Joseph B. Cheshire V, the state’s premiere defense attorney for the powerful, privileged, and well-heeled, should know about the media, and its ability to mold the minds of individuals who are ill-informed and have an abiding faith in whatever the media spoon-feeds them. Cheshire used the media in the Duke Lacrosse case, playing it like a well-tuned Stradivarius, in laying waste to the good reputation that had been built over nearly three decades by a dedicated prosecutor and man of the highest integrity, Mike Nifong. When called upon to destroy the man who dared to charge and prosecute the sons of the three Carpetbagger families of the Duke Lacrosse defendants, Cheshire exceeded all expectations in helping to orchestrate the downfall of the man who Rae Forker Evans, mother of Duke Lacrosse defendant Dave Evans, vowed on CBS’s “60 Minutes” would “pay every day for the rest of his life.” Cheshire did not pull any punches in lambasting Nifong in the media… the media working in unison with Cheshire, state agencies of North Carolina, the North Carolina State Bar and others in fulfilling the Carpetbagger Jihad agenda against Nifong. It was the perfect storm that the media used to control public thought about the Duke Lacrosse case, and mindless individuals exposed to the biased media spin came away believing that the three Duke Lacrosse defendants were exonerated, that Prosecutor Mike Nifong prosecuted the case in an attempt to win an election, and that nothing untoward happened at the Duke house on Buchanan Street, which Duke University wasted no time in secretly razing. The media characterized Mr. Nifong as the second coming of Satan, and he was vilified to the extent that almost all individuals in North Carolina, and those individuals somewhat familiar with the media’s presentation of it throughout the country, have negative and even hostile feelings towards Mr. Nifong. And one person responsible for fanning the media flames has been Joseph Cheshire.
In the November 24, 2010 edition of The News & Observer is an article titled “Lawyer says media fanned the flames.” In it Mr. Cheshire decries the media treatment of his client, former North Carolina Governor Mike Easley. The former governor was involved in several shady deals during which he received substantial financial gain… deals involving real estate and travel. Cheshire managed to wrangle out a plea agreement in which his client pled guilty to a single felony charge in exchange for the State and Federal investigations and prosecutions coming to a close. And, of course, he was to face no jail time… that is punishment reserved for those North Carolinian felony offenders who are poor, disenfranchised, and people of color. Privileged felons are usually required to pay a nominal fee to the court… and I believe that the fine for Mr. Easley was approximately one thousand dollars. Also he is not subject to probation or required to spend time with community service.
All told, Mr. Easley got off easy. He was treated with kid gloves not only by the media, but by the prosecutors and judge as well. State and federal prosecutors were quick to bring their investigations to a close as soon as the former governor agreed to plead guilty to a minor, but felonious, charge. Easley was probably well advised to take the deal in order to prevent more damaging revelations from being brought to the fore. Although Cheshire was able to arrange for the attorney general to state that his Duke Lacrosse clients were “innocent” (and which the media falsely gave credence to), he could not engineer one in this case, so he took it upon himself to state that although his client pled guilty to a felony charge, there was no corruption. I don’t know what Mr. Cheshire’s definition of “corruption” is, but it must come from the same dictionary used by Duke’s Michael Schoenfeld who defined “solicitation” as handing out a business card and asking someone to visit your website.
It’s hard for me to conjure up sympathy for the friendly media treatment of Mike Easley when one considers the hostile and blatantly biased media treatment of Mike Nifong. The media’s greatest flaw is in using Roy Cooper’s April 11, 2007 “Innocent Promulgation” as a basis for stating that the Duke Lacrosse defendants were innocent or exonerated. Despite being informed about this misleading statement, it continues to this day, nearly four years later. In addition, the media persistently labeled Mike Nifong as the “disgraced” former Durham district attorney. Any negative adjectives used to describe Easley were sparingly if ever used. For me, it is more disgraceful to abuse one’s position of power in exchange for one’s personal gain… such as what apparently transpired with Cheshire’s client. Mike Nifong, on the other hand, was merely carrying out his job as the Durham district attorney when he prosecuted the Duke Lacrosse case. And he carried it out at the risk of losing his election bid as the incumbent district attorney. By proceeding with the prosecution of the Duke Lacrosse case, the May 2006 primary election was tightened, and he nearly lost to a November candidate who ran only to oppose Nifong, with the publicized intention of resigning if victorious in order to permit the governor to appoint a new district attorney.
Joe Cheshire is selective when it comes to criticizing the media, or others. For example, he is highly critical of Mike Nifong, but when it comes to Tom Ford, the prosecutor of one of Cheshire’s other clients, Gregory Taylor, Cheshire doesn’t utter one disparaging word. Ford put an innocent man in jail for life as a vendetta because he would not turn and give perjured testimony to implicate an innocent black man in the death of Jacquetta Thomas. Taylor was convicted by hocus-pocus forensics and Ford’s witnesses who gave perjured testimony against Taylor… and although Taylor was wrongfully incarcerated for seventeen years because of Ford’s vengeful actions, Cheshire publicly refers to Tom Ford as a good prosecutor and admirable court-room adversary.
Tom Fetzer, the state Republican chairman stated in response to Easley’s plea deal, “I think North Carolina has developed a reputation for being a very corrupt state.” Well, I agree with Fetzer’s observation, and believe that it is a reputation that is well deserved. How else can the state explain why Mike Nifong is the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception in1933, when it trails only the states of Louisiana and Illinois in the number of death row inmates who have been exonerated by DNA evidence? How else can the state explain the draconian, singular, and unwarranted persecution of Mike Nifong when it is not even apparent to public why Nifong was disbarred? There is no logical or reasonable explanation for the persecution meted out to Nifong… he was punished to set an example for other prosecutors who elect to pursue the principle of “equal justice for all” instead of abiding by the state’s tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color.” Nifong was also punished as part of the Jihad against him that was launched by Rae Evans in her “60 Minutes” interview.
For his Duke Lacrosse defendant, for Gregory Taylor, and for Mike Easley, Joseph Cheshire served his clients well. And even though only one of his aforementioned clients was legally found to be innocent (Gregory Taylor), the media has been favorable to them all. The same cannot be said for Duke Lacrosse prosecutor Mike Nifong who the media attacked with relish. Spearheading the media onslaught against Nifong was Joseph Cheshire who now takes umbrage at the slightest media insult of his client, the former governor of the state. The complaints by Cheshire leveled at the media for its coverage of Mike Easley’s alleged corrupt actions are hypocritical and mind-boggling when one considers Cheshire’s role in the media war aimed at Mike Nifong… a war that has not let up since its first volleys in 2006.