Thomas Sowell has written about the technique of "cooling out the mark" before. Now, he writes about it in the context of the Duke University Lacrosse team.
After a fraud has been perpetrated and it is only a matter of time before the victim finds out, it can still make a big difference whether the victim finds out suddenly or slowly over an extended period of time. This is called "cooling out the mark."
If the mark (the victim) finds out suddenly and immediately, instant outrage may lead to a call to the police, who can then get hot on the trail of the con man.
However, if the realization of having been taken begins to emerge at first as a sense of puzzlement, then as a sneaking suspicion, and ultimately -- after a passage of some time -- as a clear conclusion that a fraud has taken place, then the emotional impact is not nearly as strong.
The victim of the fraud may even be reluctant to go to the police, having had time to think about what a fool he may look like and how little chance there is now to do anything about it.
The announcement that the trial of the Duke lacrosse players has been postponed until the spring of 2007 may be District Attorney Nifong's way of beginning the process of "telling the truth slowly."
At some point, this case will have to be either prosecuted or dropped. If it is going to be prosecuted, there is no reason not to go full speed ahead right now. But if it is going to be dropped, or if Nifong knows that a judge is likely to throw it out of court, then the time at which that happens is crucial.
It was out of the question for Nifong to drop the case before the recent election, no matter how flimsy the evidence might be or how much of that evidence exonerates the accused instead of showing them to be guilty.
Even after being re-elected, the district attorney cannot let his indictment collapse in public while there is nationwide attention focussed on this case 24-7.
What will be different next year? The public will have either forgotten the case or be tired of hearing about it. The D.A. can even turn the case over to some lawyer on his staff to take into court and see it either get thrown out by the judge or fail to convince a jury.
We will all be tired of hearing about it by then. We are the marks who will be cooled out.
This is why the Constitution guarantees the right to a speedy trial. However, this case is under the laws of North Carolina, so it gets tried when the State is darn good and ready.
So I'm tagging this post as a reminder to follow the trial when it finally happens.
If it's as flimsy as it sounds from the news reports, someone needs to incur consequences for pushing it through the system in this fashion.