The News & Observer editor John Drescher, in his Saturday, April 25, 2009 column titled, “N&O not letting go vigilance,” made an attempt to assure gullible readers that its investigative team was independent, vigilant, and top-notched. In his words, their investigative team “reflected our commitment to shining a light in the dark corners of government, business, and society. He cited as an investigative coup the coverage of Duke Lacrosse prosecutor Mike Nifong, who he sarcastically referred to as a “shoot-from-the-lip” prosecutor.
This demeaning reference about Mike Nifong is typical of the biased coverage the media, and the News & Observer in particular, has directed at the Duke Lacrosse case over the past three years. The biased media’s actions were instrumental in allowing the state of North Carolina to destroy the reputation and professional career of a prosecutor who had devoted more than 27 years as a public servant to the state, and who was pursing the Duke Lacrosse case in good conscience. What North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has accomplished after wresting control of the Duke Lacrosse case are as follows: (1) shutting down the investigation into the case, and assuring that the reprehensible actions that my have taken place at the lacrosse party will never be known; (2) the persecution and prosecution of District Attorney Nifong, which included disbarment, withholding of state counsel to which he was entitled, sentenced to serve jail time, and an attempt to get the Federal Justice Department to investigate Nifong; and (3) a public and well publicized proclamation of “innocent” for all three Duke Lacrosse defendants. These actions by the attorney general are singularly unique and, in concert with Duke University rolling over to the settlement demands of the Duke Lacrosse defendants, set the stage for the plethora of legal actions filed against the city of Durham, its officials, and Duke University.
I submit that a truly objective investigative team would question the aforementioned uncharacteristic actions of Attorney General Roy Cooper with respect to the Duke Lacrosse case. Many individuals have pointed out a direct relationship between the actions of the attorney general, and a marked increase in contributions to his campaign coffers (a large majority of which are from states in which families of the Duke Lacrosse defendants reside). Furthermore, a truly objective investigative team would have investigated the entire Duke Lacrosse case, and not simply its prosecutor.
The number of prosecutors in the Tar Heel state who have committed misconduct far more egregious than what Mr. Nifong is accused of, is legion. Prosecutors have withheld vital exculpatory evidence (Alan Gell case, Michael Peterson case, Charles Wayne Munsey case, and others), destroyed material evidence requested by the defense (Theodore Jerry Williams case), concocted false confessions (Floyd Brown case), and employed false “eyewitnesses” (James Arthur Johnson case) in attempts to gain convictions against defendants, many of whom the prosecutors know beforehand are innocent. Also, there’s the issue of the prosecutors who sanctioned the pre-meditated assault of an inmate (Theodore Jerry Williams). These are the cases in which the media has shied away from. But what is most telling is that the wayward prosecutors of these horrendous cases, in which poor, disenfranchised defendants spend countless years falsely incarcerated, are never mentioned by name. In fact, the News & Observer goes through great lengths to conceal their identities, and, when possible, not to even cover the stories. However, if a story appears in the N & O which contains questionable actions by a North Carolina prosecutor, you can count on the paper prominently parading Duke Lacrosse Prosecutor Mike Nifong’s name throughout it.
One thing that the media wants to keep hidden from the public is the fact that Mike Nifong is the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception. The Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong is the only source of this information, on its web site www.justice4nifong.com, and on its blog site justice4nifong.blogspot.com.
The reporters, the editorial staff, and the investigative reporters of the News & Observer, as well as other Triangle news publications are very selective when it comes to covering Mike Nifong. They ignore the good about Mr. Nifong, and magnify out of proportion what may be perceived as the bad and the ugly. Their objective is to minimize the fact that there are those who ardently support Mr. Nifong. The only mention, for example, of the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong has been in a column by the paper’s designated hatchet man, columnist Barry Saunders. The editorial staff has refused to write about the unfairness of the disbarment of Mr. Nifong, has refused to comment on the wasted taxpayer monies going to the private-sector prosecutor W. David McFadyen in the James Johnson accessory case (which was pursued to shield Prosecutor Bill Wolfe from a complaint of misconduct filed with the State Bar by NAACP president Rev. Barber), and refused to share their views about the inequities in the state’s justice system when it comes to the “haves” and the “have nots.” Descriptions to define Mr. Nifong such as “disgraced prosecutor” and “shoot-from-the-lip prosecutor” are used by the newspaper to influence the minds of its readers who abdicate the use of theirs when it comes to Mike Nifong.
Throughout the Duke Lacrosse case, the media, the News & Observer in particular, has been in lockstep with the Attorney General’s Office on the issue of the Duke Lacrosse case. The N & O has been characterizing the Duke Lacrosse defendants as innocent victims, suggesting the case against the defendants was without merit, and portraying its prosecutor as being the epitome of the worst prosecutor in North Carolina history. That is the exact message that Attorney General Roy Cooper wants conveyed to the public.
Therefore, when it comes to Mike Nifong and the Duke Lacrosse case, and the North Carolina justice system, in general, the News & Observer is not a watchdog concerned with protecting the interests of the general public, but a lap dog whose agenda is to carry out the wishes of the general attorney.