Monday, July 16, 2007

Faith and the Duke Lacrosse Case



Below is a special letter written by our good friend Joan Collins. The letter was written at the request of Rae Evans based on their recent communications and it looks at an aspect of the Duke Lacrosse Case that, so far, may have been overlooked: faith. Indeed, we find through communications with the lacrosse families that faith was a great source of strength to them and guided them through this most difficult period of their lives.

We would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to and honor a very distinguished lacrosse grandparent who is no longer with us: Raymond Forker. Mr. Forker was a most devoted and proud grandparent of David Evans. He passed away almost a year ago without seeing his grandson declared innocent. May this loving grandparent rest in peace with the knowledge we all have that Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann had been falsely accused! They were the victims of some ‘fantastic lies.’

We extend our best wishes to the Evanses, Finnertys, Seligmanns and Presslers as well as all the other Duke lacrosse families. We are greatly relieved that their ordeal is finally over. These families showed endless courage, patience and hope throughout the lacrosse controversy and came out of it stronger than ever before.

Moderator

Faith and the Duke Lacrosse Case

Some supporters became interested in the Duke Lacrosse Case because of ties to Duke University or lacrosse. For others it was thoughts that this could be their son, brother or grandchild. For many it was concerns that with the best justice system in the world how could this happen in our country. As for me, it was faith that brought me to this case.

Several players on the Duke Men’s Lacrosse Team were from my hometown. After hearing some of the media reports, I wanted more information, so I began reading the Court TV message board. I had never before read or posted on a message board or blog.

On April 25, 2006, a photo of Collin Finnerty with a priest appeared in the media. I soon learned that Father Peter LeJacq had devoted his life to serving as a missionary in Africa. In addition to being a Maryknoll priest, Father LeJacq, is a physician who has opened hospitals and trained doctors in Africa. He attended grammar school with Kevin Finnerty and has known Collin Finnerty his entire life. When some posters began referring to the priest as a rent-a-priest, I could no longer remain silent. My first post was “What better time for a family to be drawn to their faith than in a time of crisis!” Little did I know that post would draw me into a case that would consume me for more than a year.

On May 15, 2006, Dave Evans gave an inspiring and courageous speech to the press on the steps of the Durham County Courthouse, flanked by seniors of the lacrosse team, with his parents, David and Rae, standing proudly behind him. For me, Dave Evans epitomized Hemingway’s definition of courage namely ‘grace under pressure’. Convinced Evans was being truthful and that he, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann were innocent of all charges, the thoughts of his speech remained with me for months.

On the morning of August 20, 2006, I decided to put my thoughts into words and wrote “Profile of Courage - Dave Evans”. I had no idea why, but I felt this sense of urgency to post it immediately. It was posted as a letter to Friends of Duke University (FODU) on August 22, 2006 after which I left on vacation. Upon my return on August 31, I learned that Evans’ grandfather, Raymond Forker, had passed away on the morning the profile of courage about his grandson was written and was posted on the same day as his obituary. The timing was an uncanny coincidence, but I was pleased that it had provided some comfort to the family as they prepared for the funeral.

Whether one believes in miracles or not, if ever a case needed a miracle it was the Duke Lacrosse Case. I decided to pray to St. Raymond Nonnatus, the patron saint of the falsely accused, asking that the case be dismissed. In the spring of 2007, I wrote to Mr. Evans that St. Raymond was the patron saint of the falsely accused. It was another coincidence that Rae Evans and her father, Raymond, shared the same name as the patron saint of the falsely accused. Later, I was touched by Mr. Evans’ testimony at Mr. Nifong’s trial about Raymond Forker and how the family had embraced the patron saint.

Well educated, Raymond was born to a noble Spanish family in 1204. His father had planned a career for him in the royal court of Aragon, but Raymond was drawn to a religious life ransoming Christian captives in North Africa. When his funds were exhausted, he surrendered himself up as a hostage to free another. Imprisoned and tortured, he converted some of his guards. To prevent him from preaching, his captors pierced and padlocked his lips. Raymond remained in jail for eight months until he was ransomed. He became cardinal, although he continued to live as a monk. Raymond died in 1239 and was canonized a saint in 1657. His feast day is August 31.

