Wednesday, December 31, 2008
The media has reined in any positive news stories that might put former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong in a positive light. For example it refuses to inform the public that Mr. Nifong is the only prosecutor ever to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception. It also refuses in large measure to acknowledge that a committee member of a group which supports Mr. Nifong filed a complaint with the State Bar against prosecutors James “Jim” E. Hardin and Freda Black for withholding exculpatory evidence (possibly a murder weapon) from the defense attorneys whose client was subsequently convicted and sentenced to life. The newpapers (News & Observer and Herald Sun) also refuse to run the comic strip “The MisAdventures of Super-Duper Cooper,” which would afford its readers another point of view and insight into the disbarment of Mr. Nifong and other injustices and disparities within the state’s criminal justice system.
The media is working closely with the state to see that Wilson prosecutor Bill Wolfe is protected from the complaint of prosecutorial misconduct due to the 39 month incarceration of James Arthur Johnson without probable cause. Furthermore, it is keeping the public ignorant about major events that are taking place in the “accessory after the fact” charge against Mr. Johnson. The News & Observer refused to even acknowledge that in November 2008, private sector special prosecutor (paid at extra expense by North Carolina taxpayers because no salaried state prosecutor was willing to prosecute such a frivolous case) W. David McFadyen decided to bring the case to court (again, wasting taxpayer money). McFadyen’s not prosecuting this case because Johnson (who solved the Brittany Willis murder) wiped his fingerprints off the victim’s car. He is vilifying Johnson and prosecuting him in order to protect prosecutor Bill Wolfe.
Additionally, the media is in cahoots with the Wilson prosecutors (the Attorney General’s Office, and the state) to prevent Johnson from having the appearance of being an actor who did the community service (and receive a reward) by having the friends and family of Brittany Willis renege on the $20,000.00 reward which Johnson clearly earned. The state, with the help of the media, has gone out of its way to destroy the reputation and life of this young African American boy (who had no prior criminal record, was a popular student, and, like Brittany Willis, loved soccer), in order to protect a prosecutor who had no ethical compass. The Wilson prosecutor had no physical evidence linking Johnson to the crime, and when their only witness (the vengeful confessed killer Kenneth Meeks) stated that he implicated Johnson only because Johnson had snitched on him. Lacking their star (albeit murderous) witness, Prosecutor Wolfe then arranged for two eyewitnesses (both with connections to the Wilson Police Department) to make his case. However, when Rev. Dr. William Barber, II, from the NAACP brought media attention to the case, the prosecutors thought better of using their phony witnesses, knowing they could not stand up under scrutiny outside of the Wilson city limits.
The Wilson prosecutors, with their ineptitude and malice, divided the city of Wilson largely along racial lines, and now the judge hearing the Johnson case, denied a change of venue motion from the defense last month. Instead, Judge Milton Fitch, Jr., to give the appearance of presiding over a fair trial, proposed busing in jurors from a neighboring county. All of these shenanigans are taking place and the News & Observer and other media are doing their part for the state by keeping quiet and keeping the public ignorant.
There is no doubt that the justice system is headed toward convicting a young man who helped authorities solve a heinous crime, in the interests of protecting a prosecutor who follows the tenet of "selective justice based on Class and Color," and at the wasteful expense of the Tar Heel taxpayers. The media will allow this travesty to take place. A travesty in magnitude that is second only to the prosecution, persecution and disbarment of Mr. Mike Nifong, an incorruptible prosecutor who gave 27 years of exemplary service to the state of North Carolina, a Christian, and a decent, honorable family man.
Governor Easley should put things in perspective. When it comes to the press and the media, he really has no grounds for complaining.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
· The state comes to its senses and, without condition, re-instates the law license, without restrictions, of Mike Nifong. This is the only fair and just option when one considers that: (1) Mr. Nifong is the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the State Bar since its inception, (2)that his hearing before the bar was marred by conflict of interest and pre-hearing statements, and (3) that the charges for which he was disbarred (withholding non-exculpatory, extraneous, irrelevant DNA evidence from the defense team) was far less egregious than actions committed by other prosecutors (including withholding exculpatory evidence, fabricating crucial evidence, and destroying material evidence).
· Fair and just resolution of the state’s fiasco of a case against James Arthur Johnson, the hero in solving the murder of Wilson teen Brittany Willis. Such a resolution would include: (1) the immediate dismissal of the bogus “accessory after the fact” charge, (2) payment of the $20,000.00 reward which he earned for solving the crime, (3) a proclamation of “innocent” by the governor, and (4) the payment of the measly compensation of $20,000.00/year of wrongful incarceration.
· The proclamation of “innocent” and the compensatory payment for the wrongful incarceration of Erick Daniels, who, as a middle school student was unjustly convicted of armed robbery based solely on the shape of his eyebrows by the victim/witness.
· The release from jail of Alan Gell, who was incarcerated by a vindictive justice system on a cockamamie and convoluted charge (cooked up by a district attorney) that defies all logic.
· That novelist Michael Peterson be given a new trial (or that murder charges against him be dropped), based on the recent revelation that exculpatory evidence (the existence and test results of a possible murder weapon) was withheld by state prosecutors from Mr. Peterson’s defense team.
· That state-wide media frees itself from the tethers of the NC Attorney General’s Office and all state prosecutors, and begins to report fairly and without bias. Giving coverage to criminal justice stories that merit the attention of the public would be a refreshing and welcomed change, indeed.
There are many other justice issues we would like to see become a reality in North Carolina, but the six referenced above are those to which we give the highest priority.
We, the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong, are not going to just wish for the aforementioned changes, but we are going to work for them throughout 2009, and beyond.
Here’s wishing all readers of this blog the very best in 2009. May it be one of good health and happiness for you and your family.
- Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
The new web site will contain the same research and investigative reports (and more), as well as related documents, information about members of the “Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong”, and, of course, the comic strip “The MisAdventures of Super-Duper Cooper.” “Super-Duper”’s Episode II, titled “To Hell and Back: Travails of the Un-Indicted Duke LAXers,” is now complete and will be presented on the new web site in the near future. In addition, multimedia will be an integral part of the new site.
We will continue to utilize the web site to bring attention to North Carolina’s selective injustice to Mike Nifong, and others, such as, James Arthur Johnson, Theodore Williams, and Alan Gell. And, of course we will continue our crusade for “equal justice for all North Carolinians,” which begins with justice for Mr. Nifong.
www.justice4nifong.com is a web site which will be state of the art, cutting edge, and, in essence, an organic creation… continuing to change, grow, and improve.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The media, charged with keeping the public informed of newsworthy articles related to, among other things, the justice system, has used its position to keep the people of North Carolina ignorant of important issues that would expose the state justice system to be one following the tenet of selective justice based on Class and Color. The most recent evidence is a story that was buried on the sixth page of the “News & Observer” Triangle & State section of the Sunday, December 14, 2008 issue. The article, titled “Poster was evidence, high court says,” is about Stanly County prosecutors who violated a man’s rights by destroying evidence needed for his defense, according to the NC Supreme Court. Although the defendant is named in the article, the Stanly County prosecutors are not. Another example of the “News & Observer” withholding the names of the prosecutors alleged of wrongdoing comes from an article, again buried on the fourth page of the Triangle & State section of the December 4, 2008 issue titled “Hearing slated in Peterson case.” In this article about a hearing to determine whether a convicted murderer should have a re-trial because the prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense team, staff writer Anne Blythe fails to mention the names of the prosecutors of the alleged misconduct. The prosecutors were James “Jim” E. Hardin, Jr. (now a Superior Court judge) and Durham prosecutor Freda Black. When I filed a complaint with the State Bar against Hardin and Black, and notified the newspaper, it refused to make note of it and remained silent.
