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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Duke Case: Putting the Fix In

Robert KC Johnson uses information from the Joe Neff article in the N&O to construct a more complete timeline of the investigation between March 16th and April 4th.

It shows that when DA Mike Nifong didn't have the evidence (whether a photo ID or DNA) he stepped in to pervert the system and rig the investigation:

This timeline reveals an investigation whose basic evidentiary goal veered dramatically whenever findings contradicted the district attorney’s public theories and political needs. The theories drove the search for evidence; the finding of evidence had no impact on the theories. As a result, the inquiry divided into three, distinct, segments.

First, from March 14 through March 21, the police employed standard tactics, showing the accuser a photo lineup that, more or less (less, in this case), conformed to the spirit of city guidelines. The accuser identified no one; her descriptions of at least two of her alleged assailants did not resemble anyone on the team.

The second stage began sometime between March 21 and March 23, when Nifong seized control of the case. The district attorney argued now that DNA, not results from a photo lineup, would provide the key evidence, and obtained an extraordinarily broad court order to get the evidence he wanted.

Then, no later than the morning of March 31, Nifong completely reversed himself: a photo lineup, not DNA, would supply the key evidence—even though, just 10 days earlier, he had gone to the court on the grounds that DNA, not photos, would make his case. In the new reality, moreover, authorities would simply pretend that the first photo lineup had never occurred. To ensure that someone would be picked that he could indict before the May primary, the district attorney ordered the police to conduct a lineup that violated Durham’s procedures by consisting solely of suspects, and by telling the accuser of this fact.
Robert KC Johnson follows that up with a letter to the Durham Herald-Sun:
Your Aug. 1 editorial commended D.A. Mike Nifong for stating, "I have not backed off from my initial assessment of the case." This remark deserves scorn, not praise.

First of all, Nifong's claim is untrue....
Joe Neff did a follow-up article answering questions about the case. One of the questions touches on Nifong's change in tactics:
Q: Does an early receipt of the negative results explain Mr. Nifong's complete reversal from "The DNA evidence requested will immediately rule out any innocent persons" in the March 23rd affidavit and his statement to the News & Observer that "By next week, we'll know precisely who was involved," to his statement on March 30th "How does DNA exonerate you? It's either a match or there's not a match... If the only thing that we ever have in this case is DNA, then we wouldn't have a case"?

A: Nifong did reverse his stance on the value of the DNA evidence sometime between March 23 and March 30. I can’t say when he learned of the DNA results, or what prompted the reversal. My understanding is that the crime lab will often call police or prosecutors to discuss the results over the phone before sending the paperwork.
What . . ., and when . . . ? [Robert KC Johnson | hnn.us, Aug. 9, 2006]
Nifong has failed [Robert KC Johnson letter | heraldsun.com, Aug. 11, 2006]
Your questions about the Duke lacrosse case [Joe Neff |N&O, Aug. 9, 2006]

Duke Lacrosse Case [TJN Archives]