Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The best way to lose an election… Court the black vote!

If given a little thought, it would come as no surprise that the best, sure fire way to lose an election would be to court the African American vote. Even in cities, counties and districts where they represent a fairly large percentage of the population, the per cent of those who are eligible and registered voters is more likely than not disproportionately small. Of those African Americans who are registered to vote, the likelihood that they will avail themselves of the opportunity is not as great as other blocks of voters. The reasons are many, and include the fact that many blacks feel disenfranchised and have no faith in elected politicians to seriously address their concerns. Others may feel intimidated about voting due to possible outstanding warrants, fines, or other legal snares awaiting them. A larger per cent of African Americans are usually unemployed, with many of voting age being single parents, and many do not have a high school diploma. Statistics have shown that populations that are not highly educated are less likely to vote. African Americans struggling to support their families are less likely to take time to vote, as well. Finally, a disproportionately large number of African Americans are incarcerated, or have been labeled by the courts as being felons. Therefore, a large per cent of African Americans making up a population does not automatically guarantee that a large number of them will be registered to vote, and that of those who are registered, that they will turn out. Therefore, it is a reasonable premise that the best way to lose an election is for a candidate to court the black vote.

This premise is applicable to the city of Durham, and any reasonable person would know that former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong lessened his chances for re-election when he prosecuted the Duke Lacrosse case. He did not try to use the case for political leverage one way or the other. Mr. Nifong prosecuted the case because of the particulars of the alleged attack: 1) gang-like sexual assault; and 2) use of racial epithets by the partygoers against the alleged victim. Mr. Nifong prosecuted the case because it was in his job description as a district attorney to do so. Had Mr. Nifong wanted to play it safe as far as re-election went, he would not have sought an indictment of the Duke Lacrosse defendants. He proceeded with the prosecution with the full knowledge that doing so would actually put his re-election campaign in jeopardy, which it did. In May 2006, he barely won the primary. There is no doubt in my mind that had Mr. Nifong not prosecuted the Duke Lacrosse case, that his margin of victory in the primary race would have been comfortably much larger.

The accusations by the attorneys of the Duke Lacrosse defendants, the State Bar, and the Attorney General’s Office that Mr. Nifong was motivated to pursue criminal charges against the Duke Lacrosse defendants for political gain, is totally unsubstantiated, without merit, and lacks logic when one considers the aforementioned issues. The State Bar, in particular, has nothing on which to base their claims that Mr. Nifong’s actions in the Duke Lacrosse case were politically motivated.

Like so much else associated with actions and attacks against Mr. Nifong in this case, this claim is not only reckless but illogical. It behooves the public to think long and hard about statements made by Mr. Nifong’s detractors. Unfortunately, the biased media is in cahoots with the state and defendants, and it cannot be relied upon to report fairly and objectively about Mr. Nifong and the Duke Lacrosse case.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

N&O SpinMeister Joseph Neff is at it again

News & Observer staff writer Joseph Neff’s December 22, 2009 front page article titled “Agency raps DA’s office” is a prime example of the double standards used by the North Carolina State Bar and by the media. Mr. Neff is quite accurate when he describes the State Bar’s disciplinary actions against the prosecutors of Alan Gell as being “tepid.” Actually, tepid is an understatement. Gell’s prosecutors actually withheld evidence that resulted in a death penalty conviction of an innocent man who was wrongfully incarcerated for nine years due to prosecutorial misconduct. Mr. Neff goes on to describe the State Bar’s disciplinary action against former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong as “vigorous,” again, an understatement. The reason for the discrepancy in the degree with which the State Bar goes after its prosecutors, I believe, has to do in large measure to the autonomy of the attorney. Mike Nifong, in pursuing the principle of “equal justice for all,” went against the attorney general, and the Duke University fixer when he would not drop charges in the Duke Lacrosse case. That made Mr. Nifong a target, not unlike Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Beckett who defied England’s King Henry II. Like Beckett, Mr. Nifong was made to pay a steep price for not kowtowing to the wishes of the powers that be.

What is troubling is that the North Carolina State Bar, as stated by Mr. Neff, would selectively discipline some prosecutors tepidly, while vigorously disciplining others. It is the inconsistency and selective nature of the Bar’s actions that brings its fairness into question. There is no question that Mr. Nifong was given the end-stage disciplinary punishment for trumped up, merit-less accusations of trivial minutiae, and that the prosecutors of Alan Gell were given the mildest sanction possible (a reprimand) for falsely putting a man on death row, and having him spend nearly a decade wrongly in prison. It is not surprising that the prosecutors of Gell, unlike Mr. Nifong, went along with the state’s playbook of “selective justice based on Class and Color.”

Now the double standard use by the media is the blatant act of withholding the identity of the prosecutors of Alan Gell from the public. Those prosecutors, David Hoke and Debra Graves, did not have their names mentioned anywhere in the article. That is because of the conscientious effort by the newspaper to shield them from bad press. This is a tact that is commonly used by the media, especially the News & Observer and Mr. Neff. In many articles on issues of social injustice wherein prosecutors have not acted as “ministers of justice,” the media will refer to their “bad deeds” but not publish their names. It is the absolute contrary when it comes to Mr. Nifong. As in this article, Mr. Nifong’s name is mentioned twice whereas the names of Hoke and Graves are never mentioned, period.

The media further goes out of its way to minimize the egregious actions of prosecutor David Hoke by writing that he “failed to hand over favorable evidence to Alan Gell…”

“Failed to hand over” sounds much more innocuous and more accidental that “withholding” (term used in the article to describe Mr. Nifong’s alleged misconduct). Furthermore, the Meister of Spin describes evidence that Mr. Hoke withheld from the defense as being “favorable.” This is, itself, a joke, because the evidence was prima-facie example of “exculpatory evidence.” Hoke withheld evidence that proved beyond doubt that Mr. Gell could not have committed the murder for which he was eventually convicted. At re-trial when the exculpatory evidence was introduced in the proceedings, the jury, when handed the case, immediately found defendant Gell not guilty.

Mr. Neff states that the Bar prosecuted Mr. Nifong for withholding evidence. The media, in general, has consistently disseminated and perpetuated this lie. Mr. Nifong did not withhold evidence. Like Gregory C. Butler, the Johnston County prosecutor in the Tiffany Bassett case, Mr. Nifong turned over all evidence to the defend attorneys, and he did so well before a trial date was even set. The defense team had plenty of time to work with all the DNA evidence in preparing a defense for their clients. Defendants in the Duke Lacrosse case were not prejudiced in the least by DNA evidence being presented to them in October 2006, instead of May 2006.

The fact is that Mr. Nifong has always utilized an open file discovery policy as a practicing prosecutor, doing so 25 years prior to it being mandated into law. On May 17, 2006, the Duke Lacrosse attorneys asked the courts for a discovery motion. On May 18, 2006, the following day, Mr. Nifong’s office had provided each of the three defense attorney teams with 1,267 pages of documents, a cassette, and a CD. The gathering of these items was not supervised by Mr. Nifong, and was undertaken by staff members who had no inkling of the relevance or value of the items that they were copying in compliance with the discovery motion. In essence, Mr. Nifong would provide the defense with all evidence at his disposal as soon as he became aware of it (not unlike prosecutor Butler).

Mr. Neff also wrongly claims that the Mr. Nifong withheld evidence that the Duke Lacrosse defendants were falsely charged with rape. Although the rape charge was later dismissed by Mr. Nifong, there was no evidence in the possession of the prosecutor or defense that was exculpatory in ruling out the possibility of a sexual assault.