Remaining silent is something the “News & Observer” has been doing recently with the James Arthur Johnson case. There has been much movement in the case during the month of November 2008, but the paper has not mentioned any of the developments, which include the decision by the judge to hold the trial in the racially divided city of Wilson, despite a motion by the defense attorney for a change of venue. The “accessory after the fact” charge, which special prosecutor Belinda Foster of Forsyth County was forced to file by her boss (Forsyth District Attorney Thomas Keith), is without merit and was filed only to protect Wilson prosecutor Bill Wolfe from a complaint filed with the State Bar by the NAACP.
The principle basis for my outrage at the disbarment of Mike Nifong is the fact that he is the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception. Yet, this is an issue that I have never heard addressed or even mentioned by the media, either locally or nationally. The reason the media remains silent about this fact is that it does not want the public to think for itself. If the people knew that Mr. Nifong is the only NC prosecutor ever to be disbarred, they might come to the conclusion that he was selectively singled out for prosecution by the State Bar and excessively disciplined. Mr. Nifong is alleged to have withheld, from the defense, incidental, non-exculpatory, irrelevant information that was of absolutely no value to the defense, and he is disbarred. Compare that with prosecutors who withhold exculpatory (murder-weapon) evidence from the defense team, and prosecutors who destroy evidence that the defense needs to support its case. Nothing is going to happen to those prosecutors, and a good indication of that is because the media will go out of its way to conceal the name of the prosecutors, or withhold doing a story about it altogether.
Yes, there is no doubt that the media is in cahoots with the state in efforts to uphold its tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color.” Ted Vaden, Public Editor for the “News & Observer” titled his December 14, 2008 editorial column “The watchdog still barks – and bites.” The truth is that when it comes to the justice system in the state of North Carolina, this newspaper is not a watchdog, but a lap dog… a dog that does the bidding of its masters, the state attorney general, State Bar, and other state officials and agencies.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Today’s column also mentioned that Mr. Neff’s five part series about the Duke Lacrosse case and the “prosecutorial misconduct of Mike Nifong” garnered honors by the NC Bar Association and the NC Press Association, and was a finalist for an Investigative Reporters and Editors Award. I do not consider that much of an accomplishment. All that is required is to write or do something negative against Mr. Nifong and that will automatically qualify one for an award. The taxi cab driver who vouched that he had given Reid Seligman a ride home from the lacrosse party received a Heroes award (from the Reader’s Digest, I believe).
The person who deserves an award for being a hero is James Arthur Johnson, the African American young man who risked breaking the “no snitch” rule of the streets in order to turn over a violent criminal to the Wilson police. Instead, due to prosecutorial misconduct of Bill Wolfe, Johnson was incarcerated for 39 months on murder charges for which he was threatened with execution. The prosecution team, which had no case, used plan B to extricate themselves from their predicament. Plan B consisted of having an “independent” special prosecutor come in and drop the charges of murder, kidnapping, rape, and armed robbery, and then lodge a charge of “accessory after the fact” because Johnson had stated that while under duress he had wiped fingerprint off of the victim’s SUV.
The News & Observer has been purposely holding back coverage of what has recently transpired in the case. (Because the Administrative Office of the Courts had been unable to find a state salaried prosecutor willing to prosecute the frivolous “accessory” case against Johnson, Private Sector Special Prosecutor W. David McFadyen was hired at extra taxpayer expense to pursue this case.) The Brittany Willis murder case, which by consensus has been considered to have been terribly mismanaged by the Wilson police and prosecutors has racially divided the city (the confessed killer is an African American, and the teenage female victim is white). In November 2008, Johnson’s defense attorney requested a change of venue from the city of Wilson, and the private sector prosecutor was agreeable to the motion. However, Judge Milton F. Fitch, Jr., without giving any explanation, refused, stating that he wanted to keep the trial in Wilson, and that he also wanted to be the judge for the trial. His so-called remedy to give appearances of an unbiased jury was to bring in jurors selected from outside Wilson’s county. He initially agreed to have a jury selected from Wake County, and then he changed his mind and decided to have the jurors picked from Edgecombe County, a neighboring county. All of these actions are of major significance, are unjust, and do not bode well for the defendant or justice. The News & Observer’s position is to keep its readers ignorant about the state’s justice system malfeasance that is taking place in this case. To date they have refused to write about these recent developments.
Another issue in the Johnson case that warrants attention is the twenty thousand dollar ($20,000.00) reward that was offered by the family and friends of Brittany Willis for information leading to Ms. Willis’s murderer. James Johnson earned that reward because he turned in the murderer who later confessed to the crime. The killer, after learning from police investigators that Johnson had “snitched” on him, then implicated Johnson in the crime out of anger. The Wilson police even used the reward as a motive for Johnson coming forward to the police. The initial Wilson police version is as follows: James Johnson, with a friend, robs, kidnaps, and rapes Brittany Willis. James then kills her. Days later, when the $20,000 reward is offered by family and friends of Brittany Willis, James (who had never been in trouble with the police, had no criminal record, and was considering soccer athletic scholarships to college at the time) decided to accuse his friend of the crime in order to collect the reward. About four and a half years after Johnson gave information to the police that resulted in the arrest and conviction of the confessed perpetrator, Mr. Johnson has not been paid the reward that was offered.
Why? Is it possible that the prosecution team requested that the reward not be paid, for by doing so, it would be favorable to Johnson’s public perception, and make the prosecution against him more difficult? I asked reporters at the Wilson Times to look into the matter, but they refused. The News & Observer likewise refused to investigate or offer and editorial opinion about the matter. One News & Observer editor did tell me, however, that it was not against the law for a private citizen to offer a reward and then renege on it.
The bottom line is that the local media, especially the News & Observer is as selective in the stories that it publishes, as the Attorney General’s Office and state prosecutors are in their application of the law. The application of justice in North Carolina is selective, based on Class and Color, and that is why an attorney, of Mike Nifong’s stature, reputation, and 27 years of exemplary service to the state of North Carolina, has been disbarred (the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the NC State Bar since its inception), prosecuted, persecuted, and sentenced to jail. Selective justice is also why the state is going out of its way, at taxpayer expense, to protect Wilson prosecutor Bill Wolfe while vilifying the hero James Arthur Johnson. Selective justice is also why the North Carolina State Bar will not take any action on a complaint (filed with it on December 9, 2008) of prosecutorial misconduct against former Mike Petereson prosecutor Jame “Jim” E. Hardin, Jr. (currently serving as a Superior Court judge) and Durham prosecutor Freda Black for withholding exculpatory evidence from the defendant’s legal team (the existence of a possible murder weapon and tests its lab ran on it).
The media, by its selective coverage of news events and subjects of editorial it chooses to publish, is complicit in the injustice that continues to be administered in the state of North Carolina.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Mr. Johnson was held without trial in the Brittany Willis murder case for 39 months before charges of murder, rape, kidnapping, and armed robbery were dropped by a special prosecutor, Belinda Foster, an assistant district attorney from Forsyth County. Ms. Foster, who was forced by her boss, Forsyth District Attorney Tom Keith, to level the “accessory after the fact” charge against Johnson, did so only on the condition that she not be forced to prosecute the frivolous case. The North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts could not find among its nearly 600 state prosecutors one who was willing to take on this flawed case, finally arranged for private sector prosecutor W. David McFadyen to take the case as a special prosecutor, at extra taxpayer expense.
Although James Johnson was a young man with a promising future, no prior run ins with the law, was fielding offers for a college soccer scholarship (the love of a sport which was shared by him and the unfortunate victim Brittany Willis), and provided Wilson police with name of the perpetrator of the Willis murder despite his personal risk of breaking the “no snitch” rule of the streets, Wilson Prosecutor Bill Wolfe built a case against him based solely on statements made by the confessed killer (after he was told by police that James “snitched” on him). Years later, the killer recanted the statements which implicated James Johnson, stating that they were made because he was angry at the time for Johnson turning him over to the police.
So, although James Johnson had no connection or participation in the crimes against Ms. Willis, he is being savagely pursued by Private Sector Prosecutor McFadyen, at taxpayer
expense, because he wiped fingerprints off the victim’s SUV, even though that forensic evidence had no relevance in the prosecution of the confessed killer.
