Sunday, October 18, 2009

“No snitch” rule of athletic competitors

Recently the News & Observer newspaper printed an article in which law enforcement authorities were bemoaning the “no snitch” rule of the streets as hampering their investigations into crime. Yes, it is a problem, but as explained previously in depth at this blog site, it is a problem that has been exacerbated by the short-sighted, inept, and discriminatory actions of the Wilson Police Department and its prosecutors in the merit-less criminal case against James Arthur Johnson.

“No snitch” rules, however, are not confined to inner-city streets. They are, no doubt, prevalent throughout our society, and assist in corruption in all levels of society and government. The thin blue line is notorious for its “no snitch” rule, which interferes with investigations of corruption within the ranks of America’s finest. But perhaps nowhere is the “no snitch” rule as strong and as closely adhered to as it is in athletic team sports. First, there is an overwhelming camaraderie that bonds team participants, both on and off the field. Secondly, teammates depend upon one another for their individual and overall success. For example, a lineman on a football field may not block effectively for a running back with whom he might hold a grudge, or a teammate on the basketball court might not get the ball as often if the other members are at odds with him. Universally, most teams, especially the successful ones, are a close knit band of brothers waging war on the field, court, or diamond against a common opponent.

In the Duke Lacrosse case, the majority of partygoers on the night of March 13, 2006, at the house on Buchanan Street in Durham, were members of the highly ranked Duke lacrosse team. They were socializing, as a team in an atmosphere in which their rowdy behavior was not only accepted, but expected. Previous parties had gotten so out of control that the coach of the team, Mike Pressler, had been instructed by the Duke University president Richard Brodhead to rein in his players and their notoriously raucous parties. Caution was thrown to the wind by the lacrosse players and their guests that March night, where booze and drugs diminished what little common sense they possessed and led to the alleged deplorable actions involving an African American psychology student who was performing as an exotic dancer to help support her two children and pay for her education at North Carolina Central University.

When the charges of sexual abuse at the party were leveled and an investigation begun, Duke lacrosse player partygoers huddled, like they would on the field, and went into a defensive mode. They would, without a doubt, present a united front against their common foe, the accuser. If any one of the players were to act individually, and honestly give information about what transpired at the party to the police investigators, there is no doubt that he could kiss his position on the team (with national championship aspirations) good bye. Further, he would be ostracized by his former teammates, the student body, the powerful alumni, and the community. There is no telling the extent of retribution such an individual would face, especially if his testimony resulted in the conviction of his fellow teammate(s).

This is what former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong and the Durham Police Department faced when they began their investigation. Obtaining a party-going witness who was not under the yoke of the team’s “no snitch” rule was an impossible challenge. But if successful, it would give a tremendous boost to the investigation and possibly the prosecution of the case. Because team members would not come forth voluntarily for interviews at the request of the police and investigators, Mr. Nifong tried to appeal to the conscience of the lacrosse partygoer… to appeal to their better angels. He made several statements to the media which were obviously intended to encourage individual witnesses to come forward. Statements, which were mild in tenor, were attempts to cajole, goad, persuade, and even threaten to get witnesses to come forward. The “no snitch” rule of team athletic competitors held strong, and no investigatory breakthrough was forthcoming.

These statements, made prior to any indictments being handed down, and not directed at any one individual, were one of three underpinnings used to bring the cockamamie ethics complaint against Mr. Nifong. The other two merit-less charges brought against Mr. Nifong by the unregulated North Carolina State Bar were that he: 1) withheld evidence from the defense attorneys… which is an outright lie; and 2) lied to the courts… a charge, which itself is a lie.

So, the “no snitch” rule is of relevance when applied to ordinary citizens when it comes to the investigation of a street crime; however, if the witnesses are members of the Duke lacrosse team in which one or more of their teammates may be implicated, then their silence is not a factor. Such is the North Carolina tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color.”

14 comments:

Walt said...

Syd, I have defended your right to speak freely, but with the right goes the responsibility to speak the truth.

"... led to the alleged deplorable actions ...."

While the actions alleged were deplorable, none of the alleged actions really happened. What we are left with is an allegation that was deplorable and nothing else.

"When the charges of sexual abuse at the party were leveled..." What you should have said was the false charges.

"[IF one of the players] honestly give information about what transpired at the party to the police investigators, there is no doubt that he could kiss his position on the team (with national championship aspirations) good bye."

