During the past twelve months, Tar Heelians have had few successes in the criminal justice system tally, but the few we have had have been profoundly significant. Without doubt, our number one blessing for which we should all be thankful is the release from a life sentence and exoneration from a murder conviction of Gregory Flint Taylor. Taylor, you will recall, was maliciously and willfully convicted for the 1991 murder of Jacquetta Thomas in Raleigh. Prosecutor Tom Ford managed to win a conviction against Taylor despite 1) lack of physical evidence tying Taylor to the crime; 2) the use of perjured testimony from unreliable and compromised witnesses; and 3) hocus-pocus forensics by the SBI lab. With full knowledge that Taylor was innocent of the crime, Prosecutor Ford prosecuted Taylor in a vendetta against Taylor who refused to falsely implicate Johnny Beck, a black man who was the primary target of Ford in this crime. We are all grateful that Taylor, though wrongfully incarcerated for seventeen years, was finally freed through the efforts of advocates for the wrongly convicted.
Secondly, all Tar Heelians should be thankful for the work of the NC Center for Actual Innocence for its significant contributions in winning the freedom of Greg Taylor. We are fortunate to have Christine Mumma, its director and co-founder, along with co-founder retired Judge I. Beverly Lake, heading this august group.
Third, we can also be thankful for work done by Duke law professor James Coleman on behalf of the wrongly convicted and incarcerated. Heading a program at Duke University School of Law, it has met with successes during the past year, as well.
Fourth, we can all be thankful for the exposure of the unfair and unethical practices employed by NC prosecutors who manipulated the shoddy SBI lab results that were instrumental in obtaining hocus-pocus “win-at-all-cost” convictions. Hopefully, revelations about these unfair practices which have been in play for decades will present currently imprisoned innocents with keys to freedom from their unjust confinement.
Fifth, we should be thankful for the courageous members of the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong, who lend their names and faces to the worthy cause of seeking justice for Mike Nifong… justice being the unilateral and unconditional reinstatement of his license to practice law in North Carolina without restrictions.
Finally, all North Carolinians can be thankful for Mike Nifong who represents the ideals of a prosecutorial “Minister of Justice.” In the Duke Lacrosse case, Nifong placed his dedication and determination to pursue justice above the real and imminent threat of losing his incumbency bid to be elected as Durham district attorney. He eschewed the warnings and pressures of prosecuting the case by acting independently to pursue justice against three defendants deemed by many – including media-types – to be of Class and Color too powerful, prestigious, privileged, and prominent to be convicted. And because Mike Nifong adhered to the principle of “equal justice for all,” he, like Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Beckett (who defied England’s King Henry II) suffered the consequences by being subjected to singular and draconian retribution by the state of North Carolina, and crucifixion in the biased mainstream media.
We should all give thanks fo the above. Hopefully by the time next Thanksgiving rolls around, we will have more criminal justice victories under our belt to celebrate.
I would like to thank all of those who have contributed comments to this blog regardless of their positions, all who read this blog, and all who are advocates for justice in North Carolina. Your participation is what makes this blog the success it is and contributes to making justice in the state a reality and not just a mirage. I am hoping that you all enjoy the presence of family and friends during this special holiday, and that after a hearty meal of turkey, stuffing, cranberries and all of the trimmings you are able to push away from the dinner table without being uncomfortably stuffed.