James Johnson has already languished in jail for 39 months on charges that were eventually dropped, so what does the prosecution hope to accomplish by continuing on with this nonsense? Have the young man without a criminal record, who (though not obligated by law) turned in the killer to the police, spend more time in jail? That may be part of the reason for taking this case to trial, but the main underlying reason for this waste of court time and taxpayer money is to protect Prosecutor Bill Wolfe from a charge of prosecutorial misconduct filed with the State Bar by the NAACP. Vilifying James Johnson by proceeding with the case is part of the plan of attack to try and justify the many months Johnson was incarcerated due to Wolfe’s misconduct. Another facet is to deprive Johnson of the reward money offered by the family and friends of Brittany Willis ($20,000.00) which he earned. For him to receive a reward would insinuate that he performed a positive community service, and fly against the image the prosecutors wanted to paint of him.
The city of Wilson has been torn apart by this case because of the actions and statements of the police and prosecutors. After the killer recanted and the prosecutors were left without a case, Prosecutor Wolfe manufactured two eyewitnesses (both with ties to the Wilson police department – one being a retired Wilson police officer). The case was going to proceed with their testimony when Dr. Rev. William Barber II of the NAACP became involved and brought media attention to the case. It was then and only then that the Wolfe’s prosecutorial team decided the scrutiny would be too much and that their “eyewitnesses” would not hold up. Therefore, they quietly backtracked, and made no further mention of them.
Defense attorney Irving Joyner wanted to seek a change of venue from that divided county, and the private sector prosecutor agreed to the motion, however, Judge Fitch refused. He did not give a reason for his refusal to change venue. Judge Fitch suggested that a jury be selected from outside the county and transported to the Wilson Court. Initially he agreed to having a jury selected from Wake County, but then used the feeble excuse that the courthouse was being renovated and that there wasn’t sufficient space for the selection to take place. Without considering Durham or Orange County, Fitch decides to select a jury from neighboring Edgecombe County.
Then, Fitch told the trial court administrator William Nicholls that he wanted to keep the case. Again, he did not give an explanation why.
All of this does not bode well for defendant James Arthur Johnson. What is obvious is that if Judge Fitch was independent, fair-minded, and concerned about the city of Wilson and the state of North Carolina, he would have immediately dismissed the case presented by McFadyen against Johnson. The state is not holding back any stops to protect its prosecutors of selective justice. It is only the rare prosecutor who works by the principle of “equal justice for all” (Mike Nifong) who the state will abandon, and then set out to make of him/her an example.
If true justice existed in the state of North Carolina:
1. the special prosecutor would not have pursued the “accessory after the fact case;”
2. the judge, upon receiving the “accessory after the fact” case would have dismissed it;
3. the judge, if proceeding with the trial, would agree to a change of venue; and
4. if the judge was going to bus in a jury to Wilson from another county, the jury would come from Wake, Orange, Durham, or another county that is not adjacent to Wilson’s county.
With his “What happens in Wilson, stays in Wilson” mentality, Judge Milton Fitch Jr. has made the case that he should be taken off the James Johnson case, and that it should be assigned to another judge.
Monday, December 1, 2008
As is obvious, the only reason this case is being brought is to protect Wilson prosecutor Bill Wolfe from a complaint of prosecutorial misconduct (for the 39 month incarceration of James Johnson on charges of murder, rape, kidnapping, and armed robbery despite lack of physical evidence or probable cause). However, W. David McFadyen would like the public to believe that his extensive (more than eight months) investigation gives credibility to his findings for proceeding ahead with the trial against Mr. Johnson. Not only is paying for McFadyen’s services a waste of taxpayer money, but the trial itself will unnecessarily divert taxpayer dollars from providing services and programs to the state’s people and communities during these economically challenging times.
What I find particularly alarming, and a very ominous sign, is the fact that Wilson Superior Court Judge Milton Fitch Jr. refuses to change the venue for the trial. Wilson is a city that has been torn apart because of the actions of its police and prosecutors, especially Bill Wolfe. Judge Fitch said that he wanted to keep the trial in Wilson, but did not give a reason, according to the article posted by WRAL-TV. Instead, he wants a jury picked from Wake County and transferred to Wilson for the trial. Does he really believe that busing in a jury from Wake County will lend itself to a fairer proceeding? It is a cockamamie idea, which no unbiased arbiter would even suggest. What is obvious though is that Judge Fitch should not be the one presiding over this trial.
Whatever the outcome of the trial, private sector prosecutor W. David McFayden, like Special Prosecutor Belinda Foster before him, has done his job by deciding to take the flimsy case to trial. It bolsters Wolfe’s actions in holding James Johnson in jail for 39 months without a trial. And although the North Carolina State Bar had no intention of taking any action against Wolfe to begin with, it can now point to McFadyen’s actions and claim that Wolfe was indeed acting as a minister of justice when he incarcerated James Johnson and threatened him with a capital murder charge despite the lack of forensic evidence or probable cause.
This sordid exercise only reinforces the fact that prosecutors who abide by the state’s tenet of "selective justice based on Class and Color" will be protected to the fullest measure (even if it requires the use of taxpayer money) by the state’s Attorney General’s Office and the NC State Bar. Former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong, a proponent and practitioner of the principle of "equal justice for all," therefore will remain the only prosecutor to be disbarred or severely disciplined by the State Bar since its inception.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Ho-hum. Another day, another convict removed from death row, and another NC prosecutor withholding exculpatory evidence.
Ten years ago, a Halifax County jury sentenced Clinton Cebert Smith to death for allegedly poisoning his own daughter. His attorneys say that Smith, who can’t read or write, is severely retarded, with an IQ of 70, or below, and could not have dreamed up or carried out the plan to poison his daughter and others. Furthermore his attorneys state that the ruling to remove Smith from execution is another sign of his innocence. They contend that evidence has been hidden by the prosecutors from the defense, that an important prosecution witness gave inconsistent testimony, and that the initial defense team offered inadequate representation.
An expert witness, toxicologist Darrell Sumner of Wake Forest University faxed a letter to the original Halifax County prosecutor W. Robert Caudle II, in which he stated that he did not believe that there was sufficient poison to cause illness, much less death in the Smith case. Prosecutor Caudle withheld this exculpatory evidence from the defense team before and during Smith’s trial.
Special Deputy Attorney General Valerie Spaulding, who must have gotten IQ mixed up with GPA, states that Smith has borderline intellectual functioning. With a GPA, a score of 70 is a C average grade, however, that same score is equivalent to severe retardation when applied to an IQ score.
Like other recent cases of prosecutorial misconduct where prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence from defense attorneys, I do not expect the North Carolina State Bar or attorney general to take any action against them. In fact, they will go to extremes to protect them because the defendants they prosecuted were disenfranchised, of color, and/or retarded, unlike the Duke Lacrosse case where three students from families of wealth, status, and privilege faced charges by Durham prosecutor Mike Nifong. (Take, for example, the Floyd Brown case. He was held for 14 years without a trial, on a charge that was based on a false and fabricated confession attributed to Brown by the prosecutors.)
So, where is the justice when former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong is disbarred for allegedly withholding non-exculpatory evidence (unidentified male DNA found in a rape kit) that had absolutely no relevance in the Duke Lacrosse case?
State Superior Court Judge John R. Jolly, Jr. should be commended for doing the right thing and removing Mr. Smith from death row. It is high time that Attorney General Roy Cooper and the North Carolina State Bar do the right thing and re-instate Mike Nifong’s license to practice law, without restrictions, in the state of North Carolina. A heart-felt apology to Mr. Nifong would also be appropriate.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Unfortunately, this is but one of few instances where individuals in position of power and authority have, in essence, realized and admitted that they made a mistake, and took responsibility for it by correcting it. I applaud Judge Fox for doing the right thing.
