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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Duke Hoax: Day #256

Updated - today's items:

Mike Nifong is in the hot seatGreg Fulton, Time.com:
Is the Duke DA Guilty As Charged? — Now that the North Carolina State Bar has filed a 17-page, 41-count ethics complaint against District Attorney Michael Nifong's handling of the Duke rape case, there's a different kind of New Year's countdown taking place in Durham: when and under what circumstances will Nifong leave office.

The Dec. 28 ethics charges are expected to be expanded when the state bar's grievance committee meets again Jan. 18. Like a grand jury, the committee meets periodically; the current ethics charges stem from its most recent meeting in October and cover public statements Nifong made about the case last March and April. At its next meeting, the committee will deal with revelations from a Dec. 15 court hearing in which the state's DNA expert admitted he and Nifong agreed to keep secret from the defense early DNA results showing no Duke lacrosse player could be implicated in an attack upon one of two exotic dancers hired for the March 14 house party...

The Human Piñata — The hits keep coming for the human piñata, Defendant Nifong. Yesterday, the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys issued an unprecedented statement denouncing Nifong’s hijacking of the Hoax. Today, Time Magazine asks whether Defendant Nifong is guilty as charged while reporting that the North Carolina State Bar intends to file additional charges against the Defendant. The editorial board of the News & Observer has finally demanded that Nifong recuse himself from the case. Perhaps the most telling sign that Nifong is nearing rock bottom comes from the Hoax defense attorneys, who called another one of Defendant Nifong’s bluffs on Friday by filing notice that they intended to call his own experts as witnesses for the defense...
Editorial, News & Observer:
Removal timeGiven serious N.C. State Bar accusations against Durham's D.A., he should remove himself from the Duke lacrosse case. For a while, it was called the Duke lacrosse rape case, and that was in the beginning of this long, unfortunate saga. A woman hired to dance at a party attended by Duke University lacrosse players said she was sexually assaulted. The story, which has played out since last March, has also fueled race and class issues -- the woman is black and not affluent at all, whereas the players are white and from privileged backgrounds. Allegations that the party-goers used racial slurs have been made.

At stage center has been Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong, an experienced prosecutor who was, as it happened, seeking election to that office for the first time. Nifong professed utter confidence in his case, and in the truthfulness of the woman's accusations. He gave multiple interviews to that effect. And, he won his election. Three former lacrosse players stand charged. Now it has come to this: The N.C. State Bar on Thursday accused Nifong of violating ethics rules with statements he made in numerous media interviews about the case. This has prejudiced justice in advance of trial, the Bar in effect says. . .

The State Bar's action only adds to the clarity of the right next step: Mike Nifong must leave the case.
comment: How can the News & Observer be so reckless? They should wait until they have more cover before they ask Nifong to remove himself from the case. A week ago they said it was "Nifong's Move." It was up to him to decide what to do next, but the N&O was worried that Nifong's initial "statements about the men seemed to cross the line of prosecutorial propriety." However, the News & Observer had previously documented, through their own reporting, all the main points that the State Bar made in its complaint against Nifong. They just chose to ignore their own reporting.

The News & Observer doesn't want the job of examining their own public officials. Leave that dirty work to others. Last Saturday, they passed the buck again:
From here on out, Nifong needs to be fair and cold-eyed in evaluating evidence as it continues to come to light and in assessing the strength of his case. He properly is being watched, and his conduct will need to be examined by the N.C. State Bar if the case continues to break apart.
This so called "case" has been breaking apart for over eight months. Back in the fall was the time to stop watching and start acting. But, the buck never stops at the News & Observer. For the News & Observer, it is always someone else's problem or responsibility to condemn injustice or "probe ... institutional actions and statements." Maybe when the Feds indict Nifong on criminal charges the N&O will feel it's safe enough to ask for his resignation. The editors of the News & Observer are sad sack sheep.

LieStoppers forum: The N&O could've done a lot better, 12/30 Editorial
Editorial, The Star-Ledger (NJ.com):
The prosecutor is guilty — The Duke University lacrosse story started out as a tale of college boys gone wild but has devolved into a story of a prosecutor gone bad or worse. Increasingly it appears Durham, N.C., District Attorney Michael Nifong, who was in the midst of a bid for re-election last spring, seized upon the case -- guaranteed to make headlines -- with little regard for finding out what really happened when a woman hired to entertain a lacrosse team at an off-campus party said she was gang-raped...

No date has been set for a hearing, but Nifong faces possible disbarment if the ethics charges are found to be true. In the meantime, he should be removed from the case. North Carolina law allows the trial judge to drop charges, remove lawyers from a case and, in the extreme, remove a district attorney from office for "willful misconduct." Serious consideration should be given to the latter.
KC Johnson: "The Prosecutor Is Guilty" (see comments)— After long ignoring the grossly unfair treatment of a resident of its state, Reade Seligmann, the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger weighed in this morning with a blistering editorial about Mike Nifong, whose behavior, the editors contend, can only be explained as “the product of incompetence, overzealousness or outright misconduct.”

latest Kemper comment/rumor at Wonderland:

KC, My Bar friend at lunch, er drinks, told me that at least one of the 32 Bar Counselors has written the other Counselors and wants to amend the current complaint against Nifungu to include the DNA outrage. To include a new charge would require a majority of the Counselors to agree. His thought was that they will wait and issue a new complaint. Mikey's ship is sinking VERY fast. I say again, THE LONG KNIVES ARE OUT!! Ho Ho Ho is off to jail he goes!!

