Friday, January 2, 2009

A summary of “Last Dance for Grace The Crystal Mangum Story”

Crystal Mangum was the accuser in the Duke lacrosse case. In March 2006 her allegation of gang rape was the grounds for three Duke lacrosse players being indicted. In April 2007 North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper declared the three men innocent. Ms. Mangum’s autobiography appeared in the fall of 2008. My summary will not attempt to compare her account with any other, and this approach should not be construed to mean that I accept or dispute her account. Warning: This review reports on strong language and events that may be unsuitable for some individuals, particularly the young.

Part I, the alleged assault

Ms. Mangum, an exotic dancer, discusses the events of March 13, 2006 in two places in her book, pp. 33-56 and pp. 189-208. Ms. Mangum claims that she has always given a consistent account of the alleged rape (p. 189). She claims never to have taken illegal drugs, and she says that she was surprised at reports that she was on a strong cocktail of drugs for bipolar disorder that night. She says that she had two beers prior to arriving at 610 North Buchanan, the house rented by several of the lacrosse co-captains. This was less than she would usually drink before a performance (p. 48). She says that she took a few sips of the drink that “Dan Flanagan” gave her before spilling it and declined Nikki’s offer of her drink. She says that she was aware of the dangers of taking the medication she had been prescribed along with alcohol and that she did have prescriptions for “a number of drugs” on p. 47. She says that there is no proof and no toxicology reports that she took prescription drugs on March 13. She does not give the names of the drugs for which she had prescriptions or discuss why she stopped taking them as she implies. She assumes that information about her prescriptions came from release of her medical records or doctors and is outraged that her medical records were made public. She also reports that one of her doctors withdrew from treating her because of a conflict of interest stemming from his connections with Duke University.

While Ms. Mangum and Kim Roberts (Nikki, the other dancer) prepared in the bathroom, she heard the partygoers repeatedly refer to them as “black bitches.” After she and Nikki started to dance, she was surprised to see Nikki naked (she says that she had not planned on being completely naked). This surprise caused her to fall almost on top of Nikki, which she says was not intentional. As she and Nikki got up, she believes someone yelled that they were going to stick a broomstick up their anuses. Nikki said that they needed to get out of there. A person she believes was David Evans, one of the three indicted players, coaxed them back inside the house.

Shortly thereafter, she was forced into the bathroom and grabbed by the throat. Despite her screams, no one helped her. Ms. Mangum does not describe the physical appearance of her attackers, nor does she name them. That is odd, given that she seems to know what David Evans looks like. She does say that she is not good at remembering “minute details” about her surroundings (p. 56). She writes (p. 190), “I know people want me to name names and point fingers, but that would just be opening up a whole can of worms.” The first attacker penetrated her vagina and anus. The second attacker penetrated her vagina. Her pulling at his shirt caused her glued fingernails to pop loose. The third attacker at first demurred, on the grounds of having a fiancée, but then also assaulted her. She does not say where he penetrated her, but she does think that she may have been penetrated by a foreign object. The second attacker then penetrated her anally but ejaculated onto the floor. She suggests that a DNA sample near the sink in the bathroom was from a partygoer, presumably her second attacker. She implies that the alleged attack took ten minutes (p. 194) and that she was in the house for thirty minutes (p. 197).

After Ms. Mangum and Nikki left, she told Nikki about the attack. She received a mild sedative at Duke Medical Center before 3 AM. She had a pelvic exam that was so “excruciating” that it took a long time to complete (p. 193). She says that the hospital staff reported truthfully on the injuries they described but that the injuries were more extensive than reported in the media though it is not clear what she means. She claims bruising of her neck and knee. She claims (p. 225) that the videotape showing her dancing about ten days later was actually filmed several months earlier.

Part II, The investigation

Ms. Mangum says that the police did not try to coach her, yet they did tell her that the pictures were more than likely to be people at the party. She also says that she never danced at the Platinum Pleasures Club again. She denies that DNA evidence exists of her having multiple sex partners prior to the events at 610 Buchanan, and she says that there was no semen found in her orifices. She also denies being a prostitute but acknowledges masturbating for customers. She hints at the existence of other DNA evidence in her case file and calls for the file to be released. She implies that the use of racial slurs by itself is a hate crime (p. 203).

About the investigation she says (p. 197), “The notion that the Durham Police Department somehow decided that my case was about framing people for no reason seems so crazy.” She makes one puzzling statement about the DNA tests (p. 202): “If the DNA confirms that none of the people charged left DNA on me, then the test performed their function.”

During the second meeting with the Coman/Winstead team that took over from Durham DA Michael Nifong, Ms. Mangum felt frustrated by the rapidity of the questions. Near the end of the meeting, she said, “They are going to get away with it because Duke has paid everyone to be silent.”

Part III, Ms. Mangum’s adolescence

Ms. Mangum wished to be a ballerina when she was young. She also spent hours studying dance moves in music videos on television. Ms. Mangum’s parents loved her, however they favored her sister. Her portrait of her sister is particularly unflattering. Her father was quite willing to use corporal punishment. Her mother seems to have been hospitalized for mental illness at least one time (p. 83). She implies that she is estranged from her family but is not specific on the reasons. She accuses her cousin Jackie of trying to sell her story and believes that someone paid her to talk (p. 68).

By far the most horrific story within this portion of the book is Ms. Mangum’s account of a gang rape when she was fourteen. One of her abusers was her boyfriend Frederick and the other two were friends of his. Frederick was also physically and psychologically abusive. Her relationship with Frederick sent her into a depression, requiring hospitalization and treatment. She swallowed sixty aspirin tablets when she was a teenager and again was hospitalized.

Ms. Mangum describes herself as being religious and fearing God. She says that in the last year she gravitated back to the church for solace (p. 70).

Part IV, Ms. Mangum’s adult life prior to the alleged attack

Ms. Mangum’s husband was fourteen years older than she, and after they married, she joined the navy. She says that she was more concerned about him than herself. She writes (pp. 150-151), “Being kindhearted and a caring person is a character flaw I suffer from.” Ultimately, Kenneth was verbally and physically abusive. After the breakup of her marriage, she started dating Ryan, the father of her two older children.

Ms. Mangum gives the following account of her arrest in 2002: She says that she was drunk, and an equally drunk man gave her the keys to his car, which turned out to be a taxicab. Her motive for wanting to go home was to check on her children. She stopped after police pursued her but then backed up, hitting a police cruiser. She was charged with two felonies and five misdemeanors (p. 174).

In 2004 Ms. Mangum took a job as a medical technician in an adult care facility for about a year but had a conflict with her manager and was fired. As in other interpersonal situations, she lays the majority of the blame for the problem on the other person (p. 176). She acknowledges that she abused alcohol and had a mental heath issue in 2005 that was diagnosed as bipolar disorder by one mental health professional and recurring depression by another.

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