lacrosse team with its well-earned and deplorable reputation, and highlight the vindictive carpetbagger jihad call for action against Mike Nifong by Rae Evans (mother of Duke defendant Dave Evans).
Rae Evans, whose son did not spend one day in jail, received $7 million in a settlement with Duke University, and is currently trying to appropriate another $10 million from the cash-strapped city of Durham, stated that Mr. Nifong picked on the “wrong” families… and that “he will pay, every day, for the rest of his life.” Contrast this statement with Gregory Taylor who lost 17 years of his life after being convicted (without credible evidence) for a murder he did not commit, who wisely commented shortly after his release that there were times when he wished he could be more angry, but that “it is not a sustainable emotion.” Anger is not a sustainable emotion in a person with a kind heart and a good soul.
My advice to HBO executives is if they wish to have a feel-good and positive impact on viewers, that they select stories that offer substance, hope, and inspiration. The Gregory Taylor story fits the bill, and is as close to a non-fiction “Les Miserable” as you can get.