Editorial, The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Time for Duke spotlight to shift to Nifong — This isn't just bad judgment. It's a shocking abuse of power. Given his plain motive – Nifong won re-election by depicting himself as the crusader who wouldn't let privileged white kids get away with brutalizing a young black woman – it is also despicable in its raw demagoguery. All this is why we look forward to the Durham DA having his own day in court.
Prof. John Banzhaf, Professor of Public Interest Law, GWU, via Friends of Duke University:
2 NC Docs Could Cinch Nifong's Personal Liability — Two important documents just filed in Durham County DA Michael Nifong's home state -- a formal disciplinary complaint filed by the North Carolina State Bar, and a demand by the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys that Nifong recuse himself -- not only further decrease the chances that the remaining sexual assault charges will ever be tried, but also dramatically increase the chances that Nifong will be found personally liable for prosecutorial misconduct, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf...
Eric Ferreri, News & Observer:
Defense claims Nifong's witness — Attorneys for three former Duke University lacrosse players accused of assaulting and kidnapping a stripper are staking a claim to one of District Attorney Mike Nifong's witnesses. Attorneys for defendants David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann filed notice Friday of their intent to use Brian Meehan, head of DNA Security in Burlington, as their own expert...
TalkLeft: Defense Files Notice of Intent to Call Meehan as Witness

NifongNews 14 Carolina/AP:
DAs group says Nifong should step down — The North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys said Friday the prosecutor at the center of the Duke lacrosse sexual assault case should recuse himself. The conference, which has no regulatory authority, is made up of all the state's elected district attorneys...

Recently Nifong has said little to the media and Friday was no different.

"I'm not really into the irony of talking to reporters about allegations that I've talked to reporters," Nifong told News 14 Carolina.

Michael Gaynor:
Duke case: When the end began — Mr. Nifong's pernicious performance in the Duke case has been the antithesis of what a professional prosecutor is supposed to do. Mr. Nifong appointed himself lead investigator in the case and then willfully refused offers to take polygraph tests, treated the dubious gang rape claim as true, ignored the truth, fooled a grand jury, tried to frame the defendants, concealed exculpatory evidence, poisoned the potential jury poll, exacerbated racial tensions, defamed people and generally postured and scapegoated with relish...

KC Johnson:
The Last 200 Hours — The last 200 hours have witnessed a tumultuous turn of events in the case. . . Mike Nifong dropped rape charges . . .the state bar publicly filed an ethics complaint . . . the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, Nifong’s peers, announced that “it is in the interest of justice and the effective administration of criminal justice that Mr. Nifong immediately withdraw and recuse himself from the prosecution of these cases . . . The defense filed a motion to summon Brian Meehan as its own witness...
related: LieStoppers forum — The 12 Days of Nifong's Christmas
John Stevenson, Herald-Sun The Organ:
Defense to use Nifong's witnesses — Defense lawyers in the Duke lacrosse sexual assault case indicated Friday they would use some of the prosecutor's own witnesses against him, including a DNA lab director who recently admitted under oath that he and District Attorney Mike Nifong agreed to withhold information favorable to three indicted suspects. Meanwhile, the State Conference Of District Attorneys late Friday called for Nifong to recuse himself from the case....

Victoria PetersonAlso Friday, a group of Durham citizens reportedly filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Justice Department asking for an investigation of the lacrosse case. The complaint contends the alleged victim had her civil rights violated by lacrosse players' use of racial epithets and alleges that Duke has failed to respond properly to half a dozen campus rapes "over the past several years."

It also calls for hate crime charges to be lodged against Finnerty for his recent conviction in Washington, D.C., on charges stemming from a confrontation with a gay man. Activist Victoria Peterson issued a press release announcing the complaint and said she faxed and mailed copies to the Justice Department on Friday. No one at the Justice Department's press office or civil rights office was available Friday to confirm that the complaint had been filed. Peterson would not disclose the other members of the group.
News & Observer:
Civil rights complaint filed in lacrosse case - A statement distributed by [Victoria] Peterson alleges that the accuser's civil rights were violated when lacrosse players tossed racial epithets at her and another exotic dancer the night of the alleged assault. The complaint also contends that officials at Duke University have failed to prosecute several rapes reported on campus. Peterson, an unsuccessful City Council candidate and political organizer, has been speaking publicly about the racial and political subtexts of the case since the allegations surfaced in March.
LieStoppers: Complaint to AG about a player
TalkLeft: Victoria Petersen complains
Andy Maciejewski (Newport News, VA) letter, Herald Sun:
Stubborn and misguided — He [Nifong] is a disgrace to the law profession, and if he had any dignity left at all, he would do the right thing and step down from his office. If I were a citizen in Durham I would be ashamed that Nifong represents me as district attorney. I look forward to the day the rest of the charges are either dropped or the defense makes Nifong look like an idiot in court and the jury finds not guilty on the remaining charges. . .