Over the past year, I encountered remarkable, resolute people in the search for truth and justice in the Duke Lacrosse Case. Their research, writings, poems, videos and cartoons energized us to continue. It was a privilege to meet and speak with some of the lacrosse players, their families and the Presslers. Their courage inspired me. The common theme of the conversations was faith and how it had sustained them, provided them hope, and at times carried them through some of their darkest days. When their university turned its back on them, when the media spewed vile things about them, when our legal system did not seem to be working, what remained were family, friends and faith.

Today I met Rae Evans for the first time. She was wearing a St. Raymond pendant and she gave me a special gift of a St. Raymond medal. Faith has taken me on a journey from that first post on Court TV about faith, to writing the Dave Evans profile of courage on the morning of Raymond Forker’s death, praying to the patron saint of the falsely accused and receiving the medal. The St. Raymond medal reminds me that with faith all things are possible.

None of us will forget the Duke Lacrosse Case. We must move forward and learn from the experience. The Duke Lacrosse team will become better and stronger men, sons, husbands, and fathers because of the case. This is not the end, but the beginning for there is still much work to be done. Hopefully, the players and their many supporters will follow in the generous footsteps of St. Raymond, so that something like this never happens again.

Reflecting on the events of the case, its effect on all those involved and looking to the future, the poignant words of Father Bob Joerger, a mission priest who spoke of the story of Lazarus at my church during the past Lenten season seem most appropriate:

"What seems like weakness becomes strength, what seems like failure becomes new growth, what seems like the end, becomes the beginning, what seems like ultimate depravity, becomes redemption, what seems like powerlessness, becomes power, and what seems like death, becomes the seeds of a new life."

Joan Collins
Garden City, NY

34 Comments:

At 10:09 PM, July 16, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am glad this nightmare is over. These families have suffered a great deal, all due to a bunch of lies! Thank you for sharing. In terms of suffering, we were probably seeing only the tip of the iceberg. These families were too dignified to show their real level of pain.

 
At 10:36 PM, July 16, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this beautiful piece.

Baldo

 
At 10:42 PM, July 16, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joan, this is very touching. I am so glad you were able to meet with Rae Evans and talk about all this. I am sure you will cherish your St. Raymond medal forever. Thank you, thank you.

 
At 11:35 PM, July 16, 2007, Blogger Gary Packwood said...

Nonnatus

So many Duke mothers worked so hard over these many months to right these many wrongs.
I can't help but wonder if all Duke mothers are working at the bequest of St. Raymond's Mom who gave him life but could not raise him in life but is continuing his work now that he is gone in her own way.
St. Raymond Nonnatus
Born 1200 or 1204 at Portello in the Diocese of Urgel in Catalonia; died at Cardona, 31 August, 1240. His feast is celebrated on 31 August. He is pictured in the habit of his order surrounded by ransomed slaves, with a padlock on his lips. He was taken from the womb of his mother after her death, hence his name.

Reference: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12671b.htm

 
At 7:47 AM, July 17, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very sad story! These families did not have to go through all this pain. I wish the whole thing could have been prevented. What a huge black eye for the Duke University! They showed how incompetent and PC agenda driven they are. They should be ashamed of the way they handled (or mishandled!) this case.

Nifong deserves to go to jail, for a long time. Crystal will surely get what she deserves. That's certain.

My warm regards for the lacrosse families.

 
At 8:34 AM, July 17, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Joan Collins! I appreciate the sincerity of your writing. The toll of this tragedy has been very high. It changed and touched on so many lives. Let us hope something positive will come out of it in the end.

 
At 9:43 AM, July 17, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Joan, for another beautiful letter. I am very glad Rae Evans gave you the St. Raymond medal. It is well deserved. We appreciated everything you have written on this case. You always took us behind the scenes and showed us the human aspect of the case. For that, we will be forever grateful.

 
At 10:22 AM, July 17, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blessings come in all forms. The horror 46 families faced in the spring of 2006 is in the rear view mirror now. Thanks to supporters like Joan Collins and her belief in the truth in the midst of horrific lies, the blessings rise. We will all gain from the pain and the lessons learned in Durham.

