Double Standards on Racially Charged Criminal Accusations?

Does the Times operate with a double standard when it comes to racially charged criminal accusations?

Lisa Munoz reports Saturday on a hate-crime case in Long Beach, Calif., "Black Teenagers Convicted in Beating of 3 White Women."

Munoz's description of Kiana Alford, the prosecution's main witness, comes off as clearly slanted toward the defense: "Throughout the hearings, Assistant District Attorney Andrea Bouas hailed the prosecution's star witness, Kiana Alford, as 'a hero.' Ms. Alford, who is black, testified that she saw the entire attack and that despite the darkness, the crowd of people in the street and the fact that some of the defendants were wearing the same T-shirt, she was sure she had identified the correct people as the attackers."

Most of Munoz's article is devoted to the defense making a case in the press that they failed to make in court - the jury found nine black teenagers guilty of a hate-crime assault against three white women.

Munoz concludesas ifshe was detailing how the defense had won, even though it lost: "Mr. Williams and other defense lawyers pointed to the testimony of two other witnesses whose accounts differed from Ms. Alford's. They also said the three women had initially fought with the group and that there was evidence the victims had been drinking alcohol that night. The women denied drinking and provoking the attack.

"But primarily, the defense attacked Ms. Alford's credibility.

"'There is no way for her to have seen what she said she saw,' Mr. Williams said of Ms. Alford."

The Times' misgivings about the prosecution would be more credible if it hadn't swallowed its doubts about the far more flagrant flaws in the case of another prosecutor's star witness -the still-unnamed North Carolina stripper who made false charges of rape against three Duke lacrosse players in a case also loaded downwith racial meaning.

Although its 5,000-word front-page August 25, 2006 story acknowledged "major problems with the case," the nut graph summarized things in the accuser's favor: "By disclosing pieces of evidence favorable to the defendants, the defense has created an image of a case heading for the rocks. But an examination of the entire 1,850 pages of evidence gathered by the prosecution in the four months after the accusation yields a more ambiguous picture. It shows that while there are big weaknesses in Mr. Nifong's case, there is also a body of evidence to support his decision to take the matter to a jury."