To his credit, Mr. Neff does include the following paragraph: “This failure to produce evidence happens in virtually all complicated cases, said Jim Woodall, district attorney for Orange and Chatham counties, and president of the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys.” However, it begs the question that if it happens all the time in complicated cases, then why is it that Mr. Nifong is the only prosecutor to be disbarred? The answer has to do with the nature of the “selective and unjust system of justice based on Class and Color.”

The article by Joseph Neff has many problems as referenced to above, but despite the spin, the newspaper does deserve kudos for bringing this matter to the attention of the people. Like all media covering legal issues and referring to the Duke Lacrosse case, it needs to be more objective in its reporting (such as being consistent in mentioning/or not mentioning the names of all prosecutors), not biased in gratuitously singling out Mr. Nifong in a negative way, and reporting more accurately and honestly (cease and desist from referring to the Duke Lacrosse defendants as “innocent” and/or “falsely accused”).

The media needs to stop misleading people who believe everything it publishes and airs, and stop insulting the intelligence of those of us who know better.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dismissal and “innocent” are not one and the same

A recent blog commenter (who identified itself as "Whatchoo talkin' '
bout Sidney?") was kind enough to share with me the information that North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper filled out form AOC-CR-307 when disposing of the Duke Lacrosse case. The commenter also told me that the form was signed by a judge. I presume this document was tendered and signed on or around April 11, 2007, the date of the A.G.’s “Innocent Promulgation.” I have not seen the form, but I will take the commenter at his/her word.

The form AOC-CR-307 is a form used by the criminal courts in the state of North Carolina, and is officially titled, “Dismissal Notice of Reinstatement CR-307 – North Carolina.” It is a dismissal form. Since Attorney General Cooper decided to dismiss the case, one acceptable possible outcome by a special prosecutor taking over a criminal case, it stands to reason that he did, in fact, fill out the document. The presiding judge, in signing the document, agreed to grant the prosecutor’s request for dismissal, and make it final. This is what most likely transpired, and such actions seem believable.

What the blog commenter would want viewers to believe, however, is that this document is one that justifies a declaration of innocence. That the judge, by signing the document, agrees with any text within the document that may recklessly state that the Duke Lacrosse defendants are “innocent” and that “no attack occurred.” Attorney General Cooper, or one of his deputy assistant attorney generals may write whatever they want within the document, but at the end of the day, it is merely a form to dismiss the case. It is not a form to declare a verdict or to declare “innocence.” Because of the blog commenter’s bias, he wants to interpret the dismissal form as being an innocent verdict by the judge who signed off on the document. Like Cooper’s promulgation of innocent, this reasoning is an example of overreaching by the blog commenter.

I have not seen the dismissal form used in the Duke Lacrosse case by the Attorney General’s Office, and if the blog commenter has an address where I could find the document, I would be very appreciative. And I appreciate the commenter bringing this form to my attention.

Now, I have no problem with Attorney General Cooper dismissing the case against the Duke Lacrosse defendants (although I doubt that such an act was justifiable having not seen the evidence). He acted appropriately as a special prosecutor in determining whether or not to proceed with prosecuting the case, or whether or not to drop the charges and dismiss the case. However, to proclaim “innocence” or “guilt” was not within his mandate as special prosecutor to the case. What I find appalling is that the media gave Mr. Cooper’s “Innocent Promulgation of April 11, 2007” credibility instead of challenging it. Again, by doing so, the media misled the public who believed it, and insulted the intelligence of those who know better. Likewise, the blog commenter, with respect to form AOC-CR-307, is misleading readers who believe him/her, and is insulting the intelligence of those of us who know better. For us, the Jedi mind-tricks do not work.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

NBC-17 News and all media need to stop misleading and insulting the public

Yesterday evening while watching Melanie Sanders deliver the evening news on NBC-17, she mentioned a story about former Governor Mike Easley retaining the services of the prominent criminal defense attorney Joseph Cheshire. She went on to state that Mr. Cheshire was well known for “representing a ‘falsely’ accused Duke Lacrosse defendant.” The statement was read as a matter of fact, and not as opinion.

This statement is totally false and misleading, and is intended to further embed in the consciousness of its weak-minded viewers that the Duke Lacrosse defendants were innocent of the charges brought by former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong. It would have been accurate and responsible for Ms. Sanders to omit the adverb “falsely” and phrase the statement as follows, “…representing an accused Duke Lacrosse defendant.” But, unfortunately, accuracy and truth does not appear to be the top priority of NBC-17. If it was, the statement she made would never have been uttered.

Make no mistake about it, NBC-17 is not alone in misleading the public about this issue. In fact, I would say that the majority, if not all, of the media outlets refer to the Duke Lacrosse players as being “innocent,” “falsely accused,” and “wrongly accused”; while referring to the accuser and the alleged sexual assault as being a “hoax,” and “false accuser.”

These misleading statements have been made by the media ever since North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper’s “Innocent Promulgation of April 11, 2007,” in which he made the unprecedented proclamation that the Duke Lacrosse players charged with sexual assault were “innocent,” and that “nothing happened.” As has been referenced in a previous blog, the attorney general made these statements after Joe Cheshire’s underling, Brad Bannon, had a conversation with Assistant Attorney Generals James J. Coman and Mary Winstead. Mr. Bannon directed them to have the attorney general declare that the Duke Lacrosse defendants were “innocent” and that “nothing happened.” This is exactly what transpired at the attorney general’s press conference on April 11, 2007.

Now although the attorney general belongs to the executive branch of government and not the judicial branch, the media has never, to my knowledge, challenged the validity of Mr. Cooper’s proclamations. Instead it has embraced them as a basis for making statements of fact that the Duke Lacrosse defendants are innocent and that nothing happened. This is not objective reporting. It is biased reporting, and is a keystone in supporting our belief that the media is in cahoots with the anti-Nifong forces (the state of North Carolina and its agencies – such as the NC State Board of Elections and others – , the North Carolina State Bar, and the carpetbagger families of the Duke Lacrosse players).

Unlike the conspiratorial link between the Duke Lacrosse defense team and the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office (through Brad Bannon), no smoking gun has directly established a direct relationship between the Duke Lacrosse defendants and the media. However, a reliable source does note that the father of defendant Dave Evans is an attorney who works with the media, and his position as such could give him access to the upper echelon of media bigwigs. And higher-ups in the executive offices of these media corporations have final say in the spin and propaganda used in formulating and carrying out its agenda. It is, and has been, the goal of the media, in general, to destroy Mr. Nifong, and to defend and sanitize the Duke Lacrosse defendants.

The Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong has long challenged the legitimacy of the “innocent” proclamation by Roy Cooper. Committee President Victoria B. Peterson in a July 2009 interview on WPTF-680 AM’s “Bill LuMaye Show” challenged the validity of Mr. Cooper’s declaration of “innocent.” Likewise, Committee Lay Advocate Sidney B. Harr also called into question the propriety and legality of the “innocent proclamation” during his appearance on that radio talk show in September 2009.

NBC-17 News and all media need to begin reporting objectively and fairly on the Duke Lacrosse case. To do so would include the following when writing a factually based news story: 1) refrain from using terms such as “innocent” or “falsely accused” to describe the Duke Lacrosse defendants; 2) refrain from using terms such as “hoax” to describe the alleged crime; and 3) refrain from using terms such as “false accuser” to describe the alleged victim.