 
At 1:35 PM, July 17, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 1:58 PM, July 17, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "man" does not make one bit of difference and should be ignored.

 
At 2:28 PM, July 17, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read every one of Joan Collins profiles in courage. I can't say I have a favorite, because every time I think I have a favorite, she writes another great one.

This latest Faith and the Duke Lacrosse Case letter is so incredibly beautiful. The profiles of courage series opened a window into the lifes of the lacrosse families in a way that no one else was able to do. It was as though I was sitting around the kitchen table listening to the families speak.

Joan, thank you for writing this moving letter and thank you FODU for posting it on your blog.

 
At 2:53 PM, July 17, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree with 2:28 above. I could not have said it better myself. Thank you Joan for letting us know how the families are doing and how they confronted these huge challenges. Thank you FODU for hosting these wonderful letters.

 
At 8:14 AM, July 18, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This letter is very enlightening. Thank you Joan Collins, for writing and sharing it with us.

 
At 9:21 AM, July 18, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautifully said:

"What seems like weakness becomes strength, what seems like failure becomes new growth, what seems like the end, becomes the beginning, what seems like ultimate depravity, becomes redemption, what seems like powerlessness, becomes power, and what seems like death, becomes the seeds of a new life."

 
At 10:25 AM, July 18, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re 7:47 July 17 comment "This is a very sad story."

Disagree. This letter is one of the most uplifting stories of the entire Hoax. It told us about the power of faith and the importance of family, friends and faith.

 
At 1:34 PM, July 18, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This piece is from the heart. Thank you Joan Collins, for writing it and FODU, for posting it.

 
At 1:53 PM, July 18, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an extraordinary letter! It is when I read things like this that I remember why I was so consumed by this case for so long. These lacrosse families deserved every bit of the support we provided to them, and then some. The more we learn about them the more proud we feel for having supported them.

I want to join FODU in their tribute to Mr. Forker. May he rest is peace. Despite this tragedy, Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann will do very well. I am certain of that. God bless.

EB

 
At 3:42 PM, July 18, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post! Is is nice to read how I was not the only crazy woman in America negleting my family because of the lacrosse case.

Great job Joan, you are not alone.

Duke Lacrosse Supporter

 
At 8:27 AM, July 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved this post. This is the type of coverage I want to see more of. I want to hear what the lacrosse families went through at a family or personal level and how they dealt with it.

What could be great is to get every Duke Lacrosse family to talk to Joan Collins and document their experiences, especially during the early phases of the ordeal. Those stories could then be shared, right here, weekly. If this was done, it is almost guaranteed we would have 47 compelling and possibly heart breaking stories, each probably more telling and interesting than the other. I would personally read such accounts with great interest.

Angela

 
At 9:53 AM, July 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Angela, I am with you. I can read more letters like this. Thank you Joan.

 
At 11:48 AM, July 19, 2007, Anonymous joan collins said...

Dear FODU friends,

Thank you for all the kind words. The letter "Faith and the Duke Lacrosse Case" was a joy to write. I regret that I expect it will be my last letter. You can read the Profiles of Courage on the FODU link under Must Read.

Initially, I was discouraged by some who said the families would not want to draw attention to themselves. My response was "After being called rapists, why would they not want to read about their sons being heroes!" Then I found a home at FODU. Had the value of the letter not been recognized by the wise, FODU moderator, it would have ended as a one time letter.

I do have regrets that I was not able to write about more heroes. One who comes to mind is Kevin Cassese. Cassese is one of the most decorated student-athletes in the history of Duke. I will not forget his remarks at the June 6, 2006 press conference where is was announced he would be the new Interim Coach:

"I would like to offer only one comment in reference to the legal issue that is currently ongoing. This matter is now before the courts where I am certain that the truth will be established. All three players have maintained their innocence from the start. While I have coached all of them I especially know David Evans well from having played alongside him during my senior year. Based on what I know of David's character, I find it impossible to believe he could have done the things he is being accused of. While I never had the opportunity to play alongside Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty, I will, as with David Evans, support them until there is evidence and a court decision that leads me to conclude otherwise..."