Stephen Boone (Garland, Texas) letter, Dallas Morning News:
DA Should Be Punished — District Attorney Mike Nifong's brutally corrupt prosecution of the Duke University lacrosse players for his own political benefit – when he had every indication the charges were false – deserves more than just removal from office. He should serve prison time...

Alan, Esq. blog:
The Walls Close in on Nifong — It is absolutely shocking that an entire organization of DA's have now publicly turned on Mike Nifong. If the prosecutors have turned on one of their own, it's all over. Frankly, Nifong has no more options. He cannot continue to prosecute a case where he himself is now facing the loss of his license. He also cannot simply drop the charges in the face of his own ethical dilemma. He must recuse himself from the case and allow another DA to allow this case to die the death it deserves...

John Schwade (Durham resident & psychologist at a state prison) TheDurhamNews.com:
Tenuous identification in rape case leaves a very weak case — Now that we know what Durham District Attorney Michael Nifong knew about the questionable evidence in the case of the Duke Lacrosse 3 prior to winning the Democratic primary in May and the general election in November, it is judicious to consider whether Nifong's pursuit of the "black vote" and his misunderstanding of black voters are the primary reasons he elected to prosecute the case and still insists that, if the black accuser identifies the white defendants as her alleged assailants at a February hearing, "I have an obligation to put that to a jury." . . .

Nor is there black solidarity with vengeful racists, false witnesses or prosecutors who subject defendants to trial when the evidence of their guilt is dubious. If, as it now appears, the only prosecution evidence is the no-wrong-answer identification procedure and the evolving testimony of the accuser, the remaining charges should be dismissed.

Marcella Chester, abyss2hope: rape survivor...blog:
Where Are The Ethics Complaints Against Lawyers Who Attack Alleged Rape Victims
(see comments) — If a prosecutor should be held to a high ethical standard, why aren't defense attorneys who make similar types of comments about alleged rape victims held to this same high standard? Don't the defense attorneys and other attorneys who have spoken publicly against this alleged victim risk prejudicing any criminal trial? Or is it okay as long as the prejudice only smears the character, credibility and reputation of alleged victims?...

Forum topics of note:

LieStoppers: Babe of the Hoax, Vote for your favorite
LieStoppers (humor): M. Nifong on Mike Nifong, *INTERVIEW*
related: Mike McCusker: Tony Soprano, You Kill Me!
Yesterday's (12/29) items:

John W. MashekOpinion - John W. Mashek, U.S. News & World Report:
D.A. in Hot Water Over Duke Rape Scandal - The runaway prosecutor in Durham, N.C., has been exposed for his dogged pursuit of the lacrosse players at Duke University. He has made a mess for himself. The North Carolina Bar Association needs to take a long and careful look at his handling of this nationally covered and unsavory matter. Are there any African-American leaders willing to speak out about the stripper's faulty story? There is only silence from such luminaries as Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton. Perhaps whites are fearful of being accused of racism if they venture a harsh opinion. Jackson and Sharpton seem ready to pounce immediately if there is any accusation of racial abuse....

Lara Setrakian, ABC News:
DAs Call for Prosecutor in Duke Lacrosse Case to Step Down In yet another moral blow to Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys called for the prosecutor to step down from the Duke lacrosse case. The group, which represents district attorneys from across North Carolina, said in a statement that "it is in the interest of justice and the effective administration of criminal justice that Mr. Nifong immediately withdraw and recuse himself from the prosecution."

"It's extraordinarily unusual and it means a great deal," said Joshua Marquis, a district attorney in Clatsop County, Ore. The district attorney group also called for the case to be reassigned and handed over to "another prosecutorial authority."
LieStoppers: NC Conference of District Attorneys — Nifong should recuse himself
FreeRepublic: DAs Call for Prosecutor in Duke Lacrosse Case to Step Down
Cash Michaels, Wilmington Journal/BlackPressUSA.com:
In the aftermath of the Durham District Attorney unexpectedly dropping first-degree forcible rape charges in the controversial Duke lacrosse sexual assault case, the NC NAACP insists that "there be no rush to judgment,” adding, “We must face the truth, and the justice that the truth demands."

Meanwhile Joseph Cheshire, one of the most prominent members of the Duke Three defense team, in an exclusive interview with the Carolinian/ Wilmington Journal newspapers, defends the defense motion that a “fair trial” cannot be conducted in Durham because of an alleged racial polarization, though he refuses to release the defenses’ telephone survey results to back that up....
LieStoppers forum: 12/29/06 Cash Michaels Article
TalkLeft: 12/29/06 Cash Michaels Article

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