In fact, the hosts of the party who were team captains did give honest and voluntary statements within days of beginning of the investigation.

"This is what former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong and the Durham Police Department faced when they began their investigation."

Again, you mis-state the record. It is clear that at least two people gave voluntary statements that were both honest and entirely accurate. The fact that Nifong and the police elected not to believe the accurate and honest statements is their fault.

"Obtaining a party-going witness who was not under the yoke of the team’s “no snitch” rule was an impossible challenge. But if successful, it would give a tremendous boost to the investigation and possibly the prosecution of the case."

In other words, Nifong needed someone to lie to corroborate Crystal's fictional version of events.

"The other two merit-less charges brought against Mr. Nifong by the unregulated North Carolina State Bar were that he: 1) withheld evidence from the defense attorneys… which is an outright lie; and 2) lied to the courts… a charge, which itself is a lie."

We have already discussed this, but the record plainly supports those two findings. Findings that Nifong himself did not dispute.

Walt-in-Durham

unbekannte said...

I say again that decent(HA) honorable(HA HA) distinguished(HA HA HA) exemplary(HA HA HA HA) minister of justice(HA HA HA HA HA) should have also been charged with attempted subornation of perjury. He attempted to intimidate members of the Lacrosse team into giving perjured incriminating testimony. He attempted to have Moez Elmostafa to give perjured incriminating testimony.

You know, there is something appropriate about Sidney Harr de Harr Harr refusing to go with the legal system to exonerate his hero. It is a tacit admission that there is no defense for Nifong.

gak said...

"There is no telling the extent of retribution such an individual would face, especially if his testimony resulted in the conviction of his fellow teammate(s)."

If his testimony resulted in the conviction of his fellow teammates (and Nifong talked about charging all of them with obstruction and aiding) there would be no team to fear. As for the rest of the campus, he would have been a hero as the campus itself was anti lacross as evidenced by the take back the night vigil, the wanted posters, and more. I've said this before, and I'll say it again. Instead of using this to try to get Mike Nifong reinstated, you should be using this energy to try to get the other ethically challenged prosecutors removed

Nifong Supporter said...

To Walt:

Just because Attorney General Roy Cooper said nothing happened at the party does not make it so. I lack belief in an attorney general and a State Bureau of Investigation that cannot determine how Timothy Helms received two skull fractures that left him a quadriplegic while in solitary confinement. Because the attorney general overstepped his bounds in proclaiming the Duke Lacrosse defendants "innocent" does not make them so. You may choose to believe the attorney general and the biased media.

I have read "Last Dance for Grace: the Crystal Mangum Story" and it is a brutally frank book that has the strong ring of truth. I choose to accept her account of what transpired over that of Attorney General Cooper and the SBI.

Also, Walt, neither you nor I were not at the party, so you do not know for a fact what happened. You and I are in the same position, only you choose to believe Roy Cooper, while I respectfully disagree and believe Crystal Mangum's account. At least she was there. Roy Cooper wasn't.

Nifong Supporter said...

To Gak:

There are many prosecutors who have misbehaved and deprived innocent people of their freedom. I would say that there are very few prosecutors who actually act as "ministers of justice". For me to go after wayward prosecutors would be an arduous task which I believe would not bear fruit.

What makes Mr. Nifong's disbarment such an injustice is the fact that he is the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception in 1933. Also, the reasons for his disbarment are blatantly bogus. Because the magnitude of injustice and persecution against him is so great, I have chosen his cause to champion. Furthermore, I believe that we are very likely to prevail.

Walt said...

"Just because Attorney General Roy Cooper said nothing happened at the party does not make it so."

But, Nifong himself said so twice. While Nifong was undoubtedly the least prepared attorney involved in the hoax, he is uniquely positioned to know.

"You [Walt] may choose to believe the attorney general and the biased media."

No, I reached that conclusion prior to the Attorney General's pronouncement. I base my conclusion on the evidence. Crystal told a myriad of different stories all recorded in her written statements to police, Nifong's own investigator, the SBI and the Special Prosecutors. She failed repeatedly to pick any of the party attendees from lineups until she had been so tainted as an eyewitness that she picked three in a highly suggestive photo array. [Methodology that was in clear violation of the Durham Police Department's own General Orders.] The other potential eyewitnesses, directly contradicted Crystal's various stories. Given her inconsistent stories and her tainted identification, the only proof the state might have had was physical evidence. However, that evidence pointed to suspects who were not at the lacrosse party. Thus, I conclude that noting happened.

