That former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong is the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception in1933, is enough, in itself, to raise eyebrows… especially when prosecutors such as Tom Ford and Bill Wolfe’s deliberate miscues, misdeeds and malfeasance have landed innocent men behind bars for many months and years (Gregory Taylor and James Arthur Johnson respectively). The state’s widely embraced tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color” has generated an atmosphere wherein it is acceptable for those in position of power to discriminate and persecute supporters of Mike Nifong or those considered by the Powers-That-Be to be on the wrong end of the Duke Lacrosse case. For example, I nearly was arrested on the Duke University campus for no reason other than the fact that I am supportive of Mike Nifong, which was obvious from the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong tee shirt that I was wearing. (The official Duke response for my near-arrest was that campus police acted because I was handing out business cards and asking people to visit my [pro-Nifong] website.]) Really… how many people are nearly arrested for handing out business cards?
What makes our justice system the nation’s butt of jokes is the great disparity in which so-called justice is meted out and the lack of any logic or reason behind it. There are many examples for reference available, but let put forth recent examples in which the punishment definitely does not meet the crime.
To assure the reader that I am not making this stuff up, I direct your attention to the October 5, 2010 edition of The News & Observer, page 2B’s article titled “Man charged in brutal beating.” Early in the morning of September 30, 2010, while outside of a bar on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, Evan Lawrence, a 23 year-old skateboarder flicked a cigarette which accidentally struck the leg of Charles Poll, 25. This unintentional outcome so incensed Mr. Poll that he assaulted Mr. Lawrence, using Lawrence’s head as a jackhammer. Although Mr. Lawrence walked away from this horrific attack, his condition progressively deteriorated as an enlarging blood clot built up inside his brain. Later that night, when concerned friends brought him to the emergency room, he was immediately taken to the O.R. where he underwent surgery on his brain to remove the clot. He most certainly would have died had he not had surgery, but that has not been ruled out as a possibility as he remains in critical condition nearly a week after the beating. Survival is only one aspect for consideration in this incident. There is a strong likelihood that if he survives that he might wind up severely disabled with any number of neurological, cognitive, personality impairments… some of which might require long term or life time attention.
The aggressor, Mr. Poll, dispensing a most brutal beating in response to the most trivial provocation was arrested and charged with “assault inflicting serious injury.” There was no mention of “intent to kill” according the newspaper, although slamming someone’s head against a hard immoveable object like a concrete sidewalk is a sure-fire way to induce a fatal outcome. Now the bail that was set for Mr. Poll in this incident was a paltry $7,500. Yes, you read right… I didn’t leave off any zeroes… only seven thousand five hundred dollars… for a senseless attack that has resulted in a man’s life hanging in the balance.
Compare this to the $5 million dollar bail set for Heather Holley, a middle-aged first time offender who used identity theft to go on a $1,800 shopping spree at Best Buy. She also tried to steal the identity of a two year-old in order to obtain health insurance, and tried unsuccessfully to cash a $34,000 check. Although she was jailed on nearly 30 criminal charges, none of her actions resulted in any bodily harm… no one was maimed… no one was disabled… and no one died. No one required brain surgery.
When Ms. Holley, in open court, challenged the immense bail under which she was being held, the judge hearing the case unsympathetically and maliciously tacked on an addition $1 million, which made her bail amount a staggering $6 million. Now keep in mind that this is for identity theft. There are people charged with murder in North Carolina who have bail set at less than two million dollars.
This is not to suggest that Ms. Holley is an angel or model citizen, as very few of us are. However the $6 million bail under which she is being held, and the $7,500 bail for Mr. Poll, who savagely beat a young man to the brink of death (where he now totters), is what causes an independent outside observer to shutter in disbelief at the state of North Carolina justice. Our state’s legacy when it comes to justice is so tragic and painful that there is often nothing left to do in order to maintain sanity than to just laugh.