Kathleen Parker

Given recent events in Durham, N.C., concerning the alleged Duke University lacrosse ``rape'' case, it is now possible to declare parody dead.

How does one parody a parody?

All is not lost, however. We can celebrate the addition of a new verb to our American lexicon -- ``to Nifong.'' When the moment calls for activities that need no elaboration, we already ``Bobbitt,'' ``Bork,'' and ``Lewinsky.''

Now we can ``Nifong'' someone when we want to trump up criminal charges based on flimsy evidence allegedly for political purposes. In short, when we want to screw up someone's life.

Nifong would be as in Durham County District Attorney Michael B. Nifong, who earlier this year brought charges against three lacrosse players -- Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans -- for the alleged rape of an African-American stripper who had been hired to perform at a team party.

Last week, Nifong dropped the rape charges when the alleged victim decided she wasn't sure she had been raped after all. That is, she wasn't sure she had been vaginally penetrated, a distinction required by state law for a charge of rape.

Last March, after the party, the stripper had a different recollection, telling police that she had been raped every which way. But, well, these things are difficult sometimes to keep straight. Rape being so nuanced and all.

Meanwhile, hundreds of lives have been turned inside out, none so much as the three accused players. All because, well, let's see, because the stripper said so. The absence of corroborating evidence seemed to pose no obstacle for Nifong, who ran a successful re-election campaign on the strength of his convictions.

And, of course, the story had good legs and plenty of sex appeal, if you like that sort of thing: race and class conflict, town and gown tensions, rich-white-boys vs. poor-black-working-mother, underage drinking and the aura of privilege.

The world hungered for such a fable, and Nifong fed the beast.

As it turns out, Nifong's case was something less than a slam dunk, and he must have known it. As was recently revealed, Nifong not only knew that lab tests showed no traces of DNA from any of the lacrosse team players, he knew that they did show DNA traces from several unknown other men.

Yet, Nifong and the head of the private DNA lab, Brian Meehan, agreed to exclude those test results from other results turned over to defense attorneys, according to Meehan's testimony during a recent court session.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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