The media needs to give up the biased charade to promote the Duke Lacrosse defendants as “innocent” and stop playing Jedi mind-tricks on the impressionable public. Failure to immediately cease and desist from doing so will continue to mislead those who believe what the media says, and insult the intelligence of those who know better.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Title: ABC News plays the “Race Card” using Duke Lacrosse player Devon Sherwood

An online article by Chris Francescani of the ABC News Law & Justice Unit was posted on October 31, 2006, and titled: “Sole Black Duke Lacrosse Player Says White Teammates Stereotyped.” The sole black player, Devon Sherwood, a 19 year old, and youngest member of the team, allegedly attended the “stripper party” on March 13, 2006, and stayed through to the end of the abbreviated performance by the two African American women, according to an interview that he gave to Chris Cuomo on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Mr. Sherwood stated that his three teammate Duke Lacrosse defendants had been stereotyped (by whom, he did not say) based on their class and skin color. Sherwood claimed the stereotype used against his teammates is: “Well, their daddies are gonna buy them the big-time lawyers, and they’re gonna get off.” Well, it seems as though the stereotype turned out to be quite prophetic as their daddies did get big-time attorneys (Joseph Cheshire, James Cooney III, and Wade Smith), and they did get off… even without a trial. Attorney Brad Bannon, of Joseph Cheshire’s law firm, instructed the assistant Attorney Generals James J. Coman and Mary Winstead to direct Attorney General Roy Cooper to proclaim that the Duke Lacrosse defendants were “innocent” and to say that “nothing happened.” Which is exactly what happened. They lived up to the stereotype and reinforced it. If the stereotype fits, wear it.

But it was not just the daddies of the defendants who worked feverishly to spin the Duke Lacrosse case in favor of the defendants. Groups of boosters and supporters of the Duke lacrosse team hired powerhouse attorney Bob Bennett (who represented President Bill Clinton) as part of an aggressive public relations effort to argue that a rape did not occur at the party, even before any indictments were handed down.

And although many are quick to accuse former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong of trying the case in the media (unsubstantiated gibberish), it is the attorneys for the players (prior to any indictment being handed down) who divulged to the media that DNA failed to connect any of the 47 member team to the alleged attack. Even players’ parents had started to speak out about the case, according to USAToday online article posted April 12, 2009, titled: “Clinton lawyer joins team to represent interests of Duke lacrosse players.”

The online article about the October 31, 2006 interview is but one shameful example of ABC News’s use of the “Race Card” in order to play Jedi mind-tricks on the public in order to spin the case. Beginning with the article’s headline (“Sole Black Duke Lacrosse Player Says White Teammates Stereotyped”) which infers that the white lacrosse players have been somehow victimized… regardless that the stereotypes proved to be right on. The fact that a black lacrosse player is defending the reputation, character, and integrity of his white teammates, is suppose to be convincing evidence to the African American community that the Duke lacrosse players are decent and honorable people. However, no where in the article does it mention that fifteen (nearly one third of the 47 member team) players had prior run-ins with the law (under-aged drinking, disorderly conduct, public urination, etc.), including the captain and subsequent defendant Dave Evans. The Duke lacrosse team was notorious for hosting raucous parties, and the president of the university had even warned the lacrosse coach to rein in his players’ off field shenanigans. Devon Sherwood speaks only in glowing terms of his teammates, even though there is reason to believe that racial epithets were hurled, including the “n-word.” Mr. Sherwood does not know which of his teammates made the slurs, they have not manned up and apologized to him, nor were they pointed out to him by other teammates. Still, he considers the 46 other team members to be his “brothers.” And Devon’s reaction is that the slurs used against the two black dancers was nothing more than a mistake that he is willing to forgive. I believe such a statement is made to encourage other African Americans to overlook the racist hate-speech of Devon’s white teammates, and to forgive them, as well.

Devon also states that he believed that when the three defendants came to him (advising him not to believe what he hears) that they were showing their concern for him, when in fact their actions had more to do with protecting themselves and getting Devon’s support. Had Devon been around when the dancers were leaving, maybe some of the players might have refrained from using racial slurs within his earshot. In addition, the online article by Francescani dwells on the cotton shirt insult rather than the n-word epithets, again to minimize the malevolence of the racially charged verbal attacks on the dancers. Although Devon stated in the interview, “I believe in the character of my teammates,” I am not impressed with the character of teammates who use epithets and the n-word to maliciously demean African Americans, period.

Finally, the interviewer gets Mr. Sherwood to say that he thought Mike Nifong had used race “to his advantage to get re-elected.” It is difficult to ignore the issue of race when Duke lacrosse players shout out racial slurs at two African American women. It is also evident that the players did not want African American dancers to begin with. When using false pretenses to hire the dancers, the Duke lacrosse player using an alias, specifically requested that the escort service assign white dancers. Race was not an issue that any diligent prosecutor could ignore in prosecuting the case. As for all of the hype about prosecuting the case in order to get re-elected, that is not even a realistic premise. Although the city of Durham may consist of 40% African American population, a great majority were disillusioned and not even registered to vote. The percentage of registered African American voters who did vote was most likely extremely low, as well. On the other hand, Duke University and Duke lacrosse supporters who were at odds with Mr. Nifong for not automatically dropping the charges against the three golden boys, were very motivated to see Mr. Nifong toppled in an election. I have no doubt that Mr. Nifong detractors were more motivated in their advocacy to see Nifong lose the election than individuals sympathetic to his actions in taking on the prosecution of students from on of the city’s biggest employers. The myth bandied about by the media, North Carolina State Bar, Attorney General’s Office, and other Nifong detractors is that Mr. Nifong prosecuted the Duke Lacrosse case for political gain. The reality is that by going against the powers that be on the state level and at Duke University and prosecuting the Duke players, he severely damaged his chances to win re-election. That is why the Durham district attorney primary in 2007 ended up being as close as it was. There is no doubt in my mind that had Mr. Nifong followed the dictates of the Attorney General and Duke University (by following protocol and dismissing the charges against the Duke students) that he would have won the primary contest in a landslide.

I don’t begrudge Devon Sherwood his close friendship with his teammates, and I am proud of his academic accomplishments at such a prestigious institution as Duke. What I find appalling is the way that the media (ABC’s “Good Morning America” and its online news website) had flagrantly taken advantage of Devon Sherwood in order to push its agenda of supporting the Duke Lacrosse defendants and undermining Mike Nifong and his prosecution of the case. ABC shamefully played the race card with its interview of the Duke Lacrosse’s sole black player, Devon Sherwood.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Duke LAXer bluff against Durham fails

There is a saying that goes something as follows: “Be careful what you wish for.” Buoyed by their unimaginable success in shaking down Duke University in the amount of seven mil for each of the three Duke Lacrosse defendants, greedy attorneys representing their greedier clients, went after the cash-strapped city of Durham seeking more dinero. Their reasoning being that if a school is willing to shell out a total of $21,000,000.00 in an out of court settlement to make the notoriety of a vague complaint against it by the “alleged aggrieved” Duke student athlete party-goers go away, then surely a big city, like Durham, would have no problem turning over $30 million for a similar deal. Call it hush money, or nuisance money, if you will, but the plaintiffs obviously considered it to be easy money.

