In March 2006 the lacrosse team from Duke University had a party and paid two strippers to attend. One accused three players of rape. Instead of a trial, there were apologies from the media, disbarment and settlements. ESPN’s 30 for 30 “Fantastic Lies” is a story about what happens when people are concerned about every aspect of a criminal case except the evidence.
Once the accusations were released it became a media firestorm. A poor black woman accused three wealthy college white men of a crime of rape. The prosecutor conducted interview after interview stating that the players were uncooperative in the investigation. There were protests and the lacrosse coach was forced to resign. The media latched onto this case.
It wasn’t until pretrial motions that it became clear that there was never a case to begin with: from the lack of DNA to implausible timelines and no witness statements. What became clear were the political aspirations of the prosecutor and the lies he was willing to give to make his case against the players.
The documentary explores what happens in a community when a cocktail of race, gender, and privilege is allowed to explode. Everything is told from the perspective of the accused’s parents, journalists, and Duke staff. You never hear from the players, the accuser, or the police.
In the end, the media was duped, the prosecutor was jailed and disbarred, the accuser wound up in jail for an unrelated murder, and the players eventually won settlements from both Duke and Durham.
Seeing this from the parent’s point of view was interesting, but there were too many missing voices such as the police or the accuser. Overall, this was a really good documentary. It was a commentary on what happens when we as a society jump to conclusions instead of allowing the justice system do its job.