“Walt in Durham,” the pseudonym of a frequent commenter in this blog site, www.justice4nifong.blogspot.com, is an intelligent individual, but even he has been duped and bamboozled by the media… WRAL, in particular. If the media is capable of feeding misinformation to Walt, and having him accept it as truthful, then it is obvious why the vast majority of media subscribers, like Walt, have negative attitudes towards former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong which are unwarranted.
This observation stems from a recent blog (around October 18, 2009) in which I made the following statement, “Just because Attorney General Roy Cooper said nothing happened at the party does not make it so.” Walt replied with a comment on October 21, 2009 which stated as follows: “But, Nifong himself said so twice” (insinuating that Mr. Nifong admitted that nothing happened at the Duke lacrosse party). When I requested the source upon which he based his comment, he told me it was from WRAL. And sure enough, I went to the WRAL website and upon searching, I found the following article posted on July 26, 2007, with the headline, “Nifong Apologizes, Admits Nothing Happened.”
That headline is an outright blatantly false and purposely misleading statement, and it was extremely effective in playing a Jedi-mind trick on Walt, and many others. The first part of the statement, “Nifong Apologizes,” is true, but the second part, “Admits Nothing Happened,” is offensively false on its face and baseless. There is absolutely nothing in the web article to substantiate such a claim.
Mr. Nifong does make the following statement, as published in the article: “I agree with the Attorney General’s statement that there is no credible evidence that Mr. Seligmann, Mr. Finnerty, and Mr. Evans committed any crimes for which they were indicted – or any any other crimes against Ms. Mangum – during the party.” Yes, he states that “there is no credible evidence” that the three defendants committed any crimes for which they were indicted, but that does not mean that he does not believe that they are not guilty of committing crimes against Ms. Mangum. Definitely it does not mean that Mr. Nifong believed that “nothing happened.” For the media to state that Mr. Nifong admitted that nothing happened is wrong and grossly irresponsible.
That said, there are many cases that move forward without credible evidence. In the Brittany Willis murder/rape/kidnapping/armed robbery case, there was no credible evidence against defendant James Arthur Johnson. Although Johnson heroically solved the crime for the Wilson police, he ended up spending 39 months in jail on charges which lacked credible evidence; charges that were later dropped. Notice that the media did not go after Prosecutor Bill Wolfe. In the case against 14 year old Erick Daniels, who was identified by a robbery victim due to the shape of his eyebrows in a school yearbook, there was no credible evidence that existed against him. Yet he wrongfully served seven years in jail and the media is not critical of his prosecutor, Freda Black. There was no credible evidence against Alan Gell for the murder with which he was convicted and unjustly served nine years in prison (half of it on death row). However, there was exculpatory evidence favoring Mr. Gell which the prosecutors withheld from defense attorneys in order to win a conviction. Even at that, the media went out of its way to protect and shield his prosecutor (David Hoke) from criticism. I could go on.
Bottom line is that there are many charges that are brought by prosecutors without credible evidence… but just circumstantial evidence. The admission by Mr. Nifong that no credible evidence existed does not necessarily exclude the possibility that a credible case could be built against the defendants.
Finally, the nexus between credible evidence and the occurrence of a sexual assault is non-existent, but WRAL and the media in general would like the public to believe that in this particular Duke Lacrosse case they are linked; one and the same. The folly of this argument is obvious when you consider, for example, the rape case against Ronald Cotton. Mr. Cotton was picked up off the street and placed in a lineup where he was positively identified as the rapist by a rape victim. There was no credible evidence linking him to the crime, nonetheless he was convicted and served many years in prison before being cleared by DNA. Because no credible evidence against him existed does not mean that the rape for which he was charged did not happen. In the Duke Lacrosse case, Attorney General Cooper has reached far beyond his bounds by declaring that no criminal activity took place against Ms. Mangum, based on the fact that there was no “credible” evidence against those accused by Ms. Mangum. And this is the line that the media, including WRAL, pursued and propagated.
Furthermore, the media, instead of questioning the legitimacy and propriety of the attorney general’s “innocent” proclamation of the three Duke Lacrosse defendants, accepted it as being legitimate and binding. This declaration is an example of overreaching and irresponsibility by the attorney general at its greatest, and the media has been content to completely ignore its lack of legal substance. This is an outrage that WRAL reported without question and as factual with its online statement: “Following North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper’s declaration this April that the three men were innocent, …”
A final disgracefully misleading passage in the WRAL article is: “The defense’s request to drop the motion for criminal sanctions means that Nifong will no longer be required to reimburse the defendants thousands of dollars for costs incurred in the defense’s uncovering of exculpatory DNA evidence that could have cleared the players had the case gone to trial.” First of all, the defense probably decided to drop the motion for criminal sanctions because of the absurdity of the charge, which would become apparent in a courtroom. To expect a prosecutor to pay for work performed by the defense team is absolutely ludicrous, yet the media’s take on it is matter-of-fact. But the most egregious and disingenuous part of the statement is the use of the adjective “exculpatory” when describing DNA evidence. There is absolutely no way in which the referenced DNA evidence could be exculpatory (that is, clear the players of sexual assault), and to suggest so is a monumental disservice to the public. WRAL, along with almost all other media sources, has consistently erred on this specific issue of great importance.