Having believed too much of the biased media’s take on the Duke Lacrosse case, they launched their civil case aggressively and with the assistance of the favorable media. However, when the attorneys realized that the city was not going to rollover, as they had expected, reality began to set in, and they had to take an objective look at their case. Their conclusion, I would bet, is that they had none. First of all, nearly a third of the lacrosse team members had run-ins with the law. They, of course, were smoothed over by an unwritten protocol the university had in place with prosecutors in the city. (The problem of the Duke Lacrosse case occurred when then Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong refused to play by those slanted unwritten rules… a major reason he was persecuted and made an example of.) Duke lacrosse team captain Dave Evans, one of the Duke Lacrosse defendants even pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. Another defendant, Collin Finnerty, had assault charges on his record for his part in the beating of a person presumed to be gay. Then, the lacrosse player who phoned the escort service seeking the services of two exotic dancers (strippers) used a false name and stated the event was a bachelor party of four or five. The pretenses under which the dancers were hired were false, especially when they knew that the event was a spring break beer party for nearly fifty young men with raging hormones. As if that is not enough, factor in the fact that the lacrosse player who made the arrangement requested two “white” dancers, and two African American dancers were showed up (the lacrosse team had only one African American player who did not attend the party). Under these circumstances, it is not hard to believe testimony from neighbors that the partygoers were hurling racial epithets at the dancers as they left.

The media did its best to downplay the negative aspects of the actions of the partygoers, but if the trial were to go to court, other negativity would surely be exposed. For example, I have it from a secondhand source that there was drug use at the party (I cannot personally vouch for the accuracy); therefore, if he case was to go to trial, this would most definitely be brought up, if it is true. Also, the evidence collected by the Attorney General’s Office would be made available; evidence of which it refuses to release copies to the accuser and her representative. Evidence presented to the media by defense attorneys, such as the time stamped photographs would come under scrutiny for signs of possible tampering, etc. And once the police were called, the partygoers scattered like cockroaches deserting a sinking ship, so the place was essentially emptied by the time authorities arrived.

In seeking damages, attorneys for the three defendants take aim at police, doctors, nurses, and practically everyone who may have spoken out against the Duke lacrosse team or its actions. But these attorneys also know, about the reputation of the Duke lacrosse team when it comes to partying. They have such a raucous history in the Duke neighborhood when it comes to hosting parties, that the president of the university had warned its team coach to rein in its players… something he was incapable of doing. Yes, the possibility of hitting the jackpot when taking the case to trial seems bleak. Especially if one is looking for a big payout. The most likely outcome of such a trial would be exposing the Duke Lacrosse partygoers for what they were… and that is not too flattering.

So, now, after so much bluster and bravado, it seems as though the attorneys for the carpetbagger families of the Duke Lacrosse defendants have decided to just allow things to die down. Yes, they succeeded against Duke University, but they bluffed once to often when they took on the cash-strapped city of Durham. The city is eagerly awaiting the confrontation, conversely. Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

D.A. Colon Willoughby fights to keep innocent man in jail in order to shield prosecutor Tom Ford

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby, in fighting to keep Gregory Taylor behind bars, is doing his best to protect the prosecutor who unjustly put him there, Tom Ford. Currently Gregory Taylor is serving a life sentence for the 1991 murder of Jacquetta Thomas. Recent evidence brought forth by Taylor’s attorneys state that Prosecutor Ford and a detective tried repeatedly to force Greg Taylor to falsely implicate Johnny Beck (an African American with a criminal drug record) in the murder of Ms. Thomas. They threatened to pin the murder on him if he did not cooperate to help them get an innocent (of the murder) black man off the street. Displaying more integrity, honesty, and sense of ethics than the prosecutor and detectives, Taylor refused, and as a result, the bogus case was manufactured against him, as promised. Because of his decision to do the right thing morally, Gregory Taylor has spent the last sixteen years in prison for a murder that he did not commit. And he remains in prison today.

The case against Gregory Taylor was flimsy to non-existent from the beginning. Without physical evidence tying him to the crime, he was convicted solely on the testimony of a prostitute and jailhouse snitch (both of whom received from the prosecutor a deal similar to the deal offered to Taylor). For implicating Taylor in the murder, the prosecutor gave them a break in their jail sentences; information about that prosecutorial offer was withheld from Greg Taylor’s attorneys at the time of trial. The case against Gregory Taylor really collapsed when another man, Craig Taylor (no relation) confessed to the crime. In confessing he established that he had a personal relationship with the victim, and he had knowledge about aspects of the crime that were not made public by investigators. In contrast, the witnesses who received a break for testifying against Greg Taylor, got a lot of the information about the crime wrong.

“Minister of Justice” Tom Ford, as late as 2003, asked a judge to deny Taylor’s request for DNA testing, despite the willingness of Taylor’s family to pay the costs. Fortunately for Mr. Taylor, who consistently appealed his conviction, the state’s Innocence Inquiry Commission took notice of his case. After a hearing, it declared that he was innocent and recommended that a three judge panel hear the case and make a ruling. In preparing for the hearing before the Innocence Inquiry Commission, Wake District Attorney Colon Willoughby requested that Tom Ford (who prosecuted Taylor and is hardly impartial about him) assist him. Also, in their preparation, no one from the prosecutor’s office bothered to interview Craig Taylor, the man who confessed to the crime.

And about Johnny Beck, the African American with a criminal drug record who Prosecutor Ford hoped to pin Thomas’s murder on by using false testimony of Greg Taylor, and who was identified by Ford as the actual murderer of Jacquetta Thomas: Ford was forced to drop charges because Greg Taylor refused to lie against Beck, and without that false testimony, there was absolutely no case against Beck.

Wilson Prosecutor Bill Wolfe accused James Arthur Johnson of the murder, rape, kidnapping, and armed robbery of Brittany Willis after Johnson heroically solved her murder. He did the right thing by going to the police with information about a crime, and it cost him 39 months in jail. Another innocent man, Gregory Taylor did the right thing by refusing to accept an offer by Prosecutor Ford to give false testimony against an innocent man, and he was sentenced to life in prison on trumped up murder charges. Both prosecutors have no problem with putting innocent people behind bars, and as long as they follow the state’s tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color,” they have no reason not to continue doing so when prosecuting. In both cases, the powers that be make sure to go out of their way, even at wasteful taxpayer expense, to shield them from any consequences of their unjust and abhorrent actions.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

MSNBC legal analyst needs more than a pretty face... objectivity and fairness would be a good start

Susan F. Filan, senior legal analyst for MSNBC TV, authored an online editorial in mid-June 2007, titled: "Nifong's punishment is extreme, appropriate." Although opinion pieces have a bit more leeway than news articles, they should at least consist of facts, statements should be substantiated within the text, and there should be a modicum of objectivity. In fact, the entire article is misleading, inaccurate, and flagrantly biased, beginning with her initial premise that disbarment of a lawyer is as rare as a "unicorn sighting." Nothing could be further from the truth. Since its inception in 1933, the North Carolina State Bar has disbarred thousands of attorneys. According to their own web page posted in the past, approximately 350 attorneys were disbarred during a ten year period, an average of nearly three a month. This blatantly false statement is made for the purpose of making former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong's disbarment reflect more harshly on his actions in the Duke Lacrosse case.

Had Ms. Filan stated that disbarment of prosecutors is as rare as "unicorn sightings," then that would be right on. During its 76 years in existence, the North Carolina State Bar has only disbarred one prosecutor... Mike Nifong. This, despite the fact that North Carolina lags just behind Illinois and Louisiana in the number of death row inmates who have been exonerated. Many of them, such as Alan Gell, were convicted due to prosecutorial misconduct by their prosecutor (in this particular case, David Hoke, who is now serving as assistant director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts). However the state, the Duke Lacrosse defense attorneys, and the media, including Ms. Filan, purposely keep the fact that Mr. Nifong is the only prosecutor to be disbarred hidden from the public. That is what makes his treatment so selective, also when you adopt our view which is that Mr. Nifong did nothing wrong in pursuing prosecution in the Duke Lacrosse case.