"I have read "Last Dance for Grace: the Crystal Mangum Story" and it is a brutally frank book that has the strong ring of truth. I choose to accept her account of what transpired over that of Attorney General Cooper and the SBI."

Unfortunately, she gave so many stories that one more only detracts from her credibility rather than adds to it.

"Also, Walt, neither you nor I were not at the party, so you do not know for a fact what happened."

I have read the record though.

"You and I are in the same position, only you choose to believe Roy Cooper, while I respectfully disagree and believe Crystal Mangum's account. At least she was there. Roy Cooper wasn't."

No Syd, I believe the record in its totality.

Walt-in-Durham

Nifong Supporter said...

To Walt:

You stated that Mike Nifong said on two occasions that nothing happened (in reference to the events at the Buchanan Street house on March 13, 2006). Would you kindly provide both sources that you refer to? Thank you.

Naturally, I disagree with your position, and will address them later when time permits.

gak said...

To Nifong Supporter

I'm not trying to stir the pot here but I do have what I believe are some honest questions for you about the evidence.

First off, You claim that you read Crystal's book and stated that it is a brutally frank look at the situation. How do you explain her stating her arrival on time at 11:30 when the other dancer arrived at 11:00 and stated to police that Crystal arrived a half hour late?

Another is your reference to the drugs at the party that night. The police didn't find any. There may have been beer, but no drugs were ever written about (accurately) in any news article or police report I've read, and like you I've had a very deep interest in this case and read as much as I could find. Where did you get this fact?

Your explaination of it is easier to get Nifong reinstated then to clean up the mess of the other ethically challenged prosecutors, is, to me, odd. You are essentially stating that it is ok to live in a state where a great number of prosecutors are bad but that's ok so long as you let my bad one back in.

I admire your ability to stand by your convictions and your friends to the bitter end, but in this case you argue points with "evidence" that just does not exist. As Walt said, "I have defended your right to speak freely, but with the right goes the responsibility to speak the truth." I too agree that you have the right to speak freely and take up whatever cause you find necessary or just, but again, the responsibility to speak the truth is paramount.

GAK

Nifong Supporter said...

To Gak:

Thanks for your comments and for stirring the pot. You are correct in your assessment, that on record there was no indication of drug use. I was told through a third party that drug use was taking place at the party, but I will have to double check on that source. I am usually reticent about making that statement as fact, but was careless with its use in this instance because I was concentrating on making a point. Now, unlike the unregulated North Carolina State Bar, I will acknowledge that I erred in including "drug use" in my statement, and will correct it with this retraction. However, it is my personal belief that the biased media very well could have made a point not to publish drug use even had they been aware of it.

With regards to Mr. Nifong, I do not believe that he is a "bad" prosecutor. My position is that he did nothing wrong (or below acceptable standards) in prosecuting the Duke Lacrosse case.
He did not lie to the court, he did not withhold evidence, and the statements he made to the media were benign and made prior to indictments being handed down.

Walt said...

"You stated that Mike Nifong said on two occasions that nothing happened (in reference to the events at the Buchanan Street house on March 13, 2006). Would you kindly provide both sources that you refer to? Thank you."

The first was during his statement to the DHC and the second was in his defense in the contempt hearing.

Walt-in-Durham

Justice58 said...

The first was during his statement to the DHC and the second was in his defense in the contempt hearing.




I remember Mr.Nifong stating he still believed something happened to Ms Mangum. I also remember the Liestoppers crew losing their minds over his statement.

Nifong Supporter said...

To Walt:

I would like to know the specific quote, if you have it. Trying to find what you are referring to might be difficult. I will try, but if it is not too difficult, a direct quote would be helpful. Thanks.

Walt said...

Here is a link to his "official" statement issued on April 12, 2007:http://www.wral.com/asset/news/local/2007/04/12/1270373/nifongrelease.swf

Here is a link to the story on WRAL's website about his admission and apology at the DHC hearing:http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/1270348/

When he resigned in July, he said there was"no credible evidence" to support the allegation that the three lacrosse players were in any way involved. Here is a link to the ESPN story: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/news/story?id=2949847

He said much the same thing at his contempt hearing if I recall correctly.

Walt-in-Durham

Nifong Supporter said...

Hey, Walt.

Thanks for sending the references. I will look at them and respond with a blog comment.