Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Complete "Super-Duper Cooper" episode now posted on Website

Part 4 of "The MisAdventures of Super-Duper Cooper" is now posted on the website : . It concludes the four part Episode I. On the final strip of the comic, there is a button that links to a complete analysis of the entire episode, which parses fact from fiction.

Work is half way completed on Episode II, titled "To Hell and Back: Travails of the Un-indicted Duke LAXers." It follows the absurd lawsuit filed by high-powered Washington (D.C.) attorneys on behalf of 38 party-going, fun-loving Duke lacrosse athletes who are trying to cash in on the financial windfall that the three indicted student-athletes enjoy. According to reliable sources, the three each received a settlement of seven million dollars ($7,000,000.00) from Duke University for reasons which still remain unknown to me. Duke University folded before the students' attorneys, giving them exorbitant compensation and rewarding them for taking part in a raucous party for which the lacrosse team was infamous. Anyway, Part 1 of Episode II should be posted on the justice4nifong web site within three or four weeks.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The N & O’s proactive stand on the presidential election.. but what about other issues?

On the Sunday, October 19, 2008, editorial page of the News & Observer, was the following article: "Our Endorsement: U.S. President – It’s Obama." Now, I applaud the newspaper not because it selected Obama (which reinforces my belief that the staff at the newspaper is very intelligent), but because it made its endorsement known before the November 4th election. In other words, it acted editorially proactively.

All too often, the News & Observer editorial staff waits until after the resolution of a crisis before making its position known. This is especially evident in criminal justice cases where innocent, poor, people of color (usually) have languished in jail, convicted by the flawed and prejudicial actions of the prosecutors. Recent cases include those of Erick Daniels who was in jail for seven years (from the age of 15 to 22), or James Arthur Johnson who was incarcerated for 39 months without a trial.

Erick Daniels’s release came about only after the Independent Weekly did an in-depth cover story about the case in May 2007. And James Johnson’s release was prompted by the actions of the NAACP under Rev. Dr. William Barber. They brought the media spotlight on the case which forced the Wilson prosecutors to back-peddle. The News & Observer’s editorial staff was quick to write semi-scathing opinions after the young men were released, but it remained silent while the boys languished in jail. Had the newspaper taken a proactive stance and wrote about the injustice in these cases before the two were released, the wheels of justice might have turned sooner in their cases.

For some time now I have implored the editorial staff of the News & Observer to write about the injustice of the disbarment of former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong. For Mr. Nifong to be the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception is totally preposterous. Especially when you take into consideration other acts of prosecutorial misconduct that are far more egregious than anything that Mr. Nifong is accused of doing. Those prosecutors, Anson District Attorney Michael Parker, Prosecutors David Hoke and Debra Graves, Prosecutors Ken Honeycutt and Scott Brewer, Durham Prosecutor Freda Black, and other North Carolina prosecutors, are responsible for many innocent people spending many years wrongfully incarcerated, and yet they are not even disciplined. The Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong would, again, request that the editorial staff of the News & Observer let its position be known as to where it stands regarding the fairness of the disbarment of Mr. Nifong.

Pressing issues that the newspaper’s editorial staff should proactively make declarations about include the following:
1) The aforementioned unjust disbarment of Mike Nifong;
2) The state’s wasteful spending of money to W. David McFadyen (a prosecutor from the private sector) to conduct an investigation into the "accessory after the fact" charge against James Johnson (which is being conducted for the sole purpose of vilifying Johnson in order to help defend Prosecutor Bill Wolfe from a complaint lodged with the Bar against him by the NAACP); and
3) The failure of the family and friends to pay James Johnson the $20,000.00 reward which he earned for solving the murder, rape, and kidnapping of Brittany Willis. Because they reneged on their reward offer (in large measure, I believe, because of the actions of Wilson police and prosecutors), the use of reward money as an incentive for the public to get involved and help solve crimes is greatly diminished, in addition to being unfair to James Johnson.

To be critical of the state’s justice system is not an easy undertaking, as one risks subjecting himself/herself to retaliation from the Attorney General’s Office and other administration officials and agencies. However, I believe that the newspaper owes it to the public to protect the public by voicing its well-respected opinions on vital issues that affect the lives of all North Carolinians.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Part 3 of the "MisAdventures of Super-Duper Cooper" is now posted.