Ms. Filan presumptuously states that Mr. Nifong will not receive his pension and not be able to retire, which is exactly what he is doing. And, he is not starting "from scratch" as Ms. Filan again falsely predicted. The article by Ms. Filan is filled with a lot of baseless speculation (or "bs"), and misleading and false statements. Most outrageous is the accusation that Mr. Nifong used the Duke case to get re-elected. What information does she have to base this upon? The only television ad I recall appearing during the campaign season which used the Duke Lacrosse case for his/her advantage was run by Attorney General Roy Cooper... "The Duke Lacrosse Decision." In prosecuting the Duke Lacrosse case, Mr. Nifong was merely doing his job. By suggest that performing his duties as district attorney while running for re-election is a conflict of interest is absurd. Does she expect Mr. Nifong to remain idle until the election returns are in? F. Lane Williamson of the State Bar also buy into this ridiculous belief, which they both know to be false. These statements are made purely to mold the impressionable minds of the lay public.

Ms. Filan really gets in the gutter when she accuses Mr. Nifong of using his son as a ploy to gain sympathy, leniency, and pity. I seen nothing wrong with a knowledgeable older teenage son wanting to show support for his father by attending his hearing. What I find reprehensible is Ms. Filan's attempt to spin this positive family gesture into something sinister. It is Ms. Filan, not Mr. Nifong, who is guilty of taking advantage of Mr. Nifong's son by needlessly bringing it up in her article in order to get in yet another cheap shot at Mike Nifong. Ms. Filan's actions here are truly shameful, and unbefitting a respectable news outlet.

One of the most ludicrous accusations penned by Ms. Filan is that Mr. Nifong damaged the reputation of Duke University. I would like to know how? She also insinuates that he damaged the reputation of the sport of lacrosse? Again, how?

I don't have a law degree, but I did take a civics class in high school, and I learned about the three different branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. An attorney general, who belongs to he executive branch, cannot make a judicial pronouncement. Yet the media and Ms. Filan give Roy Cooper's "innocent" proclamation the validity as that coming from a judge or jury. This is wrong, period! She also claims that Mr. Nifong damaged the lives of three "innocent" young men. How? They never spent one day in jail, they each received $7 million from Duke University in an out-of-court settlement for reasons unbeknownst to me, they are heroically depicted in books, there is an upcoming HBO movie about these wonderful lads, and individually, Collin Finnerty's celebrity moved a judge to expunge an assault charge from his record. Furthermore, they have all continued on with their lives, one graduating, the other two being offered reinstatement at Duke but deciding to enroll in other prestigious institutes of higher learning with lacrosse teams. Also, the families of these boys are currently seeking an additional $10 million from the cash-strapped city of Durham (which has already spent well more than a million dollars to defend). In the annals of North Carolina jurisprudence, there are many far more compelling instances of truly innocent people whose live have been severely damaged, and by and large, they are the disenfranchised, poor, and/or people of color.

One of the most outrageous statements made by Ms. Filan suggests that Mr. Nifong, in prosecuting the Duke Lacrosse case, damaged the public's confidence in the criminal justice system (of North Carolina). Ms. Filan fails to place blame for the public's sour perception of the criminal justice system where it is due... not on Mike Nifong, but on actions of Prosecutors Hoke, Graves, Honeycutt, Brewer, Parker, Wolfe, Keith, Ford, Black, Hardin, McFadyen and a multitude of others. Hoke and Graves won a conviction by withholding exculpatory evidence which resulted in an innocent man being convicted of capital murder and spending more than nine years in jail. Bill Wolfe charged the teenager James Arthur Johnson who solved the Brittany Willis murder, rape, kidnapping, and armed robbery with those crimes based solely on the word of the killer, who implicated Johnson only after investigators told him that Johnson "snitched" on him. After the killer recanted, Wolfe brought forward two "eyewitnesses," both with connections to the police department. These witnesses disappeared when media scrutiny became a factor. Johnson served 39 months in jail without a trial before charges were finally dropped by a special prosecutor. Michael Parker charged mentally retarded Floyd Brown with murder based on a confession which experts said Brown could not possibly made. Brown was held for fourteen years without a trial for the murder, and charges were reluctantly dismissed. Prosecutor Tom Ford tried to force Gregory Taylor to falsely implicate a black suspect for a murder. Ford threatened Taylor that if he did not cooperate, then he would charge Taylor with the crime (which is what he did). Without cause and no physical evidence linking Gregory Taylor to the crime, Ford won a conviction against him based on solely on the testimony of a jailhouse snitch and a prostitute. Their testimony was given in exchange for a decrease in their jail sentence, a fact which the prosecutor willfully withheld from Taylor's defense attorney. Prosecutors were so incensed with Theodore Jerry Williams for complaining about the District Attorney, that correction guards beat him up while in custody, his face pulverized and arm broken. They then charged Williams with assaulting a guard. When the case was dismissed because the prosecution destroyed material evidence that the defendant had requested, Attorney General Roy Cooper appealed. These are only a few of the cases that shed a disfavorable light on the North Carolina justice system. Not Mr. Nifong's actions in the Duke Lacrosse case.

Mr. Nifong's actions in prosecuting the Duke Lacrosse case were well within the acceptable standards practiced by other prosecutors. He did not withhold evidence, as the defense attorneys had all DNA lab evidence no later than October 27, 2006, at a time when a court date had yet to be set. In addition, the DNA evidence Mr. Nifong is accused of "withholding" was not exculpatory, as the defense attorneys and media would have the public believe. Mr. Nifong did not lie to the court when he stated that "this is the first that I have heard of this situation." He was without a doubt referring to the first he had heard that the defense attorneys had accused him of withholding evidence. Chairman of the Disciplinary Hearing Commission F. Lane Williamson is no mind reader, and a reasonable person would not accept his interpretation of Mr. Nifong's statement over Nifong's own interpretation. The statement itself was not material and should never have been given the attention it was given, however, the State Bar was so desperate to find a reason to disbar Mr. Nifong that they grasped at all straws. Finally, pre-trial statements made by Mr. Nifong were benign, made prior to indictments being handed down, and were intended to encourage witnesses to come forward. The majority of pre-trial statements made to the media were done so by the attorneys of the Duke Lacrosse defendants, yet Ms. Filan wants to accuse Mr. Nifong of going "Hollywood" and trying the case in the press.

If Mr. Nifong was guilty of any wrongdoing in his prosecution of the Duke Lacrosse case you could not tell by reading Ms. Filan's article. Never once did she explain what he did that was deserving of disbarment. She is not alone, because law professors at Duke University School of Law are unable to explain why Mr. Nifong was disbarred. I asked more than two dozen of them, and they were even afraid to discuss what has become a taboo topic. Taboo because the attorneys, and individuals with a knowledge and understanding of the issues surrounding Mr. Nifong's disbarment, know that the actions by the North Carolina State Bar are selective and unjust. Had the Bar's disbarment of Mr. Nifong been justified, attorneys and law school professors would not be hesitant to enter into dialogue about it.

I have no problem with opinion pieces that are accurate and based on facts, however I take umbrage when such statements are based on lies, rumor, unsubstiated pronouncements, and baseless speculation. In her article "Nifong's punishment is extreme, appropriate," MSNBC Senior legal analyst Susan Filan not only does a disservice to her professions in the legal and media arenas, but an even greater disservice to the impressionable media consuming public. The article is a disgrace.