After Cassese made those statements, I though of the Andrew Jackson quote "One man with courage makes a majority." If only others in the Duke Administration had the courage to do the same.

Cassese accepted the challenge. He held the team and the families together at the most difficult of times. All this at the age of 25, while engaged to be married, with concerns about his own future. Kevin Cassese is an unsung hero in the Duke Lacrosse Case. I wish him well in his new position as Head Lacrosse Coach at Lehigh University.

Although, I wanted to write a Profile of Courage about Reade Seligmann,I was asked by his family to hold off while legal matters were going on. I respected that request. The communication between the families and myself was always about trust.

Finally, I would be remiss without mentioning Jason Trumpbour, the moderator of FODU and the people at FODU. This brillant,
hardworking, small group of well intentioned, but not well funded people handled themselves honorably throughout as they diligently worked to make changes at Duke and provide support to the familes. Thank you FODU!

 
At 12:41 PM, July 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joan,

I am sorry to hear this wonderful letter will be your last one. I enjoyed reading all of them. They were written from the heart and provided glimpses of information that we all craved to have: the welfare of the families. Many thanks for all your letters.

With my best wishes,
Carol

 
At 1:37 PM, July 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Joan,

Thank you for your kind words. It was a pleasure posting your letters on our website. I happen to know that beyond writing those wonderful letters, you have done a great deal to advance the cause of the falsely accused lacrosse players. Your dedication to this case has been truly remarkable.

You should take some comfort in knowing that your efforts were much appreciated by the lacrosse families and the readers of this website. I would like to extend my warmest gratitude and thanks for all that you have done. Your letters will be cherished here for a long time.

Warm regards,
Moderator

 
At 2:53 PM, July 20, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are those faithful like me who think that there aren't any coincidences. This just is another example of a Higher Power IMHO.

Fantastic piece! Thanks for posting it.

 
At 7:43 PM, July 20, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another name that comes to mind, as one of the 'early heroes' of the lacrosse saga, is Randall Drain. He showed a lot of courage, very early on, when courage was in short supply. I salute this unsung hero. His contribution is not forgotten. His fantastic letter in the Chronicle will be forever remembered.

Thank you Joan, for all your letters and profiles.

 
At 12:48 PM, July 21, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a fantastic letter! It should be read at churches and temples this weekend. Has anyone sent this to Rev. Wells of Duke Chapel? It should required summer reading.

 
At 9:50 AM, July 24, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joan and Jason,
I am a relative new-comer to the site but have been moved to tears by the wisdom, compassion, and brilliant dissections of the Duke lacrosse saga. I watched with absolute horror as this case was tried in the media and newspapers. I did not know then that this site existed. My Duke diploma ( Grad School, 1970) hangs before me now as I write. I had deep desire that my daughter also attend grad school at Duke. One tiny benefit to our family is that as I read this blog and that of JohninCarolina I realized that the Duke of today is not a place I would want to send a family member for education, since it now seems to be a place perpetuating Politically(in)Correct propaganda. That exposure has saved our family lots of money!

But on the subject of this being your last blog, I do hope to have some small impact. And that is, such brilliant work as this deserves a wider audience.

Would you and Jason, and the families, consider publishing these letters?

Our faith speaks to us through the words of Saint Paul, that "ALL things work together for good to those that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose".

It just may be that the suffering of these three dear young men and their families might be the redemptive impetus to significant change on many levels in our society. Not only Duke, but the legal and law-enforcement segments, as well as to sports heros themselves who must know that they are easy targets for entrapment from unsavory characters.

But the faith issue is huge. It is extremely powerful and hopeful as you pull back the curtains into these lives and allow us to see how the innocent ones walked through their trial by fire. Your book title: "Profiles In Courage: The Story of the Duke Lacross team and their families" could supply lessons with applications in sports, law, and faith.

Please consider it. We have a dearth of literature about Godly heros these days.

Unfortunately, to have a hero, you have to have a dilemma, and to have courage you have to have had a choice to falter or prevail against great odds.

You have already done most of the work.

I hope you and Jason will consider now letting that work have a broader audience, with even more redemptive results.

Doris Leissing, NC

 
At 3:53 PM, July 26, 2007, Anonymous joan collins said...