The executive director of the North Carolina State Bar, Mr. L. Thomas Lunsford and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper could learn a great deal from the example set by Honorable Judge Fox. They need to take responsibility for the excessively unjust disciplinary action meted out to former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong (disbarment), and correct their actions by re-instating, without conditions, Mr. Nifong’s license to practice law in the state of North Carolina, without restrictions. (Mr. Nifong is the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the NC State Bar since its inception.)
This corrective measure is long overdue, especially when one considers not only past prosecutorial misconduct by other prosecutors which is far more egregious than what Mr. Nifong has been accused of, but of more recent disclosures of serious prosecutorial misconduct. For example, in the November 13, 2008 “News & Observer,” an article by staff writer Anne Blythe revealed that prosecutors withheld from the defense attorneys of Michael Peterson information about a tire iron which had been found near the scene of the murder for which he was convicted. Prosecutors claimed that Mr. Peterson had beaten his wife to death with a fireplace poker, and yet they withheld information from the defense team of a possible murder weapon.
Withholding a possible murder weapon from defense attorneys is markedly more severe than withholding non-exculpatory information about multiple, un-identified DNA found in a rape kit exam, as occurred in the Duke Lacrosse case.
Furthermore, in keeping with its anti-Nifong policy reporter Blythe neglected to mention the names of the prosecutors who withheld that very important evidence. It is my understanding that former Durham District Attorney James Hardin (who has been elevated to a judge) and prosecutor Freda Black prosecuted the case against Mr. Peterson. However, because of the selective nature of North Carolina (based on Class and Color) I do not anticipate that either of them will be brought before the State Bar. Nor do I expect that they will be disbarred.
What I hope is that Mr. Lunsford and Attorney General Cooper would take a page from the Honorable Judge Carl Fox’s book by realizing the errors of their ways, and taking immediate action to correct them. This would amount to the NC State Bar's re-instatement of Mr. Mike Nifong’s license to practice law.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
N & O editorials continue to skirt the real issue: the state’s tenet of "selective justice based on Class and Color."
The problem, of course, lies much deeper than what appears on the surface. The core of the North Carolina justice system is based on the tenet of "selective justice based on Class and Color." Such a system encourages the despicable actions of the four students. What those students learned when they were not charged with a crime for threatening the life of the PRESIDENT-ELECT (and using the "n-word" in the process), is that in North Carolina, under head prosecutor Roy Cooper (the attorney general), class and color matter.
The News & Observer, which lionizes the late Senator Jesse Helms (referring to him as an "iconic statesman who spoke his mind"), could take a major step in challenging this state’s selective justice system, but it has opted not to do so. I, personally, have challenged the editorial staff to speak up about the injustice against former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong, but they refuse to do so, or give me a reason for their refusal. The newspaper refuses to participate in a questionnaire about the Duke Lacrosse case, for fear that their responses would be favorable to Mr. Nifong. The newspaper’s editorial staff and columnists, refuse to broach the subject, which screams of injustice. How is it possible for Mr. Nifong to be the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception? Especially when other prosecutors, such as Anson County prosecutor Michael Parker used a fabricated confession to charge a mentally retarded African American man (Floyd Brown) with murder (and no physical evidence linking Brown to the crime), and then had him incarcerated for fourteen years without a trial. Mr. Nifong, on the other hand worked for 27 years as a North Carolina state prosecutor under the principle of "equal justice for all." An honorable, Christian family man, he was recommended to fill the Durham district attorney position because of his stellar reputation. However, because Mr. Nifong did not abide by Duke University’s game plan, and proceeded to charge three Duke athletes from families of wealth, status, and privilege, he has been unjustly and severely persecuted and punished by the attorney general and others in order to send a message to other prosecutors.
The message that the state wants to send to its prosecutors is that the state will go out of its way to protect them as long as they follow the "Selective Justice Tenet." The most recent example is the extreme measures undertaken to shield Wilson Assistant District Attorney Bill Wolfe from a "prosecutorial misconduct" complaint lodged with the State Bar by the NAACP. Despite the current financial crisis that has consumed the nation and this state, no one in the state’s justice department or media (including the News & Observer) is concerned about taxpayer money that is being wasted (in the hiring of private sector prosecutor David McFadyen) to vilify the hero James Arthur Johnson. The News & Observer will not even speak up about how the family and friends of Brittany Willis reneged on the $20,000.00 reward that James Johnson earned by leading Wilson police to the perpetrator, who has confessed. James Johnson was wrongly incarcerated for 39 months, and yet he has not been proclaimed "innocent" by the attorney general. Governor Mike Easley has no problem with spending nine million dollars ($9,000,000.00) for a new jet for the state, but yet he refuses to pay a paltry $20,000.00 per year for the wrongly incarcerated disenfranchised, "underprivileged" and people of color.
The problems with the justice system of North Carolina emanate from its tenet of "selective justice based on Class and Color" and at the heart of the injustice is the horrendous treatment of Mike Nifong. The Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong believes that the state of North Carolina should be held accountable for its errors and that at the minimum, Mr. Nifong’s license to practice law in the state of North Carolina should be re-instated.
For some time I have been trying to find out what view the editorial staff of the News & Observer has regarding the aforementioned issues. They have essentially elected to remain silent and ignore me, but by doing so, they are making a mockery of their pledge to be "the tocsin and to devote itself to the policies of equality and justice to the underprivileged."
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Unlike the prosecutor in the Duke Lacrosse Decision who was disbarred, fired, forced to serve time in jail, and an unsuccessful attempt was made by Roy Cooper to have the federal government investigate the prosecutor for violating the civil rights of the lacrosse defendants, the prosecutors of the other cases received no disciplinary action or a slap on the wrist at best.
When it comes to social justice and the concept "equal justice for all," Attorney General Cooper does not have an admirable record. If I were his campaign manager I would try to suppress it by not even bringing up the "Duke Lacrosse Decision." But then again, maybe he feels that a tenet of "selective justice based on Class and Color" is what the North Carolinian voting public wants.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Work is half way completed on Episode II, titled "To Hell and Back: Travails of the Un-indicted Duke LAXers." It follows the absurd lawsuit filed by high-powered Washington (D.C.) attorneys on behalf of 38 party-going, fun-loving Duke lacrosse athletes who are trying to cash in on the financial windfall that the three indicted student-athletes enjoy. According to reliable sources, the three each received a settlement of seven million dollars ($7,000,000.00) from Duke University for reasons which still remain unknown to me. Duke University folded before the students' attorneys, giving them exorbitant compensation and rewarding them for taking part in a raucous party for which the lacrosse team was infamous. Anyway, Part 1 of Episode II should be posted on the justice4nifong web site within three or four weeks.
Monday, October 20, 2008
On the Sunday, October 19, 2008, editorial page of the News & Observer, was the following article: "Our Endorsement: U.S. President – It’s Obama." Now, I applaud the newspaper not because it selected Obama (which reinforces my belief that the staff at the newspaper is very intelligent), but because it made its endorsement known before the November 4th election. In other words, it acted editorially proactively.
All too often, the News & Observer editorial staff waits until after the resolution of a crisis before making its position known. This is especially evident in criminal justice cases where innocent, poor, people of color (usually) have languished in jail, convicted by the flawed and prejudicial actions of the prosecutors. Recent cases include those of Erick Daniels who was in jail for seven years (from the age of 15 to 22), or James Arthur Johnson who was incarcerated for 39 months without a trial.
Erick Daniels’s release came about only after the Independent Weekly did an in-depth cover story about the case in May 2007. And James Johnson’s release was prompted by the actions of the NAACP under Rev. Dr. William Barber. They brought the media spotlight on the case which forced the Wilson prosecutors to back-peddle. The News & Observer’s editorial staff was quick to write semi-scathing opinions after the young men were released, but it remained silent while the boys languished in jail. Had the newspaper taken a proactive stance and wrote about the injustice in these cases before the two were released, the wheels of justice might have turned sooner in their cases.
