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.