The New York Times and New York Magazine have the long knives out for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr.

But tell me, what precisely is it the DA’s office did wrong in the Strauss-Kahn case?

There was a quick indictment and serious terms to home confinement based upon what at the time seemed like a credible account of a sexual assault and an accused who was a substantial flight risk.  Had the DA’s office not acted quickly, and not imposed almost draconian terms on home confinement, the DA’s office risked a Roman Polanski-like situation of a sexual assault suspect fleeing to a safe haven beyond the reach of U.S. law.

Then the credibility of the alleged victim and her story began to fall apart, most particularly in the past two weeks. 

So the DA’s office did the right thing in disclosing the potentially exculpatory  information to the defense, and agreeing to release on personal recognizance, as the DA evaluated whether there even remains a case to be taken forward.   Should the DA simply have ignored the new evidence, or alternatively, precipitously used the new evidence as a reason to dismiss charges?  I think not.

William Saletan writing at Salon.com, catalogs the problems with the alleged victim’s story, and concludes:

Already, there are cries of concern that if the case disintegrates, it will destroy the credibility of rape victims or immigrants, while powerful abusers will go free. That’s the wrong conclusion. The unraveling of the Strauss-Kahn prosecution is a victory for justice, because investigators found ways to check the accuser’s credibility. Other accusers will pass such tests. This one didn’t. What the collapse of this case proves is that it’s possible to distinguish true rape accusations from false ones—and that the government, having staked its reputation on an accuser’s credibility, diligently investigated her and disclosed her lies. The system worked.

The system doesn’t always work, particularly for those (not just the “poor” but also the middle-class) who cannot afford investigators, or in prosecutor’s offices where winning is the primary goal.

But based upon what we know now, both the rights of an alleged crime victim and the rights of the accused were treated seriously by the state and subjected to the best evidence available at the time.  What’s wrong with that?