Monday, May 18, 2009

Man faces 14 year mandatory sentence for “inconsistent statements”

Before I comment about a recent North Carolina justice system travesty, I would like to thank those individuals who have taken time to post comments about my blogs. In my latest blog about physical abuse and torture of inmates in North Carolina prisons, there were comments made by Walt-in-Durham to which I feel compelled to respond. Walt acknowledged the horrendous prison conditions, then accused Mr. Nifong of wanting to send the three Duke lacrosse defendants there. The fact of the matter is that, as a prosecutor, Mr. Nifong had the unsympathetic mandate to try and take away the liberty of the defendants. Prosecutors Freda Black, Bill Wolfe, Thomas Keith, Ken Honeycutt, Scott Brewer, and all prosecutors within the state are obligated to do their best to try and place criminal defendants behind bars. I have no reason to feel that Mr. Nifong took any glee from prosecuting the Duke Lacrosse defendants. He was merely doing his job. As blog respondent Scarlet Hill wrote, the focus of the blog was on the inhumane and barbaric conditions in the state’s correctional facilities. Respondent Justice58 posed a very important question… what does NC Attorney General Roy Cooper have to say about this?

Attorney General Cooper, as well as Governor Bev Perdue, and other politicians should be outraged, and they should not only denounce the abuse, but take substantive steps to curb it. In my blog I mentioned a few measures that could be taken to address this problem of abusing prisoners, but I am sure that they will fall upon the deaf ears of the politicians, the Attorney General’s Office, and administrators in the North Carolina Department of Corrections.

Although being guilty of a crime does not give correctional staff the right to abuse inmates, there are a number of people incarcerated in North Carolina who are innocent of committing a crime (overwhelmingly these are people who are disenfranchised, poor, and people of color). Less than a week ago, the “News & Observer” reported that 51 year old Gerardo Vilchez had been in jail for twenty one months awaiting trial on charges of trafficking cocaine. Wake Assistant District Attorney David Sherlin had no case against Mr. Vilchez, and, in an interview with the reporter, stated that during the 21 months he was in custody, Mr. Vilchez made “inconsistent statements.”

Mr. Vilchez said that he was merely driving a tour bus and that he had no knowledge of the fact that the tires were packed with cocaine. The jury wisely chose to accept Mr. Vilchez’s position as being closer to the truth than Prosecutor Sherlin’s case. Had Prosecutor Sherlin been successful, Mr. Vilchez would have been forced to serve a minimum of fourteen years in prison.

Although the merits of Mr. Nifong’s case can never be objectively presented because the attorney general quashed the investigation and prosecution in the Duke Lacrosse case, there is no doubt in my mind that the actions of Prosecutor Sherlin were far more egregious than what Mr. Nifong has been accused of doing. There can be no doubt that the defendant of Mr. Sherlin suffered far greater injustice than the Duke Lacrosse defendants. Actually, there is another defendant in the cocaine trafficking case, Mr. Victor Hugo Lopez. He has served nearly two years in jail awaiting trial, as well, and Prosecutor Sherlin now says he doesn’t know what he’ll do with the charges against Mr. Lopez. Such an admission by Mr. Sherlin does not instill in me much confidence in the strength of his case against Mr. Lopez, who will probably end up being yet another innocent victim of the state, incarcerated on a flimsy charge for an excessively long period of time awaiting trial.

Because of the state’s Helmsian tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color,” this abhorrent detention and treatment of these suspects (Vilchez and Lopez) is acceptable. The prosecutor responsible for the gross injustice is not demonized and vilified by the attorney general, the governor, the media, and there is no wave of public backlash against him. Had Vilchez and Lopez been from families of wealth and privilege, it is unlikely that they would have even been charged by Prosecutor Sherlin, much less held in custody.

Director Thomas Maher, of the NC Indigent Defense Services, states that records are not kept of how long people spend in jail awaiting trial. Record keeping on this statistic should be instituted immediately because many people who are suspected of crimes are incarcerated while the prosecutor attempts to build a case for conviction, often when there is no probable cause. Holding people in jail while awaiting trial is one way of trying to obtain a plea deal in a case that falls apart, or that had no merit in the first place. That was the unsuccessful strategy used by Wilson District Attorney Howard Boney and Assistant District Attorney Bill Wolfe against James Arthur Johnson, who was incarcerated 39 months while awaiting trial for murder, rape, kidnapping, and armed robbery (charges which were later dropped).

Finally, holding an innocent man, Mr. Vilchez, in jail for 21 months while awaiting trial did not make North Carolina streets safer, but it did cost NC taxpayers $46,000. That amount doubles to a minimum of $92,000 when you factor in the other trafficking suspect, Mr. Lopez, who will most likely be freed, as well. In cases such as those against Mr. Vilchez and Mr. Lopez, not only does Lady Justice suffer, but so do Tar Heel taxpayers.

7 comments:

Justice58 said...

"The prosecutor responsible for the gross injustice is not demonized and vilified by the attorney general, the governor, the media, and there is no wave of public backlash against him. Had Vilchez and Lopez been from families of wealth and privilege, it is unlikely that they would have even been charged by Prosecutor Sherlin, much less held in custody".