That said, I believe in fair play, and I would like to offer Ms. Filan the opportunity to respond on our blog site (www.justice4nifong.blogspot.com), our website (www.justice4nifong.com), or in any other venue or forum over which the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong has control. Any response would be published in its entirety without editing or direct rebuttal. Shortly after the posting of this blog, I will send by postal mail an invitation to Ms. Filan asking for a reply not only to issues covered in her article and this blog, but on any other related or unrelated subjects upon which she may wish to expound.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Conspiratorial link between Duke defendants and Attorney General established

During my September 14, 2009 interview on WPTF - 680's "Bill LuMaye Show," guest host Rick Martinez scoffed at my belief that a widespread conspiracy existed which conspired to successfully bring down former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong. However, thanks to the boastful statements made by Joseph Cheshire's firm's underling, Brad Bannon, a direct connection has been established between the Duke Lacrosse defendants and Attorney General Roy Cooper. In statements carried by WRAL 5 News's online website, Bannon affirms that he told representatives of the North Carolina Attorney General to: 1) proclaim the Duke Lacrosse defendants "innocent;" and 2) state that "nothing (criminal) happened." These demands by the attorney representing Duke defendant Dave Evans were made well before the mid-April 2007 promulgation by Attorney General Roy Cooper to the media at a press conference.

The chain of conspiracy between the defense and A. G. Cooper is irrefutable and is linked as follows: Dave Evans is one of three Duke Lacrosse defendants - Evans is represented by prominent defense attorney Joseph Cheshire's law firm - Attorney Brad Bannon is an attorney in Cheshire's law firm - Bannon meets with Assistant Attorney Generals Mary Winstead and James J. Coman - Bannon tells Winstead and Coman to instruct the attorney general to proclaim that the Duke Lacrosse defendants are "innocent" and to state that "nothing happened" (at the March 13, 2006 beer-bash Spring Break party hosted by Duke Lacrosse players noted for their raucous regalements and beer-induced disorderly conduct and public urination) - Winstead and Coman report to their superior, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and pass on Bannon's mandate - Attorney General Roy Cooper goes before the media at an April 2007 press conference and proclaims that the Duke Lacrosse defendants are "innocent" and that "nothing happened."

It is also my understanding that Mr. Bannon represented Alan Gell, who was victimized by the North Carolina justice system when he was convicted of capital murder, despite being in jail at the time of its commission. After he wrongfully served more than nine years in prison (half on death row), exculpatory evidence which was withheld by Prosecutor David Hoke was uncovered and led to the judge throwing out Gell's conviction. Yet, Mr. Bannon never demanded that the attorney general proclaim Mr. Gell innocent. Why? (Hint: It has to do with selective justice based on Class.)

The carpetbagger families of the Duke Lacrosse players have sought, in addition to millions of dollars in out-of-court settlements, to have their boys declared "innocent" and an admission that "nothing happened" at the animal house on Buchanan Street. Attorney General Cooper gave them exactly what they wanted, and they used the threat of going to jail for criminal contempt of court to try and wring such statements from Mike Nifong. Despite the pressure from Judge Osmond Smith III, defense counsel, and the state, Mr. Nifong maintained his belief that something criminal did happen at the party. In order to navigate around this position that Mr. Nifong stubbornly held on to, the media took it upon itself to put words into Mr. Nifong's mouth. On the WRAL.com website, a story about the in-court apology Mr. Nifong made to the Duke Lacrosse defendants was headlined: "Nifong Apologizes, Admits Nothing Happened." (It is my understanding that ESPN.com also had a similarly titled headline.) Nothing could be further from the truth as the context of the story did not substantiate that he admitted that "nothing happened." Someone in the media must have made the deliberate decision to play a Jedi mind-trick on the public. To its credit, the wral.com general manager acted timely, responsibly, and appropriately in correcting the headline and including an editor's note. (espn.com apparently changed its headline, as well, since it no longer reads that Nifong "admits nothing happened.")

Now the conspiratorial link between the Duke Lacrosse defendants and the media exists, without a doubt in my mind. So far, no one has come forward to admit that dialogue took place between them, but that is usually the way things work in a conspiracy. I am not certain why Mr. Bannon came forward to brag about his law firm's role in prodding the attorney general to make two such unprecedented, inappropriate, overreaching, and misleading statements. Regardless of his motive, it clearly establishes that the two worked together behind the scenes in crafting the pronouncements made by Attorney General Roy Cooper, in mid-April 2007.

What I find particularly disturbing is that the Attorney General's Office is suppose to represent the interests of the people of North Carolina, not the special interests of the well-heeled families of defendants. The liaison between these two camps in the Duke Lacrosse case to quench the vindictive thirst of the vengeful families of the Duke Lacrosse defendants, with Mike Nifong in the cross-hairs, is a poke in both eyes of Lady Justice.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Duke law professors fear the State Bar... as well they should

It is without doubt that the law professors at the Duke University School of Law fear the North Carolina State Bar. This fear is not borne due to a lack of courage on part of the legal faculty of this prestigious institution of learning, but rather due to an abundance of common sense. They realize that speaking out in behalf of justice on the taboo topic of former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong's selective and unjust disbarment could net them an outcome similar to his at the hands of the unregulated agency. In disbarring Mr. Nifong, the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception in 1933, the State Bar sent a strong message to all attorneys licensed to practice in the Tar Heel state: "We have the capacity and the will to take away your legal livelihood on a whim, at our discretion, arbitrarily, and selectively without regard to the merits and justification, or lack thereof, of bogus charges we choose to bring against you." Attorneys throughout the state of North Carolina realized that Mike Nifong was prosecuting the Duke Lacrosse case with professional conduct well within acceptable established standards, and that his actions in that case did not warrant his disbarment (or any disciplinary action). Lawyers were also aware that former prosecutor David Hoke, in prosecuting Alan Gell, withheld exculpatory evidence from the defendant's attorney which enabled Hoke to win a conviction and death sentence against the innocent defendant. Justice was definitely denied in this case as Mr. Gell spent more than nine years wrongfully incarcerated because of a prosecutor acting as an antithesis of a "Minister of Justice." Although Mr. Hoke's actions in the Gell case were flagrantly and egregiously afoul of acceptable standards, attorneys witnessed the arbitrariness of the Bar disciplinary arm when it meted out to Hoke a mild reprimand, the weakest action possible. North Carolina attorneys, especially Duke law professors, are able to put two and two together, and they realize that if they cherish their law license, their employment, and their opportunity for advancement in their field, that they must avoid the minefield which is the taboo topic of Mike Nifong's disbarment.

On Wednesday, November 18, 2009, I trolled the halls of the Duke University School of Law seeking professors to take my "Snapshot Survey" (a survey consisting of one question). Using two hypothetical scenarios (A and B), which were thinly veiled cases representing the Alan Gell case and the Duke Lacrosse case respectively, it asked which Prosecutor (A or B) was more deserving of disbarment. Approximately two dozen professors were gracious enough to give me a few minutes of their time and consider the question. However, without exception, they all refused to answer it. The majority gave no specific reason, whereas a few did acknowledge that they were concerned about possible fallout resulting from any participation in the survey. One professor refused to select one prosecutor over the other as being more "deserving of disbarment" using the irrational logic that to do so would suggest the other prosecutor did not deserve to be disciplined. I was surprised at the number of law professors who told me they believed Mr. Nifong should have been disbarred (three or four). When I asked them to specifically tell me what Mr. Nifong did to deserve disbarment, they all responded that they were busy and had to prepare for class. That response is definitely not unreasonable, especially since I dropped in on them unannounced and without an appointment. One professor, who is an outspoken critic of Mr. Nifong, has been challenged on numerous occasions in the past to explain in writing why he feels Mr. Nifong deserved to be disbarred over his handling of the Duke Lacrosse case. Although he has repeatedly assured me that he would provide me with a written answer (which I told him I would post on our website, unedited and without direct comment), he as yet to do so, and I doubt that he will find time in the future to get around to doing it.