In reporting on the same event, John Stevenson, of The Herald Sun, makes statements similar to WRAL such as: “All remaining charges against the defendants were dismissed in April by Attorney General Roy Cooper, who declared the three innocent,…”
The Herald Sun goes out of its way to generate sympathy for the Duke defendants by quoting one of their attorneys, Joseph Cheshire: “…a long journey of suffering for innocent people.” Mr. Cheshire takes advantage of Attorney General Cooper’s “innocent” declaration, and then the public is supposed to believe that the Duke Lacrosse players suffered? First, they spent no time in jail (their prosecutor – Mike Nifong – spent more time in jail than they did combined). Second, they each received $7 million from Duke University in an out of court settlement (don’t ask me why). Third, their avaricious carpetbagger families are currently trying to gouge another $10 million for each of their defendant sons from the cash-strapped city of Durham. Fourth, they were represented by high-powered attorney, not public defenders. And fifth, they were certainly not oblivious to the biased media attacks being lodged against Mike Nifong, the accuser, and the city of Durham. With consideration of the aforementioned, I doubt very seriously that the boys endured a “long journey of suffering.” James Arthur Johnson, Erick Daniels, Floyd Brown, Charles Wayne Munsey, Theodore Jerry Williams, and other innocent people who were wrongfully incarcerated for long periods of time without compensation know what it is to suffer. On the other hand, the Duke Lacrosse defendants have mainly experienced pampering and coddling by the courts, the media, and the public… privileged treatment for which they have been accustomed and to which they feel is their birthright.
As outrageous and unfair as the coverage by WRAL and The Herald Sun was, it pales in comparison to the ranting of MSNBC Senior legal analyst Susan F. Filan. In an online article posted June 17, 2007, titled “Nifong’s punishment is extreme, appropriate,” Ms. Filan claims that Mr. Nifong damaged the sport of lacrosse. Now, I am not making this up. She actually wrote that! I would like to know how. First of all, I doubt that he even knows anything about the sport. Another unsubstantiated claim by Ms. Filan is that Mr. Nifong damaged the reputation of Duke University. Again, I would like to know how. Her article failed to explain. Ms. Filan claims Mr. Nifong damaged three innocent men. Like the rest of the media, she gives credence to Attorney General Roy Cooper’s “innocent” declaration. Now I have never attended law school, and I am certainly not the senior legal analyst of a major media network, but from my high school civics class I learned that the attorney general, or anyone else in the executive branch, does not have the authority to render judicial decisions. That authority lies clearly with the judicial branch of government, as in judges.
Finally, Ms. Filan blames Mr. Nifong for damaging the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Nifong, in prosecuting the Duke Lacrosse case on behalf of a victim who was poor, disenfranchised, and of color, against three young college men from families of wealth and privilege, was following the principle of “equal justice for all.” North Carolina justice, in practice, follows the tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color.” That is what prevailed in the Duke Lacrosse case. The powers that be, and the media (including Ms. Filan) which was in cahoots with those powers, are responsible for destroying the public’s faith in the criminal justice system of North Carolina. All one has to do is look at the cases of James Arthur Johnson, Erick Daniels, Floyd Brown, Theodore Jerry Williams, Wayne Charles Munsey, Darryl Hunt, and many others who are poor and disenfranchised, and then compare them with the Duke Lacrosse case.
I take umbrage at Ms. Filan’s baseless speculations, especially her following statement: “He used the Duke case to get re-elected, and he resigned to try to save his law license.” What proof does she have for making these claims? They are reckless, inflammatory comments that are unsubstantiated… definitely statements which I doubt that she can back up with fact.
Ms. Filan did note in her article the rarity of the disbarment of an attorney, stating that it is the legal equivalent of a unicorn sighting. I would disagree when it comes to attorneys in private practice, but the statement is valid when it comes to state prosecutors. She failed to mention that Mike Nifong is the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception in 1933. During a 76 year period, hundreds, if not thousands of North Carolina attorneys have lost their law license, but only one prosecutor has been disbarred… Mike Nifong. This is a fact that the media has kept hidden from the public, especially in light of North Carolina cases in which there has been egregious prosecutorial misconduct… in particular the Alan Gell case. Furthermore, North Carolina follows only the states of Illinois and Louisiana in the number of death row inmates who have been exonerated.
This type of Journalism engaged in by WRAL, The Herald Sun, MSNBC and other media outlets is detrimental to the public which relies on the media for fair and objective reporting. The false, fraudulent, unsubstantiated statements and claims put forth by the media about Mr. Nifong are not the result of sloppiness or inattention, but they are carefully calculated statements made as propaganda intended to direct public sentiment against Mr. Nifong who has attempted to take class and color out of the equation when it comes to justice in North Carolina.
Mr. Nifong has always maintained that he felt that something criminal did happen to the accuser at the March 13, 2006 party hosted by the Duke Lacrosse team. Unlike Attorney General Roy Cooper, Mr. Nifong never said “nothing happened” at the party. So, the media took it upon itself to do it for him… even though there was no truth to it. And as a result, intelligent people, like Walt in Durham, believed the lie… proving that the media has become quite adroit at using the Jedi-mind trick on the public. That is what the media did in its coverage of the Duke Lacrosse case and its prosecutor, Mike Nifong – instead of informing the people, it was busy molding their minds.