For the past month, Durham and the nation have followed the allegations of a serious crime involving members of the Duke men's lacrosse team. The emerging story has taken new twists and turns virtually every day. In this situation of inflamed passions and painful uncertainty, I have emphasized the importance of not rushing to judgment and allowing the legal system to establish the truth. I'm grateful that other Durham leaders, notably Mayor Bell and North Carolina Central Chancellor Ammons, have urged patience as well.
Today the case has taken a new turn: the grand jury handed down indictments against two students who have since been arrested. District Attorney Nifong will now have an opportunity to present his case, and we will learn on what basis he has pressed his charges. We also move from unfocused speculation about 46 members of the team to the court of law where the guilt or innocence of the individuals charged will be established. It is worth reminding ourselves that in our system of laws, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Many lives have been touched by this case. It has brought pain and suffering to all involved, and it deeply challenges our ability to balance judgment with compassion. As the legal process unfolds, we must hope that it brings a speedy resolution and that the truth of the events is fully clarified.
In the meantime, we have important work to do. The Duke and Durham communities must restore the bonds this episode has strained and learn whatever lessons it affords. Building upon the progress that has been made over the past decades, we must work to create a community that assures respect and dignity for all.