I am an attorney as well as a sportswriter. So let me lay out the case against Mike Nifong, the Durham DA who got re-elected solely on the strength of his attempt to burn three white lacrosse players at the stake in a predominently Black community for a crime they did not commit. In doing so, he ruined their lives and put them and their families through torture in front of a national audience.
It is now patently clear that Mike Nifong prosecuted the Duke Lacrosse players after he knew that their DNA was not anywhere on the “False Accuser’s” body.
That is her new name by the way – not the “alleged victim” or the “complainant” or the “victim” or even just “:the accuser” – she is The False Accuser, so lets call her exactly what she is.
It is also clear that he conspired with the DNA lab to conceal to the defendan’s and the court that evidence that overwhelmingly exonerated them. Nifong’s reaction to this bombshell revelation? “I was trying to avoid dragging any names through the mud.” I respectfully dissent – that’s what you did along, Mike. Once you knew that fact, you had an obligation to report it – that’s what people interested in justice do. As one pundit put it:
Every part of your body has DNA that is left wherever you have had bodily contact. When you shake someone’s hand, you leave your DNA. Each Duke student would have to have had a giant condom covering his whole body to avoid leaving DNA on someone he raped.
Where do these young men go to get their reputations back? Nowhere, that’s where. This episode will haunt them for decades. Here’s what another pundit, an outstanding female journalist had to say, (its not just men calling for Nifong’s disbarment, you know):
You can’t come across the smoking gun covered with fingerprints on it – come across it because you have the power of the state to collect all the evidence – and then decide to ignore it because they don’t match the fingerprints of the guy you’re prosecuting for the crime. You certainly can’t file the report from the lab for your eyes only. You have to tell the defendant that the smoking gun has someone else’s prints on it. He has a right to know that, and the prosecutor has a duty to tell him.
The people’s goal is winning, which doesn’t have to mean a perfect conviction rate.…The goal is supposed to be to convict the guy who did it, not frame the guy you’ve got.
What is going on in the prosecutors’ office in Durham North Carolina is disturbing in ways that go beyond the ugly allegations that started this case….The case has been characterized, since the outset, by a clear failure to follow the office’s own procedures and practices.
The identification procedures were unduly suggestive, limiting the universe from which her selections were made to men who were members of the team, thus ensuring that she would pick someone who had been at the party, where a line up with true third parties would not, and rightly so.
Nifong rigged the lineup. There was not a single possibility of an exoneration or selection of someone who was not a Duke Lacrosse player. This conduct is so egregious that most people agree even the sweeping immunity of protection normally afforded prosecutors may not protect Nifong’s wilful, tortious, opportunistic conduct in this case. I have never in all my years as a lawyer heard of attorneys and jurists considering that that immunity could ever be disregarded – but here it is, in black and white:
The doctrine is intended to protect prosecutors from frivolous and retaliatory actions. District Attorney Nifong’s crusade to convict three white Duke students of raping a black woman (race is a key factor in the case) has been so outrageous, however, that it reveals how the immunity invites and rewards abuse. On Dec. 15, Brian Meehan, head of a private DNA lab, testified under oath that he and Nifong agreed not to report exculpatory DNA results to the defense. They conspired to hide evidence that weakened the prosecution’s case.
Meanwhile, as of Oct. 27 (and presumably to this day), Nifong hadn’t even interviewed the accuser about her alleged rape….Immunity was never intended to shield intentional or egregiously bad acts by prosecutors. Check and balances in the legal system– for example, the power of State Bar Associations to disbar — are supposed to prevent abuse.
Is this a racially segregated issue? Hell no! Blacks and whites can stand together on the issue of justice and fairness, just ask one of my favorite writers, LaShawn Barber, who provides a refreshing perspective as well as the complaint filed by the North Carolina Bar charging Nifong officially with misconduct and ordering him to stand tall before the Disciplinary Committee.
Finally, Nifong will be the butt of jokes until after his possible disbarment and potential prosecution, so the vivacious and clever Mary Katharine Ham begins the skewering and takes us on a tour of things that did not happen in this case. Damning evidence MKH. You’d have made a crackerjack lawyer.
Here’s what I’d like to know…has this ever happened in any other cases Nifong handled? This is the first time he got caught, but is this his first transgression to secure a conviction? The DA’s office should open up every cases Nifong handled to be sure line-up procedures were fair and that all exculpatory DNA evidence was provided. Justice is not merely for athletes. Laws apply to everyone high and low or they are not laws at all. There should be a scrupulous and thorough review of Nifong’s work.
Mike Nifong, you embarrassed every prosecutor in this country. You embarrassed every lawyer in this country – including me. You embarrassed the law and the legal system. You are the kind of person that causes the proliferation of “lawyer jokes” and the general disdain for our once proud profession. You betrayed justice and the oath you swore to uphold when you took office not by election, but when you were selected to replace a leaving DA. Hang your head in shame.
You were not interested in divining the truth, you were interested in burning the accused because it would secure your election – an election you won by ill-gotten means! Live forever in infamy and as nothing more but a sad cautionary tale. Never darken the door of any lawyer who scrupulously and righteously fights for truth and justice. Hang your head in shame.
Mike Nifong, if you had your way, you would have incarcerated men you knew to be innocent for decades – and had them branded sexual predators and required under Megan’s law to report their whereabouts and be shunned, ostracized and hounded by their future communities, thus ruining their lives forever – even after their release from prison – all to secure your own political future. For goodness sake, one guy was at the ATM when the alleged rape occurred and you still tried to frame him. Hang your head in shame.
The coach lost his job. Several players transferred. The team canceled a season where they had a shot at winning a national championship. You lathered up every fringe organization you could find to hold sit-ins, protests and other forms of bring the case media attention. How angry must Duke University, by the way? They have egg all over their face because of you. Hell, you even got yourself on ESPN. Most importantly, you wanted to be elected, you wanted fame – well you got it in spades now. Hang your head in shame.
Mike Nifong must be disbarred and prosecuted. Secure him jail time. The message will be clear. The law does not tolerate prosecutors who play games with people’s lives. Justice demands it.