For some time now I have implored the editorial staff of the News & Observer to write about the injustice of the disbarment of former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong. For Mr. Nifong to be the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception is totally preposterous. Especially when you take into consideration other acts of prosecutorial misconduct that are far more egregious than anything that Mr. Nifong is accused of doing. Those prosecutors, Anson District Attorney Michael Parker, Prosecutors David Hoke and Debra Graves, Prosecutors Ken Honeycutt and Scott Brewer, Durham Prosecutor Freda Black, and other North Carolina prosecutors, are responsible for many innocent people spending many years wrongfully incarcerated, and yet they are not even disciplined. The Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong would, again, request that the editorial staff of the News & Observer let its position be known as to where it stands regarding the fairness of the disbarment of Mr. Nifong.
Pressing issues that the newspaper’s editorial staff should proactively make declarations about include the following:
1) The aforementioned unjust disbarment of Mike Nifong;
2) The state’s wasteful spending of money to W. David McFadyen (a prosecutor from the private sector) to conduct an investigation into the "accessory after the fact" charge against James Johnson (which is being conducted for the sole purpose of vilifying Johnson in order to help defend Prosecutor Bill Wolfe from a complaint lodged with the Bar against him by the NAACP); and
3) The failure of the family and friends to pay James Johnson the $20,000.00 reward which he earned for solving the murder, rape, and kidnapping of Brittany Willis. Because they reneged on their reward offer (in large measure, I believe, because of the actions of Wilson police and prosecutors), the use of reward money as an incentive for the public to get involved and help solve crimes is greatly diminished, in addition to being unfair to James Johnson.
To be critical of the state’s justice system is not an easy undertaking, as one risks subjecting himself/herself to retaliation from the Attorney General’s Office and other administration officials and agencies. However, I believe that the newspaper owes it to the public to protect the public by voicing its well-respected opinions on vital issues that affect the lives of all North Carolinians.
Friday, October 17, 2008
In future blogs, we will address issues of prosecutorial misconduct and disparity of discipline of other prosecutors when compared with Mike Nifong. Mr. Scott Huminski is an authority on prosecutorial misconduct, and has been actively working to protect the public from injustice dispensed by these prosecutors. As an expert, we value his insights and comments, such as that quoted below:
"We have prosecutors in this country actively committing felonies in the scope and duty of their work without any outrage or enforcement. The actions taken against Nifong are wildly disproportionate to the alleged conduct and contrary to the standard of conduct other prosecutors are held to." -- scott huminski
Without a doubt, Mr. Huminski's assessment with respect to the justice system in North Carolina is right on target.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
At the bottom of the front page of the October 9, 2008 News & Observer, is an article by staff writer Mark Johnson titled “State’s jet purchase is off, but can we get back the deposit?” First of all, the deposit was earnest money, and since the state reneged on its intention of purchasing the jet, it is not entitled to receive that money back. It should not even attempt to get it back. Sure, it’s a quarter of a million taxpayer dollars down the drain, but its better than wasting an additional nine million to purchase a luxury private jet that the state does not need.
According to the second paragraph of the article, Governor Mike Easley scrubbed the deal after “reporters asked questions about the Cessna citation jet..” What the paper fails to mention is that the reporters were not from the N & O (as one would assume), but from ABC TV-11 News. By proactively investigating the jet purchase and bringing it before the governor after he demanded financial sacrifices from others, it forced the governor to make the wise and prudent choice and cancel the purchase. (At least in the article about Erick Daniels being released from prison after seven years of false imprisonment, the News & Observer gave credit to the Independent Weekly for its proactive involvement in helping to bring about his release.)
The News & Observer is a well read and respected newspaper, and it has the potential to do a lot of good for the lives of North Carolinians, whether in saving taxpayer dollars or acting as an advocate for justice when the system does not work. Had the editorial staff, under Editorial Page Editor Steven Ford, written an article about the jet purchase and opined about the appropriateness of its purchase, then I am sure that Governor Easley would have responded similar to the way he responded when questioned by the ABC reporters.
But, it seems as though the News & Observer’s editorial staff has chosen to sit on the sidelines when it comes to taking a proactive role in effecting the outcome of important issues that affect North Carolinians. It elects to write editorials about issues only after a resolution has been reached; an approach with is safe and lacks courage, but is also of no value to the people. The editorial in the News & Observer Our Views entitled “Free to go: Wrongful convictions are a blight on North Carolina’s courts, even if there’s rejoicing when an innocent man is freed,” was written about Erick Daniels after he was released from prison having been wrongfully incarcerated for seven years. The armed robbery conviction, which was won against the fifteen year old (who was tried as an adult) by Durham Prosecutor Freda Black, was considered to be such a weak case that the Judge refused to allow the case to be re-tried. Had the News & Observer cared enough about Erick Daniels, or about justice for the poor, disenfranchised, and people of color, and taken the effort to express their views on the case, Erick Daniels might have been released much sooner. Even after the May 2007 cover story in the Independent Weekly, the N & O’s editorial staff remained mum.
There remain issues that affect taxpayers’ wallets and have a bearing on the justice they receive, and the News & Observer should get in the game, instead of playing Tuesday morning quarterback. Specifically, the class C felony “accessory after the fact” charge against James Arthur Johnson (who wrongfully spent 39 months in jail before his release without going to trial) involves an excessive waste of taxpayer dollars, and is being undertaken to protect a Wilson prosecutor from a charge of prosecutorial misconduct which was filed with the North Carolina State Bar, in September 2007 by the NAACP.
Since March 2008, W. David McFadyen, a former prosecutor who is now an attorney in the private sector, has been “investigating” whether to further waste taxpayer money by prosecuting James Arthur Johnson for wiping fingerprints off a car (under a charge of “accessory after the fact”). Forsyth County Assistant District Attorney Belinda Foster was forced (by her boss, Forsyth County District Attorney Thomas J. Keith) to enter that charge after a “two month” investigation which concluded that charges of capital murder, kidnapping, rape, and armed robbery should be dropped. She did so only under the condition that she not be forced to prosecute the case, so Mr. Keith stated that her workload was so full that she could not be spared to follow the charge to its conclusion. The North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts was unable to find a prosecutor among its 600 salaried state prosecutors who was willing to take part of the flawed case, so, that task was taken up by an attorney in the private sector. I tried to find out what we taxpayers are wasting on this so-called investigation, and I was told that there was no written contract!
What is further unbelievable is the fact that it took Attorney Foster two months of investigation, while maintaining a full workload in Winston-Salem, to determine that four felony charges of capital murder, kidnapping, rape, and armed robbery should be dropped. Meanwhile, Special Prosecutor McFadyen has spent seven months working on the “accessory after the fact” charge alone. It is not only evident to the objective observer why Belinda Foster filed the “accessory” charge, but why David McFadyen is pursuing it. The state will go to excessive measures and waste taxpayer money to protect its prosecutors who go after the poor, disenfranchised and people of color.
Many months ago, I asked the editorial staff of the News & Observer to investigate the contract with Mr. McFadyen, and give their views on what is both a waste of taxpayer money and a blatant attempt by the State to smear James Johnson’s reputation in order to protect Wilson Prosecutor Bill Wolfe. Furthermore, I asked the paper to respond about the fact that the family and friends of Brittany Willis (the victim for whom Johnson was wrongfully charged) reneged on the twenty thousand dollar ($20,000.00) reward offer which James Johnson rightfully earned. He should have received it long ago, and withholding its payment, does not bode favorable towards the overall impression of his innocence. Furthermore, withholding payment of a reward which is earned for solving a crime is a deterrent for other citizens who might be willing to take a risk and come forward to solve a crime.
The News & Observer needs to come forward on its editorial page and take a proactive stand on positions of justice and financial waste, such as the aforementioned. Also, it should make it clear where it stands with regards to the fairness of the disbarment of former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong. Mr. Nifong has the dubious distinction of being the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception.. this despite 27 years of distinguished service to the state as a prosecutor. That statistic, on its face, is an absurdity, especially in light of the recent release of North Carolina death row inmates who were falsely convicted by the prosecutorial misconduct of prosecutors following the tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color.”
