Memo to MNPD: Justice delayed really is justice denied

Sexual assault investigations simply are not that complex. The police interview the small number of relevant witnesses, gather what physical evidence they can, wait for the labs and then re-interview people whose statements conflict in hopes of finding the truth. When police get lucky, this process clearly reveals what actually happened. When they don't, the process produces conflicting statements, no way to choose among them and no further investigative recourse.

Either way, the whole investigation should take days, not months.

Yet here we are, five weeks after whatever events launched a sex-crimes investigation into four football players and the police won't even say when they expect to wrap it up.

Now, perhaps this really is the most complex sex crime investigation in history, and the police really are justified in taking so long to unravel its countless mysteries. If, however, that doesn't turn out to be the case, all involved should demand that heads roll at MNPD for leaving this thing needlessly in limbo for a month.

Not only has the delay created unimaginable torment for everyone directly involved, it has also done untold damage to the reputation of the university, the football program and the dozens of football players who haven't been accused of anything.

The open status of the case has led to far more media coverage than either a decision to drop the case OR a decision to file charges. It has made "sexual assault" the main concept that people have associated with Vanderbilt or its football players for 10 percent of an entire year — and the very vagueness of that term leads people to imagine things that are worse than almost any concrete allegation could be.

When I was a student, everyone believed that most city cops despised us enough to stick it to us whenever a plausible opportunity arrived. I'd like to think that people who investigate sex crimes are above dragging their feet to show that a few blue-collar guys have the power to punish thousands of us elitist snobs, but at the end of the day, assuming they cannot justify this delay, it doesn't much matter if it has arisen from malice or incompetence.

It just isn't acceptable to inflict this much damage on this many people for so long a period.

There is a reason why the concept that "justice delayed is justice denied" has echoed through Western Civilization for more than 2,000 years now, from Jerusalem in the time of Christ to the Magna Carta to MLK. It's a big f---ing deal, an idea that's at the core of our society. Perhaps someone needs to inform the cops in Nashville.

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