When Attorney General Roy Cooper dismissed all the charges against the three Duke Lacrosse defendants on April 11, 2007, he did something outside his scope of legal authority… in an unprecedented move, he pronounced the three Duke Lacrosse defendants “innocent.” The biased mainstream media was quick to jump and embrace this proclamation by the A.G. as being legally binding and valid. The defendants were often referred to in the media as “innocent,” or “exonerated,” or “cleared of the charges.” However, as I have been complaining for some time, the statement of “innocent” made by Attorney General Cooper has no legal weight, and the statements by the media using “innocent” etc, are totally incorrect and misleadingly false.
On February 22, 2010, I sent an e-mail to Professor Anthony Baker of Campbell University School of law, in which I made the following three observations and asked for him to comment on them:
(1) The North Carolina Attorney General does not have the legal authority to determine, declare, or make a pronouncement as to whether or not a criminal defendant is “innocent,” “not guilty,” and/or “guilty.”
(2) The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office, when taking over criminal prosecution in a role as special prosecutor, is charged with either proceeding with the prosecution or dismissing the charges. Conferring “guilt,” “non-guilt,” or “innocence” is not his mandate and is not within his province.
(3) The media is legally and technically incorrect whenever it makes references to the guilt, non-guilt, or innocence of a defendant based upon a determination, statement, or position of an attorney general in the state of North Carolina.
In an e-mail reply to me dated that same day, Professor Baker made the following statement, “As for your three statements, as worded I agree with them all. The A.G. presents a case but does not sit as ‘trier of fact’ -- or ultimate adjudicator -- of it. That is the sole province of the jury, or a judge sitting in lieu of a jury.”
I am sorry for the delay in responding, but I have been recently attending events (John Hope Franklin Conference “From Slavery to Freedom to the White House” held at Duke Law School on April 8th through 10th, and the interview at Duke Law School open to the public featuring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer on April 14th). And after the latter event which had me being expelled from the Duke University campus and nearly arrested, I have been busy dealing with that situation, as well. Plus, I am trying to complete Episode V of the comic strip, which is slowly but surely progressing.
Anyway, those in opposition to my position (which I have backed up with the aforementioned contents of the e-mail from a law school professor and scholar Anthony Baker) have yet to offer a statement from a person with a credible legal background to argue to the contrary. Coffin v. United States, 156 U.S. 432 (1895) says nothing about a state’s attorney general being given the legal authority to pronounce a defendant “innocent,” “not guilty,” or “guilty,” and is therefore without relevance.
Good luck in trying to find someone to make such a statement and allow you to quote him/her, because for someone to do so would definitely expose them as being the ones who truly do not understand the law.