What I find particularly disturbing is that in an institution for legal learning, like the Duke University School of Law, such a topic of significant importance would be suppressed, and that its professors, out of justifiable fear of retribution (whether academically, professionally, legally, and/or financially) would avoid talking about the selective and unjust disbarment of Mike Nifong. Currently, I am unaware of any other topic which would garner such a response, but I would imagine that any subject matter that casts an unfavorable light on the North Carolina State Bar would be applicable. For example, law professors have no problem tackling controversial topics such as the First Amendment Right of racists writing inciteful hate-speech on university campus walls, but they are mum when it comes to discussing issues that threaten the sanctity of the almighty State Bar with its absolute power. Often overlooked is the fact that the issue of Mike Nifong's disbarment is not limited to the man alone, but has wide reaching ramifications about the state's social justice system, the issue of whether justice is a commodity that can be bought by the affluent, and the absolute power of the North Carolina State Bar and the influence it welds with the General Assembly and in the courtrooms.

On Tuesday evening, April 21, 2009, at the North Carolina State University campus, the ACLU of Wake County and the North Carolina State University Pre-Law Services presented the Annual Slater Newman Debate, with the topic: "A Debate Exploring First Amendment Rights, Hate Speech and the Free Expression Tunnel." Panelists for this debate included Professor Michael Curtis of Wake Forest Law School, Professor Shannon Gilreath of Wake Forest Law School, Professor Gregory Wallace of Campbell University Law School, and Legal Director Katy Parker of the ACLU of North Carolina. After the discussion/debate which was open to the public, I handed each of the panelists a survey which covered the subject of Mike Nifong's disbarment and the Duke Lacrosse case. I asked Ms. Parker directly if she would participate by filling out the questionnaire and returning it to me. She responded, "It depends on the questions." Well, she must not have liked the questions because I never heard from her. Neither did I hear from the other three law school professors, despite the fact that I enclosed a self-addressed stamped envelope for each recipient. I followed up with all of the "Free Speech" panelists, sending them letters dated May 8, 2009. These letters sought a response from the panelist, however, again my attempts to engage them in dialog was ignored. This made it very apparent to me that although the First Amendment may guarantee one's right to freedom of expression, it does not protect one from the consequences that may follow. Being intelligent and rational individuals, I have no doubt that the panelists had opinions that were favorable to Mr. Nifong and contrary to the NC State Bar's actions. However, fearing the repercussions that vocalizing their pro-Nifong opinions might generate, they elected to remain silent. As is so often the case, especially when logic flows against the powers that be, freedom of expression is suppressed by freedom of retaliation. There is no doubt in my mind that had the State Bar's position against Mr. Nifong been legitimate, the law professors, legal pundits, ACLU members and others would freely let their opinions on Mr. Nifong's disbarment be known.

Attorneys and law school professors are not the only ones who avoid, like the plague, the taboo topic of Mike Nifong's disbarment. Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton's staff will not even allow me an appointment to meet with him. And although his staff has acknowledged receiving and reviewing contents of a package that I left for the lieutenant governor, they would not affirm that they had forwarded it to him. Most of the politicians, including outspoken ones, such as Representative Paul Stam, refuse to discuss Mr. Nifong's disbarment with me. I have not, as yet, approached Governor Bev Perdue on the topic, but plan on doing so in the future.

I can appreciate the conundrum in which law professors at Duke find themselves when it comes to discussing the selective and unjust disbarment of Mike Nifong. In the spirit of fairness, I will offer this blog site as a forum for an unedited response by the Dean of the Duke University School of Law. Although the First Amendment guarantees his right to take advantage of this platform, I hope that the prospect of any retaliatory consequences to his statements does not impede it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Media nurtures seeds of Nifong-hate sown by the LAX defendants, State and carpetbagger families

Because of the media's unprecedented departure from objective and balanced journalism in covering the Duke Lacrosse case and former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong, it must accept responsibility for the public's unwarranted and misguided hatred of Mr. Nifong. Because of the media's agenda (which I have strong reason to believe was to skew coverage of the Duke Lacrosse case in favor of the wealthy and privileged defendants, and against their prosecutor), many, if not the majority, of people exposed to the media's take on the topic have a visceral hatred towards a man with a good 27 year professional reputation who was merely doing his job in prosecuting the Lacrosse case using the principle of "equal justice for all." Of these individuals with hatred and scorn for Mr. Nifong that is on a level usually reserved for Hitler, Atilla the Hun, and O. J. Simpson, most have formed their opinions solely through media accounts... accounts which echo the lies and misleading statements from the Duke Lacrosse defense camp, the N. C. Attorney General's Office, and the North Carolina State Bar. Furthermore, the media's editorial arm fails to present relevant dialog that would kindle within its consumer objective and discerning thought. For example, is it reasonable for the public to believe that Mr. Nifong is the only prosecutor worthy of disbarment by the State Bar during its 76 years in existence... especially in light of the fact that North Carolina follows only the states of Illinois and Louisiana in the number of death row inmates to be exonerated? ... also, when one considers the puny reprimand meted out by the Bar to Prosecutor David Hoke who withheld exculpatory evidence from defendant Alan Gell, which resulted in his death penalty conviction and serving an unjust nine years in prison?

A recent example of the media inspired animus against Mr. Nifong follows, and it comes from a blog commenter using the identity of "Kenneth":

"Personally, I hope Mike Nifong never works a day in law again, and dies as a poor man. He ruined several people's lives. Maybe, he'll drink his life away and die young? One can only hope. When I hear of his death in the future, I will raise a glass since it'll be a good day." ~posted November 4, 2009 1:05 PM

To begin with, Kenneth's statement contains the falsehood that Mr. Nifong ruind several people's lives. I would like to know about whom he is referring... certainly not the three Duke Lacrosse defendants. First, they never spent a day in jail. Second, they each received $7 million in settlement from Duke University for reasons unbeknownst to me. Third, they were proclaimed "innocent" by Attorney General Roy Cooper, although he has no authority to make such a proclamation... which went unchallenged by the media. Fourth, they all quickly picked up with their lives, being offered reinstatement at Duke, but either graduating and landing a job or transferring to another prestigious university with a lacrosse team. Fifth, they were treated with celebrity, as books and a movie glorifying them have been published and/or are in production. Sixth, individually, Collin Finnerty's newfound celebrity resulted in an assault charge (against an individual who he believed to be gay) being expunged from his record. Seventh, their avaricious families are seeking an additional $10 million each from the cash-strapped city of Durham.

However, most troubling is Kenneth's unChristian-like statements. To wish and hope that Mike Nifong dies young and poor, and for Kenneth to state that he will celebrate when he hears of the passing of the former Durham district attorney, is at 180 degree variance to the mind-set and sentiments of Jesus of Nazareth, who prayed, as he carried the cross upon which he was to be crucified, "Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do."