I am overwhelmed with your kind words.

I deleted something from the draft of the "Faith and the Duke Lacrosse Case" as it was getting too long. But I want it documented here.

On Aug. 22th I was posting the Profile of Courage- Dave Evans letter on FODU about 3AM while waiting for the cab to bring us to the airport. We arrived at the hotel in Maui about 18 hours later. My children immediately changed into their swimsuits and headed to the pool. I followed a few minutes later. I was alone in the elevator when the doors opened at the pool level. There were 2 teenage boys waiting to enter the elevator. They smiled at me and said hello. There were both holding lacrosse sticks. I replied hello, walked out and they walked into the elevator. Never expecting to see 2 lacrosse players in Maui,I took it as a good sign that I had done the right thing in posting the Profile of Courage before I left. Although we were at the hotel for 10 days, I never saw those boys again.

When I told Mrs. Evans the story she said "Dad was very busy."

 
At 10:50 PM, July 26, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joan,
There are stories that are begging for a voice. You have been given a talent and an opportunity. Those who have eyes to see, see things that others miss. Lacross in Maui??? Resonates, doesn't it?

My words of appreciation are, I hope, more than just kind.

I hope that they are compelling.

Doris Leissing
Duke Alumni, NC

 
At 10:37 AM, August 31, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had to reread this beautiful piece on this speacial day (August 31). Thank you Joan for sharing this with us.

 
At 1:55 PM, August 31, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Joan Collins, for a wonderful essay! This is the type of information a lot of us are craving for -- how did these families survive this tragedy? How did they coup with the huge injustice that was inflicted on them? We greatly appreciate reading this type of behind-the-scene insights. Such accounts help us understand more fully what these families went through and how difficult their ordeal must have been.

I hope there will be a positive outcome in the ongoing Nifong trial. That would be incredibly fitting.

Duke Parent

 
At 3:36 PM, August 31, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perfect Timing

Baldo

 
At 2:54 AM, January 05, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

 
At 9:29 AM, May 24, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Newsday 5/23/10

When Collin Finnerty accepted his college diploma last week at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore , he wore beneath his graduation gown a silver medallion of St. Raymond - the patron saint of the falsely accused.

For Finnerty, his graduation was a triumphant moment and one he could scarcely imagine four years ago when he and two other Duke University lacrosse players were arrested on charges they raped a stripper at an off-campus party. The case drew headlines around the world, and the three young men were painted as the picture of privileged college students flouting the law. When the case was thrown out and the charges proved to be false, they were back in the spotlight as horrific examples of the wrongly accused.

Last week, Finnerty gladly wore the medallion - a gift from the family of another accused man, David Evans , who distributed similar medals to all the families and urged them to wear them and to pray - as a reminder of what he endured. Finnerty said he is no longer angry over what he went through, and he realizes he is not the same person today as he was then.

"I learned a lot of life lessons at an earlier age than some people would," said Finnerty, 23, in an interview in his family's Garden City home.

His new awareness that lives can be destroyed in a moment, that power can be abused and that the system doesn't always work led Finnerty to the Innocence Project , a national organization dedicated to helping the wrongly convicted. He has met falsely convicted men from far different backgrounds than his own who spent decades in prison. Some were on death row. He said he and the other accused players have discussed doing their own work to help the falsely accused.

After leaving Duke and transferring to Loyola, Finnerty changed his major from history to communications. He said he experienced firsthand the power of the media - which he feels demonized him when the accusations first surfaced but later helped bring the truth to light. He interned at a television station and may seek work in the media field.

snip

Finnerty left Duke immediately after the arrest and spent the next year focusing on his criminal case and taking classes at Hofstra University . Once he and the others were completely exonerated, he was eager to resume his education. He flourished at Loyola, where he became co-captain of the lacrosse team, and recently won the school's John R. Moller award for achievement in academics, athletics and character.

"It is a huge honor. It is a very significant award, and it reflects the way he fit into the team," said the Rev. Brian Linnane, president of Loyola. "It's unimaginable to be accused the way he was, and the way he moved beyond that with great grace and became a leader, it says a lot about him and his family."

snip

 

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