(Part 3 of 4, of Episode I of "The MisAdventures of Super-Duper Cooper" is now posted on the official "justice4nifong" web site. The web address is: )

In future blogs, we will address issues of prosecutorial misconduct and disparity of discipline of other prosecutors when compared with Mike Nifong. Mr. Scott Huminski is an authority on prosecutorial misconduct, and has been actively working to protect the public from injustice dispensed by these prosecutors. As an expert, we value his insights and comments, such as that quoted below:

"We have prosecutors in this country actively committing felonies in the scope and duty of their work without any outrage or enforcement. The actions taken against Nifong are wildly disproportionate to the alleged conduct and contrary to the standard of conduct other prosecutors are held to." -- scott huminski

Without a doubt, Mr. Huminski's assessment with respect to the justice system in North Carolina is right on target.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

ABC TV-11 News Acts Proactively and Saves NC Taxpayers Millions

At the bottom of the front page of the October 9, 2008 News & Observer, is an article by staff writer Mark Johnson titled “State’s jet purchase is off, but can we get back the deposit?” First of all, the deposit was earnest money, and since the state reneged on its intention of purchasing the jet, it is not entitled to receive that money back. It should not even attempt to get it back. Sure, it’s a quarter of a million taxpayer dollars down the drain, but its better than wasting an additional nine million to purchase a luxury private jet that the state does not need.

According to the second paragraph of the article, Governor Mike Easley scrubbed the deal after “reporters asked questions about the Cessna citation jet..” What the paper fails to mention is that the reporters were not from the N & O (as one would assume), but from ABC TV-11 News. By proactively investigating the jet purchase and bringing it before the governor after he demanded financial sacrifices from others, it forced the governor to make the wise and prudent choice and cancel the purchase. (At least in the article about Erick Daniels being released from prison after seven years of false imprisonment, the News & Observer gave credit to the Independent Weekly for its proactive involvement in helping to bring about his release.)

The News & Observer is a well read and respected newspaper, and it has the potential to do a lot of good for the lives of North Carolinians, whether in saving taxpayer dollars or acting as an advocate for justice when the system does not work. Had the editorial staff, under Editorial Page Editor Steven Ford, written an article about the jet purchase and opined about the appropriateness of its purchase, then I am sure that Governor Easley would have responded similar to the way he responded when questioned by the ABC reporters.

But, it seems as though the News & Observer’s editorial staff has chosen to sit on the sidelines when it comes to taking a proactive role in effecting the outcome of important issues that affect North Carolinians. It elects to write editorials about issues only after a resolution has been reached; an approach with is safe and lacks courage, but is also of no value to the people. The editorial in the News & Observer Our Views entitled “Free to go: Wrongful convictions are a blight on North Carolina’s courts, even if there’s rejoicing when an innocent man is freed,” was written about Erick Daniels after he was released from prison having been wrongfully incarcerated for seven years. The armed robbery conviction, which was won against the fifteen year old (who was tried as an adult) by Durham Prosecutor Freda Black, was considered to be such a weak case that the Judge refused to allow the case to be re-tried. Had the News & Observer cared enough about Erick Daniels, or about justice for the poor, disenfranchised, and people of color, and taken the effort to express their views on the case, Erick Daniels might have been released much sooner. Even after the May 2007 cover story in the Independent Weekly, the N & O’s editorial staff remained mum.

There remain issues that affect taxpayers’ wallets and have a bearing on the justice they receive, and the News & Observer should get in the game, instead of playing Tuesday morning quarterback. Specifically, the class C felony “accessory after the fact” charge against James Arthur Johnson (who wrongfully spent 39 months in jail before his release without going to trial) involves an excessive waste of taxpayer dollars, and is being undertaken to protect a Wilson prosecutor from a charge of prosecutorial misconduct which was filed with the North Carolina State Bar, in September 2007 by the NAACP.

Since March 2008, W. David McFadyen, a former prosecutor who is now an attorney in the private sector, has been “investigating” whether to further waste taxpayer money by prosecuting James Arthur Johnson for wiping fingerprints off a car (under a charge of “accessory after the fact”). Forsyth County Assistant District Attorney Belinda Foster was forced (by her boss, Forsyth County District Attorney Thomas J. Keith) to enter that charge after a “two month” investigation which concluded that charges of capital murder, kidnapping, rape, and armed robbery should be dropped. She did so only under the condition that she not be forced to prosecute the case, so Mr. Keith stated that her workload was so full that she could not be spared to follow the charge to its conclusion. The North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts was unable to find a prosecutor among its 600 salaried state prosecutors who was willing to take part of the flawed case, so, that task was taken up by an attorney in the private sector. I tried to find out what we taxpayers are wasting on this so-called investigation, and I was told that there was no written contract!

What is further unbelievable is the fact that it took Attorney Foster two months of investigation, while maintaining a full workload in Winston-Salem, to determine that four felony charges of capital murder, kidnapping, rape, and armed robbery should be dropped. Meanwhile, Special Prosecutor McFadyen has spent seven months working on the “accessory after the fact” charge alone. It is not only evident to the objective observer why Belinda Foster filed the “accessory” charge, but why David McFadyen is pursuing it. The state will go to excessive measures and waste taxpayer money to protect its prosecutors who go after the poor, disenfranchised and people of color.

