[Note: Part 2 of Episode I’s “MisAdventures of Super-Duper Cooper” is now posted on the “Justice 4 Nifong” web site: www.geocities.com/justice4nifong .]
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.”