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Law & Government

The Crystal Mangum Duke Lacrosse Hoax Comes Up Against Court, Albeit Highly Indirectly


From Mangum v. Oxygen Media, LLC, decided Tuesday by James Dever III (E.D.N.C.):

On August 23, 2021, Crystal Gail Mangum ("Mangum" or "plaintiff") filed a pro se "libel and defamation" action against Oxygen Media, LLC and Jennifer Geisser ….

On April 3, 2011, Mangum stabbed her boyfriend Reginald Daye …. "Daye died a few days later due to complications from the stab wound." On November 22, 2013, a jury in Durham County Superior Court convicted Mangum of second-degree murder in connection with Daye's death…..

Mangum alleges that Oxygen Media defamed her on October 7, 2018, when it published on its online site "Murders A–Z" an article titled "Former Exotic Dancer Who Accused Duke Lacrosse Players of Sexual Assault Fatally Stabs Boyfriend." According to Mangum, the word "fatally" is inaccurate and defamatory. Mangum continues to deny that Daye died because she stabbed him.

The judge rejected the claim on statute of limitations ground, but also rejected a request that he recuse himself:

[Sidney Harr, who is attempting to represent Mangum,] suggests my connections to Duke Law School warrant my recusal. Harr specifically cites that I graduated from Duke Law School in 1987, was editor-in-chief of the Duke Law Journal as a student, currently teach courses there, and am on the law school's board of visitors.

Harr also cites Mangum's "acrimonious" relationship with Duke University after Mangum falsely accused several Duke lacrosse players of raping her. Moreover, Harr and Mangum believe that Daye died because of malpractice by Duke University Hospital medical personnel, not because Mangum stabbed Daye. Harr suggests that my connections to Duke Law School require recusal given Mangum's relationship to Duke University and his and Mangum's allegations concerning Duke University Hospital medical personnel who treated Daye….

Section 455(b)(1) [of Title 28] mandates recusal when a judge has personal bias toward a party or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceedings. Neither Duke University Hospital nor any current or former Duke University Hospital medical personnel are parties to this case. And my connections to Duke Law School have no relationship to Mangum and Oxygen Media, the actual parties in this lawsuit. Moreover, I have no personal knowledge of the care Daye received at Duke University Hospital after Mangum stabbed him. Accordingly, section 455(b)(1) does not require me to recuse in this case.

Section 455(a) states that a federal judge "shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned." A court must evaluate a recusal motion under section 455(a) on an objective basis…. A judge need not recuse "because of unsupported, irrational, or highly tenuous speculation." …

Considering all the facts and circumstances from the viewpoint of a reasonable, well-informed observer, my impartiality could not reasonably be questioned in this case. Contrary to Harr's arguments, Duke University's liability is not at issue in this case (i.e., Duke University would not be liable for any damages awarded against Oxygen Media). Duke University is not a party. Moreover, the jury in Mangum's criminal case, over which I did not preside, already decided Daye's cause of death and found, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Daye died because Mangum stabbed him. In light of the jury's findings in Mangum's criminal case, the question in this case is whether Oxygen Media (not Duke University) defamed Mangum. Because my connections to Duke Law School have no bearing on that question, a reasonable, well-informed observer could not reasonably question my impartiality in this case….