Sidney,

Great article.


Poor man's justice vs a rich man's justice! Just goes to show how the system tells a poor man to kick rocks!

http://www.drummajorinstitute.org/injusticeindexa.php?ID=23



"Average sentence served by someone convicted of committing burglary valued at $300 or less: 55.6 months 9"

"Average sentence served by someone convicted of stealing $100,000 or more in the savings-and-loan scandal of the early 1990s: 36.4 months 10"

Walt said...

On the main page, our host wrote: "Walt acknowledged the horrendous prison conditions, then accused Mr. Nifong of wanting to send the three Duke lacrosse defendants there. The fact of the matter is that, as a prosecutor, Mr. Nifong had the unsympathetic mandate to try and take away the liberty of the defendants." Our host mistakes the role of the prosecutor. North Carolina Revised Rules of Professional Conduct for Lawyers, Rule 3.8 Special responsibilities of a prosecutor. The prosecutor in a criminal case shall: (a) refrain from prosecuting a charge the at the prosecutor knows in not supported by probable cause; ... (d) make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense ...; ... and (f) except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor's action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused and exercise reasonable care to prevent investigators, law enforcement personnel, employees or other persons assisting or associated with the prosecutor in a criminal case from making an extrajudicial statement that the prosecutor would be prohibited from making under Rule 3.6 of this Rule. Further, the commentary says: "A prosecutor has the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply that of an advocate; the prosecutor's duty is to seek justice, not merely to convict."
Thus, Nifong was not charged with the "unsympathetic mandate to try and take away the liberty of the defendants." Instead, he was to seek justice. If justice meant that obviously innocent men must be freed, that was his mandate. His mandate was not to take away their liberty. If you take a moment to think about it, you will agree that we do not want prosecutors to make an arbitrary decision to take someone's liberty. Instead, we want the prosecutor to follow the facts and the law to take away the liberty of only those who are guilty.Further more, that is what the law requires of the prosecutor.

Our host wrote: "I have no reason to feel that Mr. Nifong took any glee from prosecuting the Duke Lacrosse defendants. He was merely doing his job." He was not merely doing his job. Nifong was committing serial violations of the rules of professional conduct. Serial violations for the simple purpose of securing for himself political victory and an increased pension benefit. Little could be more cynical.

Our host wrote: "Although the merits of Mr. Nifong’s case can never be objectively presented because the attorney general quashed the investigation and prosecution in the Duke Lacrosse case." The Attorney General investigated the case. The AG's office actually interviewed Crystal Gail Mangum about the facts. The AG's office reviewed the flawed lineups. The AG's office reviewed the DNA findings from both the SBI and DNASI. The AG's office reviewed the Durham Police Department's so called investigation. The AG's office went to the crime scene. That was an objective investigation rather than the selective leaks that the DPD engaged in.

While our host might wish to make this blog about the deplorable conditions in the North Carolina Department of Corrections, or about any prosecutorial misconduct other than Mike Nifong's, two or three or more wrongs do not make Nifong's misconduct right.

Walt-in-Durham

kilgo said...

.

Tsk, tsk..it appears Walt is just
another LieStopper looking to
stir up trouble...

.

Walt-in-Durham Today, 6:11 PM Post #1

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Recently, I have been checking in at Justice4nifonghttp://justice4nifong.blogspot.com/ to see what they are up to. I have felt compelled to post and remind them that their lad Nifong is at fault, not the rest of the world. Here is a copy of what I posted, edited to reflect that the host here is not the same as the host there.

http://s1.zetaboards.com/Liestoppers_meeting/topic/1674280/1/

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kilgo said...

.

Is this where Walt gets his
great insights into Nifong's
motives--

The Ex-Campaign manager
turned Lacrosse Defense Lawyer
"groupie".


~J~ is in Wonderland 54 minutes ago Post #2
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~J~ is in Wonderland

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You told them!! Ha

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Justice58 said...

"While our host might wish to make this blog about the deplorable conditions in the North Carolina Department of Corrections, or about any prosecutorial misconduct other than Mike Nifong's, two or three or more wrongs do not make Nifong's misconduct right".




This blog is about getting Mr. Nifong's law license back. While there have been prosecutors in NC guilty of gross conduct,(Ask Alan Gell), they were only punished with a slap on the wrist. So please spare me with your "serial violations of the rules of professional conduct" rhetoric.


Lastly, when have you ever heard of the Bar intervening in a case while there is an on-going investigation?


So with all due respect--This blog has a job to do and that is helping to restore Mr. Nifong's law license.

kilgo said...

.

More praise for Walt and his
valiant performance for the

...L I E S T O P P E R S...


.

Joan Foster Today, 6:32 PM Post #3

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Walt...

It must be embarrassing for them when a brilliant and ethical Attorney like Walt shows up over there. They so rely on what the morally derelict Dope-in-Residence (Nifong) tells them...and then they look so silly.

Nifong is neither a good man nor a good lawyer.

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Justice58 said...

Joan Foster quoted:"...and then they look so silly".




Now who looked sillier & lacked good sense more than the crazy housewife for being a devoted brown noser for KC Johnson... until he locked the door on her?

Boo Hoo!