To the editorial staff of the News & Observer, I think the time is past overdue for you to leave your comfort zone, get in the game, and make a positive difference for the people your publication serves.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Under the North Carolina State Bar’s “Rule 3.8 Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor,” it states: “A prosecutor has the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply an advocate; the prosecutor’s duty is to seek justice, not merely to convict.”
Durham County Prosecutor Mitch Garrell obviously shirked his responsibility as a minister of justice three years ago when he offered the recently released Erick Daniels the following plea deal: He would be released from jail upon the following conditions - (1) Daniels would deny involvement in the crime but acknowledge the existence of incriminating evidence in exchange for time served; and (2) he would be branded a felon. What a deal!! Thank goodness he was being represented by defense attorney Carlos Mahoney.
It was obvious not only to Independent Weekly reporter Mosi Secret and lay people familiar with the case by following it in the media that the armed robbery charge against the15 year defendant was bogus, but also to Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson. After seven years of incarceration, during a hearing Judge Hudson dropped the charges against Daniels and refused to allow a re-trial.
With such a case against Erick Daniels, that is all but non-existent, Prosecutor Garrell’s plead deal was designed to inflict a lifetime of pain, stigma, and discrimination against a young man who he knew (or should have known) was innocent of the crime for which he had already spent four years behind bars. In other words, to compound injustice (years of wrongful incarceration) upon injustice (being forever unjustly labeled a felon). The first part of the plea deal (to deny involvement in the crime but acknowledge the existence of incriminating evidence) is blatantly false and a travesty. What incriminating evidence?? The only purpose for such an admission by the defendant would be to provide protection and cover for a flimsy case that was pursued without probable cause.
Due to North Carolina justice’s tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color,” the outrageously unjust events that have befallen young Erick Daniels are not of concern to North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper (he has not proclaimed Erick Daniels “innocent”), Governor Mike Easley (he has not proclaimed him innocent as a step towards the measly compensation he is due for his wrongful incarceration), or even the media in general (the News & Observer editorial of September 27, 2008, states that after seven years of wrongful incarceration during the prime years of his life, that his release from jail and dropped charges is evidence that “an appalling mistake has finally been corrected”). Far from it!
Erick Daniels at least deserves a public proclamation of his innocence (akin to what defendants from families of wealth, power, and prestige receive), and he deserves the paltry financial compensation ($20,000.00/year) from the state for wrongful incarceration. Personally, I believe the state owes him tuition paid higher education or job training, in addition.
Durham Prosecutor Freda Black prosecuted this merit-less case, and with the aid of an inadequate defense was able to win a conviction. Durham Prosecutor Mitch Garrell, with his pitiful plea deal, involved himself in the case as being an antithesis of a “Minister of Justice” (along with Black). Where is the media outrage against these prosecutors? I hear no calls for them to be brought before the State Bar. This reinforces the sad commentary on North Carolina’s justice system. It is a system wherein the only prosecutor in the state’s history to be disbarred is former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong. It is evident that Mr. Nifong was prosecuted and persecuted because he followed the principle of “equal justice for all” instead of openly supporting and promoting the State’s tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color.”
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Special notice to Mr. Unenbakke... I appreciate your comments, although I do not agree with any of them. Because of my schedule working on the website, which is very labor intensive, I have not been able to respond to the points that you have made. However, you will be pleased to note that the Committee has increased its membership by fifty percent (50%). Joining Victoria Peterson and me (Sidney B. Harr), is Mr. Douglas Register. We are pleased to welcome him in joining us in a cause to which he has been devoted to long before the Committee even came into existence.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Several times yesterday I managed to catch a glimpse of NC Attorney General Roy Cooper’s television campaign ad. My assessment of it is that it is a slick and professional piece of work that is accurate.. up to a point.
The ad begins with the words "The Duke Lacrosse Decision" plastered across the screen, which fades out to show a dapper Roy Cooper behind a podium as if addressing members of the press. He admonishes the state’s prosecutorial team for a "rush to judgment" in the Duke Lacrosse case, and then declares its three defendants innocent. The ad then goes on to babble about the state’s forensic lab, and finally ends with this incredulous statement (a paraphrase): "The Attorney General is dedicated not only to prosecuting defendants for guilt, but protecting those defendants who are innocent."
That statement is true when applied to defendants who are from a class and color that are privileged. The defendants who are poor, disenfranchised, and people of color, regardless of their innocence and the weakness of the case against them, are ignored. They are invisible to the attorney general. On many occasions I have asked the Attorney General’s Office to comment or take action on other cases, such as those against James Arthur Johnson and Erick Daniels. The only response was deafening silence, inaction, and the dismissal of my concerns.
That Attorney General Roy Cooper follows a tenet of "selective justice based on Class and Color" is evidenced by his disparate record. For example, when three Duke students (from families of wealth, status, and privilege) are accused of a crime, and charged by a state prosecutor, the attorney general springs into action. He asks the State Bar to investigate the prosecutor, he makes disparaging statements about the prosecutor prior to his hearing with the Bar, he tries to get the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the prosecutor for depriving the Duke defendants of their civil rights, and he goes before the public and proclaims the defendants "innocent."
Now contrast that with what happened in just two (of many other) examples: James Arthur Johnson languished in jail for 39 months before charges of murder, rape, kidnapping, and armed robbery were dropped. Roy Cooper was silent and inactive. Belinda Foster, who was forced by her boss D. A. Tom Keith, filed an "accessory after the fact" charge against James Johnson in order to protect Wilson Assistant D. A. Bill Wolfe from a prosecutorial misconduct complaint filed with the State Bar by the NAACP. Roy Cooper remains silent and inactive as the state wastes taxpayers’ money with the bogus investigation by private sector prosecutor David McFadyen.
Erick Daniels, as a 15 year old, was sentenced to ten to fourteen years for armed robbery despite the fact that he did not resemble the description of the perpetrator of the crime, and that there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime. He was incarcerated for seven years before a judge ruled in his favor and released him from custody. Furthermore, he believed so much in the innocence of Erick Daniels, that he refused to allow the state to re-try him. Roy Cooper is silent and inactive.
The following are inmates who have been released from Death Row since 2004: Alan Gell, Jonathan Gregory Hoffman, Glen Chapman, and Levon "Bo" Jones. I do not recall any activity in any of those cases by the Attorney General’s Office, with the exception of one case. The case of Alan Gell. Mr. Gell’s conviction for capital murder was obtained only by prosecutors David Hoke and Debra Graves withholding exculpatory evidence that proved beyond doubt that Mr. Gell could not have possibly committed the crime. When the misconduct by the prosecution was uncovered (after Mr. Gell had spent nearly ten years in prison – half of it on death row), the conviction was thrown out. Yet, the Attorney General’s Office got involved and retried the case against Mr. Gell. Within an hour of receiving the case, the jury reached a verdict of "not guilty."
The Alan Gell case most accurately represents Attorney General Roy Cooper’s position when it comes to the state prosecutors and their role as "ministers of justice." Nonexistent.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
First, I would like to re-assert that it is not the purpose of the Committee to go after attorneys, be they prosecutors or defense attorneys. We strenuously object to the selective prosecution and persecution of Mr. Mike Nifong, when other prosecutors are passed over and protected by the State Bar and state officials for misconduct that is far more grievous than anything Mr. Nifong is alleged to have done.
I agree with the blogger who stated that prosecutors should not be disciplined because they make a mistake and prosecute the wrong individual(s). True, we are all human. However, Prosecutor Freda Black pursued the prosecution of a teenager without any physical evidence and in spite of the fact that he did not match the description given by the victim. Also, because the defense attorney did not object, Ms. Black was able to introduce evidence that was considered to be inadmissible in winning her verdict. She was definitely not acting as a minister of justice in this instance.
I also am in agreement with the blogger who stated that the defense attorney did not present an adequate defense for his client. But, just as the State Bar has no will to discipline prosecutors, it lacks the will to go after incompetent defense attorneys (because they make it easier to win convictions). I do not believe that Erick Daniels's attorney acted with malice, and he even admitted to not doing an acceptable job in representing Erick Daniels.