Many months ago, I asked the editorial staff of the News & Observer to investigate the contract with Mr. McFadyen, and give their views on what is both a waste of taxpayer money and a blatant attempt by the State to smear James Johnson’s reputation in order to protect Wilson Prosecutor Bill Wolfe. Furthermore, I asked the paper to respond about the fact that the family and friends of Brittany Willis (the victim for whom Johnson was wrongfully charged) reneged on the twenty thousand dollar ($20,000.00) reward offer which James Johnson rightfully earned. He should have received it long ago, and withholding its payment, does not bode favorable towards the overall impression of his innocence. Furthermore, withholding payment of a reward which is earned for solving a crime is a deterrent for other citizens who might be willing to take a risk and come forward to solve a crime.

The News & Observer needs to come forward on its editorial page and take a proactive stand on positions of justice and financial waste, such as the aforementioned. Also, it should make it clear where it stands with regards to the fairness of the disbarment of former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong. Mr. Nifong has the dubious distinction of being the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception.. this despite 27 years of distinguished service to the state as a prosecutor. That statistic, on its face, is an absurdity, especially in light of the recent release of North Carolina death row inmates who were falsely convicted by the prosecutorial misconduct of prosecutors following the tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color.”

To the editorial staff of the News & Observer, I think the time is past overdue for you to leave your comfort zone, get in the game, and make a positive difference for the people your publication serves.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Durham Prosecutor Mitch Garrell – No “Minister of Justice”

[Note: Part 2 of Episode I’s “MisAdventures of Super-Duper Cooper” is now posted on the “Justice 4 Nifong” web site: .]

Under the North Carolina State Bar’s “Rule 3.8 Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor,” it states: “A prosecutor has the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply an advocate; the prosecutor’s duty is to seek justice, not merely to convict.”

Durham County Prosecutor Mitch Garrell obviously shirked his responsibility as a minister of justice three years ago when he offered the recently released Erick Daniels the following plea deal: He would be released from jail upon the following conditions - (1) Daniels would deny involvement in the crime but acknowledge the existence of incriminating evidence in exchange for time served; and (2) he would be branded a felon. What a deal!! Thank goodness he was being represented by defense attorney Carlos Mahoney.

It was obvious not only to Independent Weekly reporter Mosi Secret and lay people familiar with the case by following it in the media that the armed robbery charge against the15 year defendant was bogus, but also to Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson. After seven years of incarceration, during a hearing Judge Hudson dropped the charges against Daniels and refused to allow a re-trial.

With such a case against Erick Daniels, that is all but non-existent, Prosecutor Garrell’s plead deal was designed to inflict a lifetime of pain, stigma, and discrimination against a young man who he knew (or should have known) was innocent of the crime for which he had already spent four years behind bars. In other words, to compound injustice (years of wrongful incarceration) upon injustice (being forever unjustly labeled a felon). The first part of the plea deal (to deny involvement in the crime but acknowledge the existence of incriminating evidence) is blatantly false and a travesty. What incriminating evidence?? The only purpose for such an admission by the defendant would be to provide protection and cover for a flimsy case that was pursued without probable cause.

Due to North Carolina justice’s tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color,” the outrageously unjust events that have befallen young Erick Daniels are not of concern to North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper (he has not proclaimed Erick Daniels “innocent”), Governor Mike Easley (he has not proclaimed him innocent as a step towards the measly compensation he is due for his wrongful incarceration), or even the media in general (the News & Observer editorial of September 27, 2008, states that after seven years of wrongful incarceration during the prime years of his life, that his release from jail and dropped charges is evidence that “an appalling mistake has finally been corrected”). Far from it!

Erick Daniels at least deserves a public proclamation of his innocence (akin to what defendants from families of wealth, power, and prestige receive), and he deserves the paltry financial compensation ($20,000.00/year) from the state for wrongful incarceration. Personally, I believe the state owes him tuition paid higher education or job training, in addition.

Durham Prosecutor Freda Black prosecuted this merit-less case, and with the aid of an inadequate defense was able to win a conviction. Durham Prosecutor Mitch Garrell, with his pitiful plea deal, involved himself in the case as being an antithesis of a “Minister of Justice” (along with Black). Where is the media outrage against these prosecutors? I hear no calls for them to be brought before the State Bar. This reinforces the sad commentary on North Carolina’s justice system. It is a system wherein the only prosecutor in the state’s history to be disbarred is former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong. It is evident that Mr. Nifong was prosecuted and persecuted because he followed the principle of “equal justice for all” instead of openly supporting and promoting the State’s tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color.”

