In the outpouring of praise for William D. Cohan’s new book “The Price of Silence”—a work, remarkably enough, being celebrated as a model of evenhandedness, scrupulous objectivity, etc.—one essential has gone overlooked. Namely, the central point of this tale about the Duke lacrosse case and accusations against three players of rape and assault at a house party. It takes no close reading to see that the book is meant to recast the story so as to nullify the outcome Americans thought they knew—that the players were exonerated and had been falsely accused. In Mr. Cohan’s portrayal, the workings of decency and justice were undone by malign forces—among them, it would seem, the ability to hire defense attorneys.
The three members of the Duke lacrosse team charged with attacking a hapless black woman—a stripper hired to perform at their March 2006 house party—were ultimately cleared, after enduring months of public vilification by District Attorney Mike Nifong, when the attorney general who replaced him dropped the case and declared the young men innocent. They had been the subject of wholly incredible allegations by the accuser, as DNA findings confirmed.
The book’s pro forma declarations that the accused were, yes, exonerated come surrounded by a far stronger drumbeat of doubt that their exoneration could conceivably have been just. No surprise the accused beat the charges, Mr. Cohan is regularly at pains to make clear: These were white sons of privilege, from families who could pay for their excellent defense lawyers.