Now, I did file a complaint with the North Carolina State Bar against Defense Attorney Johnny Gaskins, who represented James Arthur Johnson. Besides being ineffective as a defense attorney, and allowing his client to be confined to jail for 39 months, Mr. Gaskins made prejudicial statements against his client (on a television news program) about an accessory after the fact charge which is still being investigated. AmericaIsWatching.org recommended in its website that readers file the complaint if they were outraged by Mr. Gaskins's statements. I was, so I did.
I think that we can all agree, despite our difference of opinion on this case, that Erick Daniels should at the least be proclaimed "innocent" by Governor Easley, and awarded the paltry sum of $20,000.00 per year for each year of wrongful incarceration.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Late in 2004, Durham Attorney Carlos Mahoney took over Daniels’s case, and although losing on one appeal, he persisted in his attempts to have the courts take another look. In its May 23, 2007, edition, the “Independent Weekly” had an in-depth investigative cover story titled “Stolen Youth: How a 15 year-old was railroaded by Durham justice”. This article was the impetus for me to plead his case (while arguing for justice for former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong) before the governor, the attorney general, the executive director of the State Bar, and others.
Nearly a year and a half after the “Independent Weekly” article, on Friday, September 19, 2008, following a day and a half of hearings, Judge Orlando Hudson threw the case out, ordered the release of Mr. Daniels (now 22 years old), and did not pursue the option of ordering a new trial, stating [that he] “had no confidence in the jury’s verdict that this defendant committed the crime. I think he did not.”
During the more than seven years that Erick Daniels was wrongfully incarcerated, I am unaware of an editorial or opinion piece by the “News & Observer” editorial staff questioning justice in the case. Even following the “Independent Weekly’s” explosive May 2007 cover story article, the “N & O” editorial staff remained silent. Why? I believe that it is because they, along with the majority of their readership, share an apathy or ambivalence when it comes to issues of selective justice that accrue to the detriment of the poor, disenfranchised, and people of color. The moral outrage at this grave injustice, which in my opinion far outweighs that to the Duke lacrosse defendants, is not even palpable. I do not expect that Attorney General Roy Cooper will proclaim Erick Daniels to be “innocent” of the crime, nor do I have faith that Governor Mike Easley will take steps necessary to see that Erick Daniels receives the paltry sum of $20,000.00 per year for each year of wrongful incarceration (that he deserves).
Very few people know the name of the prosecutor who sent Erick Daniels to jail, and her name was buried deep in the “News & Observer” article “Defendant walks free after 7 years in prison,” of September 20, 2008. No one is clamoring for her, Freda Black, to be ousted from her job or to be disbarred by the State Bar. The state of North Carolina is willing to condone her actions because the victim of the injustice is not from a family of wealth, status, and privilege. Mike Nifong’s defendants were, and that is why he was prosecuted, persecuted, and used to set an example for other prosecutors.
It is about time that the editorial staff of the “News & Observer” takes a courageous stand and makes a comment about the gross injustice represented by the fact that Mike Nifong (who gave the state 27 years of exemplary service as a prosecutor) is the only prosecutor to be disbarred (or severely disciplined) by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception. If all prosecutors were held to the standards used to disbar Mr. Nifong, then Freda Black, Michael Parker, David Hoke, Debra Graves, Ken Honeycutt, Scott Brewer, Bill Wolfe (who the State is currently protecting against a complaint for his misconduct in the case against James Arthur Johnson), and probably 99% of all prosecutors in the state would be disbarred.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Thank you for supporting the premise that other prosecutors, who should have been disciplined, were not and that Mr. Nifong was selectively chosen to be given the harshest discipline possible, though his alleged misdeeds were not as egregious as others, and his defendants (the three Duke LAXers) suffered far less injustice (including no time incarcerated) than innocent defendants of other prosecutors (many who spent years on death row).
The problem with invoking the principle of "equal justice for all" is that if other prosecutors are held to the unreasonably high standards used to disbar Mr. Nifong, then the entire staff of North Carolina prosecutors would be depleted. Therefore, I favor the more practical approach of attaining equity by reinstating the license to practice law for Mr. Nifong. Furthermore, the North Carolina State Bar has vividly demonstrated that it has no will to discipline prosecutors (who follow the tenet of "selective justice based on Class and Color"). That's what it is doing now in the James Arthur Johnson case by having private sector prosecutor David McFadyen conduct a bogus investigation into the "accessory after the fact" charge against Mr. Johnson. The prosecutor's actions in that case, Assistant Wilson District Attorney Bill Wolfe, were far more grievous than anything Mr. Nifong is alleged to have committed. Unfortunately, the state officials do not realize that many North Carolinians are apathetic, and not ignorant. Like, Unbekannte, they realize that Mr. Nifong was selectively and unjustly treated.
The Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong will be establishing a website shortly (the address will be posted in this blog with a link), and it will include both volumes of the Nifong Manifesto, the comic strip "the MisAdventures of Super-
Duper Cooper" and other documents and information supporting our position which is as follows: The State of North Carolina selectively and unjustly disbarred former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong, and it should be held accountable and take responsibility for this gross mistake by reinstating Mr. Nifong's license to practice law in the state unencumbered. If "equal justice for all" is to be a reality for all North Carolinians, it must begin with Mr. Nifong.
Monday, September 15, 2008
The article goes on, "That revelation led to the demise of Nifong's law career. He was stripped of his law license and ousted from office." The "revelation" was truly one of insignificance, and when placed in proper context, it makes the actions taken by the state of North Carolina against Mr. Nifong all the more abhorrent. Take for example the following three cases in which prosecutors withheld evidence from defense attorneys in order to win death penalty convictions against innocent men:
- Prosecutors Ken Honeycutt and Scott Brewer withheld from the defense team of Jonathan Gregory Hoffman knowledge that it had made deals with the two main witnesses (one received immunity on other criminal charges, and the other received reward money as a condition for testifying). Hoffman served more than seven years on death row.
- Prosecutors David Hoke and Debra Graves withheld the following evidence from Alan Gell's defense team: (a) that they had made a deal with two key witnesses to receive reduced sentences in exchange for their testimony, and (b) nine witness statements from individuals who saw the murder victim alive during the period when Mr. Gell was incarcerated on an unrelated charge and could not have possibly have committed the murder for which he was charged. Likewise, Mr. Gell was sentenced to death and served ten years in prison for a crime prosecutors knew that he could not possibly have committed.
- Prosecutor Randy Lyons withheld information from the defense attorneys of Charles Wayne Munsey in winning a death penalty conviction. A memo by Assistant Attorney General Dale Talbert notified Prosecutor Lyons that records, from the prison where a "jailhouse snitch" alleged that Munsey confessed to him that he committed a murder for which he was charged, showed that the snitch was not incarcerated there, and could not have been in contact with Mr. Munsey to hear a confession. Talbert suggested that Lyons lie to the court and state that lack of such record did not preclude the snitch from being incarcerated at the prison. Mr. Lyons heeded Mr. Talbert's advice, and, in addition, did not even mention the information in the memo, which had exculpatory value. Munsey spent the remainder of his life in prison, where he died from lung cancer.
In the face of the monumental adverse revelations against them, of the aforementioned prosecutors, none was disbarred, fired, or severely disciplined. Scott Brewer went on to become a judge, and David Hoke was promoted to Assistant Director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts.
The atrocious fact is that Mike Nifong is the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the NC State Bar since its inception.. and for such a relatively insignificant revelation. And, that is apparently okay with The News & Observer, as it continues, with other media outlets, to spread the propaganda that Mike Nifong is the worst prosecutor in North Carolina history. Meanwhile, it gives the truly horrendous prosecutors a pass.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
As I have consistently stated, my focus is solely on the injustice of the State of North Carolina to Mike Nifong. I have no animus, nor ill will towards the Duke LAXers, and I do not know how Unbekannte reached his conclusion.