Saturday, October 4, 2008

justice4nifong website is now up

The web site, justice4nifong, is now up and running. The web address is: . Although it is online, there is much more that needs to be done, so my efforts have been focused on that. Currently I am working on getting the Nifong Manifesto (Part I and Part II) completed and linked to the site. There will be a page dedicated to Documents, which will include correspondence, e-mail, news articles, and other materials collected while conducting research on the state's justice system. Also, there are installments of the "MisAdventure of Super Duper Cooper" that will be posted on a weekly basis, so keep tabs on the site. Episode I, which is titled "The Best PR/Media Blitz Money Can Buy," is completed and we are currently working on Episode II, titled "To Hell and Back: Travails of the Un-indicted Duke LAXers." The blog site will be connected soon, as well. The Contact Us page has been put on the backburner for now, but the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong can be reached by e-mail:

Special notice to Mr. Unenbakke... I appreciate your comments, although I do not agree with any of them. Because of my schedule working on the website, which is very labor intensive, I have not been able to respond to the points that you have made. However, you will be pleased to note that the Committee has increased its membership by fifty percent (50%). Joining Victoria Peterson and me (Sidney B. Harr), is Mr. Douglas Register. We are pleased to welcome him in joining us in a cause to which he has been devoted to long before the Committee even came into existence.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Attorney General Roy Cooper's TV Ad

(Note: The "justice4nifong" website should be up and running no later than noon tomorrow, October 2, 2008. The address is: .)

Several times yesterday I managed to catch a glimpse of NC Attorney General Roy Cooper’s television campaign ad. My assessment of it is that it is a slick and professional piece of work that is accurate.. up to a point.

The ad begins with the words "The Duke Lacrosse Decision" plastered across the screen, which fades out to show a dapper Roy Cooper behind a podium as if addressing members of the press. He admonishes the state’s prosecutorial team for a "rush to judgment" in the Duke Lacrosse case, and then declares its three defendants innocent. The ad then goes on to babble about the state’s forensic lab, and finally ends with this incredulous statement (a paraphrase): "The Attorney General is dedicated not only to prosecuting defendants for guilt, but protecting those defendants who are innocent."

That statement is true when applied to defendants who are from a class and color that are privileged. The defendants who are poor, disenfranchised, and people of color, regardless of their innocence and the weakness of the case against them, are ignored. They are invisible to the attorney general. On many occasions I have asked the Attorney General’s Office to comment or take action on other cases, such as those against James Arthur Johnson and Erick Daniels. The only response was deafening silence, inaction, and the dismissal of my concerns.
That Attorney General Roy Cooper follows a tenet of "selective justice based on Class and Color" is evidenced by his disparate record. For example, when three Duke students (from families of wealth, status, and privilege) are accused of a crime, and charged by a state prosecutor, the attorney general springs into action. He asks the State Bar to investigate the prosecutor, he makes disparaging statements about the prosecutor prior to his hearing with the Bar, he tries to get the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the prosecutor for depriving the Duke defendants of their civil rights, and he goes before the public and proclaims the defendants "innocent."

Now contrast that with what happened in just two (of many other) examples: James Arthur Johnson languished in jail for 39 months before charges of murder, rape, kidnapping, and armed robbery were dropped. Roy Cooper was silent and inactive. Belinda Foster, who was forced by her boss D. A. Tom Keith, filed an "accessory after the fact" charge against James Johnson in order to protect Wilson Assistant D. A. Bill Wolfe from a prosecutorial misconduct complaint filed with the State Bar by the NAACP. Roy Cooper remains silent and inactive as the state wastes taxpayers’ money with the bogus investigation by private sector prosecutor David McFadyen.

Erick Daniels, as a 15 year old, was sentenced to ten to fourteen years for armed robbery despite the fact that he did not resemble the description of the perpetrator of the crime, and that there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime. He was incarcerated for seven years before a judge ruled in his favor and released him from custody. Furthermore, he believed so much in the innocence of Erick Daniels, that he refused to allow the state to re-try him. Roy Cooper is silent and inactive.

The following are inmates who have been released from Death Row since 2004: Alan Gell, Jonathan Gregory Hoffman, Glen Chapman, and Levon "Bo" Jones. I do not recall any activity in any of those cases by the Attorney General’s Office, with the exception of one case. The case of Alan Gell. Mr. Gell’s conviction for capital murder was obtained only by prosecutors David Hoke and Debra Graves withholding exculpatory evidence that proved beyond doubt that Mr. Gell could not have possibly committed the crime. When the misconduct by the prosecution was uncovered (after Mr. Gell had spent nearly ten years in prison – half of it on death row), the conviction was thrown out. Yet, the Attorney General’s Office got involved and retried the case against Mr. Gell. Within an hour of receiving the case, the jury reached a verdict of "not guilty."

The Alan Gell case most accurately represents Attorney General Roy Cooper’s position when it comes to the state prosecutors and their role as "ministers of justice." Nonexistent.