I believe that Mr. Nifong is an honorable, decent person, and if I were to be prosecuted, hypothetically, I would want Mr. Nifong to be the prosecutor. I would want him to be the prosecutor because he followed the principle of "equal justice for all," rather than the tenet of "selective justice based on Class and Color." For example, I would not want to be prosecuted by Anson County District Attorney Michael Parker, who held Floyd Brown on a murder charge for fourteen years without a trial. Mr. Brown, who is an African American and does not come from a family of wealth, status, and privilege, was charged based on an obviously fraudulent confession that was manufactured by the prosecution. Nor would I want to be prosecuted by David McFadyen, a prosecutor from the private sector who is taking his time and trying to find a way to prosecute James Arthur Johnson for "accessory after the fact" charges (because he removed fingerprints from a car). This is all done for the purpose of protecting Wilson Assistant District Attorney Bill Wolfe from a prosecutorial misconduct complaint with the State Bar filed by the NAACP. I could give many other examples of prosecutors who I would not want to prosecute me, but Mr. Nifong is not one of them.
For a final reference, this blog is the official blog site of the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong, and I am its Lay advocate and author of this blog. Sidney B. Harr.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
It takes a small amount of courage to stand up for a cause which is extremely unpopular, and to identify yourself, instead of hiding behind an alias. It takes very little courage to think for oneself and not just automatically buy into what the media is peddling. That said, by no means do I insuate that you lack courage because you conceal your identity when you make statements on the blog or because you choose the safe confinds of popular opinion. I appreciate your participation to this blog, and hearing points of view that differ with mine.
Several statements that you made were patently false. First, Mr. Nifong did not arbitrarily indict three men. They were identified by the alleged victim/accuser with 80-100% certainty. Now although the identification system may not have been perfect in the Duke Lacrosse case, the ID system used by Durham Prosecutor Freda Black was no more perfect when Erick Daniels was picked out of a middle school yearbook by the victim of an armed robbery. Erick Daniels, did not even fit the description of the perpetrator of the crime, yet he was convicted as a 16 year old, and has spent more than four years incarcerated. Do you believe that the three Duke LAXers, who spent no time in jail, have suffered greater injustice than Erick Daniels, whose case is under review by the courts, thanks in large measure to investigative articles that appeared in the "Independent Weekly." The point I am making is that the State and the State Bar of North Carolina will not go after Prosecutor Black because the injustice is against a defendant who is poor, of color, and disenfranchised. It selectively chose to persecute and prosecute Mr. Nifong because his defendants were from families of wealth, status, and privilege.
At least there is one thing we can agree on, and that is that there is a failure by the State Bar to prosecute prosecutors who commit acts of prosecutorial misconduct. If the State Bar held all of the prosecutors in the state to the same standards used to disbar Mr. Nifong, then the number of the state prosecutors would be depleted. Rather than disbarring 99% of all state prosecutors, it seems to me that a more practical course would be to re-instate the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Regardless, your brother's tragedy and the injustice to former D. A. Mike Nifong are in no way related, except for their connection to the city of Durham. Unfortunately, by its very nature, Mr. Nifong, as a state prosecutor in our system of justice, is saddled with the responsibility of trying to deprive individuals of their freedom. That is the responsibility of all prosecutors. However, they are supposed to act as "ministers of justice" and place justice before winning. This is what Mr. Nifong did in the Duke Lacrosse Case. A victim alleged that she was assaulted, and she identified three individuals with a high degree of certainty (80-100%). Maybe some prosecutors would have taken the class and color of the victim and suspects into consideration before deciding whether or not to act, but Mr. Nifong, to his credit, did not.
In most sexual assault cases (I believe, as I'm no expert), suspects are identified by the victim, and it is the basis for charges being leveled and the case prosecuted. Take the Dwayne Dail case for example. A twelve year old victim identified him as her assailant. Mr. Dail was not connected to the crime forensically, but on testimony of the young victim alone was convicted. He served eighteen years wrongfully incarcerated before DNA evidence proved him innocent, and the real perpetrator of the crime was identified and apprehended. Now, the prosecutors who put Mr. Dail behind bars are not publicly reviled. They were not brought before the State Bar. They were not disbarred. They were not fired from their jobs. They were not sentenced to serve time in jail. The attorney general did not ask the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate them for depriving Mr. Dail of his civil rights. Mr. Dail did not file a civil lawsuit against the prosecutors. The names of the prosecutors are even unknown to almost all North Carolinians (I do not even know the names of his prosecutors).
Plain and simply, Mr. Nifong has been unjustly prosecuted and persecuted by the state of North Carolina solely because he brought charges against Duke Lacrosse defendants who came from families of wealth, status, and privilege.
There are problems with the criminal and justice systems. But your anger, Ms. Fleming, against those associated with your brother's death, is misplaced when you direct it toward Mr. Nifong. He is the true victim in the Duke Lacrosse Case.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
A RESPONSE TO JUSTICE4JACK
Blogger Justice4Jack, with her statement "Nifong is but ONE of the MANY unscrupulous knaves," made the point that I have been trying to make." Her statement supports my premise that Mr. Nifong was selectively treated by the state. And he was selectively punished because the defendants he prosecuted in the Duke Lacrosse case came from families of wealth, status, and privilege. The many prosecutors who trample on the rights and deny justice for defendants who are disenfranchised, of color, and/or poor, are not held accountable for their actions and are not disciplined.
Mr. Nifong is the ONLY prosecutor to be disbarred by North Carolina State Bar since its inception, and he was selectively disciplined because he followed the principle of "equal justice for all" instead of the state’s tenet of "selective justice based on Class and Color." Other unscrupulous knave prosecutors who have acted more egregiously than Mr. Nifong, and whose actions have resulted in their defendants suffering greater injustice than Mr. Nifong’s (including incarceration), have been given a pass by the State Bar and the attorney general. If the State Bar was to objectively hold all of the state prosecutors to the same standards as those used to disbar Mr. Nifong (because of his actions in the Duke Lacrosse case), then the number of state prosecutors would be completely depleted.
I commiserate with you regarding the loss of your brother and the inability of the authorities to apprehend his murderer. I would like to encourage you to join me and the "Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong" in fighting for justice, equal justice for all. As opposed to fighting crime, a justice fighter focuses attention on the actions of the state and courts to assure that equal justice for all is meted out. The state of North Carolina has failed many of its innocent citizens (such as James Arthur Johnson, Alan Gell, Lee Wayne Hunt, Dwayne Dail, Darryl Hunt, Erick Daniels, Floyd Brown, to name a few), including former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong.
One way in which you can proactively work for justice and to help fight crime would be to encourage the state of North Carolina to take responsibility for its deleterious actions against James Arthur Johnson. In 2004, Mr. Johnson, an African American teenager, went against the "no snitch" rule of the streets, and gave Wilson police information that led to the arrest and conviction of the killer/rapist/robber of Wilson teenager Brittany Willis. Although I believe that he was not motivated to come forward to the police in order to receive the twenty thousand dollar ($20,000.00) reward offered by the family and friends of Brittany Willis, he did earn it. Because of mishandling of the case by Wilson prosecutor Bill Wolfe (in which Mr. Wolfe falsely vilified and charged Johnson as the perpetrator of the case), the family and friends of Brittany Willis have reneged on paying the reward (despite the fact that those charges were dropped). I believe that the friends and family of Brittany Willis offered the reward in good faith, but due to misconduct by prosecutors, they decided otherwise.
I believe that an offer of reward money for information about a crime is important to the armament in fighting crime. The state should step up and take responsibility for paying the reward money to Mr. Johnson in the Willis case. If reward offers are to be taken credibly, Mr. Johnson should receive the reward for his service to the police and community. Join us in writing to Attorney General Cooper and other state officials to see that Mr. Johnson is rewarded. Mr. Johnson, a private citizen, came forward and offered information to solve a murder. I hope that in the future someone comes forward with information that will provide a lead to solve the murder of your brother and give you the closure you deserve.