Kenneth is not alone in his feelings towards Mike Nifong. Many people have told me that they dislike Mike Nifong personally. Invariably, they have never even met him, and when I ask why, some state that they dislike him because he tried to put innocent defendants in prison. For the record, just because A.G. Cooper proclaimed that they were innocent does not make them innocent. Also, as a prosecutor, it is his job description to take away the freedom of defendants... he was merely doing his duty in prosecuting the Duke Lacrosse case. And these very people who give such reasons, have no ill will towards other prosecutors who have engaged in misconduct that resulted in truly innocent individuals wrongfully languishing in prison for many months and years. The names of these prosecutors are not even known by the public because the media goes out of its way to shield them... which is what it does when the defendants are disenfranchised, poor, and people of color. Then, there are a number of people who admit to me that they don't know why they dislike Mike Nifong. The answer is: because of what the media has spewed forth... which is its biased portrait of a man who acted for politically selfish motives in bringing a case in which he knew was without merit, and in doing so, withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense, lied to the court, and made pre-trial statements that were grossly prejudicial and inflammatory. However, the truth is, that nothing could be further from the truth.

Unfortunately, it is those individuals who are quick to hate whose minds are weakest and most vulnerable to the propagandistic product delivered my the media. The biased media's use of the Jedi mind-trick is very effective in disseminating hatred among the populous, as is evidenced by what has tragically transpired as a result of its coverage of the Duke Lacrosse case and Mike Nifong.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hoke or Nifong… who is more deserving of disbarment?

I would like to challenge all of former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong detractors (especially Walt-in-Durham, JSwift, William Anderson, K. C. Johnson, Durham Dad, Rhonda, and other blog commenters) to answer one simple question, which follows: “Who is more deserving of disbarment… Mike Nifong for his handling of the Duke Lacrosse case, or David Hoke for his handling of the Alan Gell case?” This is an either/or question. Responses such as “both” or “they are equally” are not acceptable. No straddling the fence, as I ask you to respond with either the name “Nifong” or “Hoke.” If you respond “Hoke,” then no explanation is necessary as it is obviously the sensible response. However, if you reply “Nifong,” then I would request that you supply accompanying dialog in support of your answer.

Now I am aware that this is difficult for the anti-Nifong throng to do, because to answer “Nifong” would bring their common sense and reasoning ability into question. However, to answer logically by saying “Hoke,” would give credence to the position that the unregulated North Carolina State Bar acted selectively and unjustly in disbarring Mike Nifong while giving David Hoke a gentle slap on the wrist. This question represents the biggest conundrum for the anti-Nifong throng… how do you explain it? I am looking forward to the responses.

In the event memories of the Alan Gell case have faded, or been subconsciously blocked out, let me refresh them as succinctly as possible. Prosecutor David Hoke, in seeking a first degree murder charge against Alan Gell, withheld exculpatory evidence from the Gell defense team. The evidence withheld included 17 independent eyewitness statements from individuals who had seen the murder victim alive after Mr. Gell had been incarcerated. He, in fact, was behind bars when the murder for which he was convicted took place. Additional evidence withheld consisted of a wire-tapped phone conversation from the star witness for the prosecution in which she stated that she had to make up a story (implicating Gell) for the investigators. Mr. Gell languished in prison for nine year, more than half on death row, before these facts came forth. Gell’s conviction was set aside, and the Attorney General’s Office, in light of the new evidence, disregarded its role as a “minister of justice” and proceeded to retry him. With the previously withheld exculpatory evidence now in play, the jury immediately found in favor of Mr. Gell’s innocence at his retrial. In this case justice was definitely denied, as an innocent man was sentenced to death (and spent more than nine years wrongfully imprisoned) by a prosecutor (David Hoke) who knew, or should have known, that the defendant had to be innocent.

A refresher about the Duke Lacrosse case: The Duke University lacrosse team had a history of bad behavior, including hosting raucous parties, and disorderly conduct. In fact, the 2006 team had nearly of third of its 47 member roster charged with criminal activities (mainly drunken and disorderly conduct, and public urination). Duke had a “fixer” on hand to smooth over the criminal misdeeds of its students, so that the criminal activities of these students were routinely swept under the rug and kept out of the media. The president of the university even warned the lacrosse coach, Mike Pressler, to rein in his unruly players. In March 2006, hosting a Spring Break party, a Duke lacrosse player used false pretenses to schedule two exotic dancers (strippers) to perform. He used an alias, and told the escort service that the request was for a small bachelor party of four or five (when he knew that more than 40 guests were expected at the beer-guzzling extravaganza). When two African American dancers showed up at the event, despite the request for two white dancers, the party-goers paid each $400.00 in expectation of a two hour performance. Because of sexual degrading, lewd, and vulgar trash talk directed at the dancers, they quit within minutes of their routine and exited to the bathroom. What transpired next is subject to debate. One African American dancer stated that she was sexually abused by several party-goers within the bathroom, and the money paid for her services was stolen from her. The party-goers, on the other hand, say nothing happened, and deny taking back the payment they had made earlier. Upon leaving the house on Buchanan Street, neighbors state that the party-goers hurled racial slurs and epithets at the retreating females. When Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong heard of the incident, he was appalled and outraged at the alleged gang-like sexual abuse coupled with the ugly racial component involved, so he took the lead in the prosecution of the case. Because of Mike Nifong’s independence (comparable to that of Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Beckett in defying England’s King Henry II) and his unwillingness to allow the case to be customarily hushed up with charges dropped, the state powers-that-be had the North Carolina State Bar file an ethics complaint against Mr. Nifong in order to force him off the case. The basis for the Bar’s complaint, as accurately observed by Miami attorney Kendall Coffey, was that Mr. Nifong failed to “promptly disclose DNA” results to the defense team. Being a prosecutor with integrity and having a stellar 27 year reputation, Mr. Nifong turned the case over to the Attorney General’s Office, which then set about to persecute and destroy Mr. Nifong (not unlike what happened to Beckett). Mr. Nifong was disbarred, sentenced to serve 24 hours in jail, denied absolute immunity, and an attempt was made to bring federal criminal charges against him. The purpose of the actions against Mr. Nifong were to set an example to other prosecutors who do not follow the state’s tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color,” and to quench the blood thirsty vengeance of the vindictive and avaricious carpetbagger families of the Duke Lacrosse defendants. Unlike Alan Gell, the Duke Lacrosse defendants spent no time in jail, received $7 million each from Duke University, and were proclaimed “innocent” before a national audience by Attorney General Roy Cooper; a promulgation which was given credence by the media and went unquestioned, even though the attorney general is part of the executive branch of government, and not judicial.

This simple question of “who is more deserving of disbarment… Hoke or Nifong” is one that people in politics, media, and legal arenas refuse at address, and those who do respond do so only on the condition that their response is strictly “off record.”

I have just completed programming my questionnaire for posting online on our website: www.justice4nifong.com. I hope that everyone will take the time to participate, especially the anti-Nifong throng. Taking the survey, with an open and fair mind, should enlighten the test-taker and give new insight into the Duke Lacrosse case and its prosecutor, Mike Nifong.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

CNN legal observer Kendall Coffey gets it all wrong on Mike Nifong

In a January 1, 2008 CNN.com posted commentary titled: “The Best and Worst of a year of celebrity justice,” former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey got it all wrong with his blurb about former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong. The Miami, Florida commentator’s statements were as far off base as those made by MSNBC legal analyst Susan F. Filan, who claimed that Mr. Nifong damaged the sport of lacrosse and damaged the reputation of Duke University when he prosecuted the Duke Lacrosse case.

Although the column did not go into depth about Mike Nifong’s role in the Duke Lacrosse case, he begins with a zinger by labeling the prosecution as being one about a “bogus sexual assault.” The media has gone out of its way to portray the alleged sexual assault as being “bogus” despite the fact that the accuser/victim has always maintained that it did occur. The media has never used the term bogus to describe the prosecutions of Alan Gell (for a murder which he could not have possibly committed), James Arthur Johnson (who solved a heinous murder), and Erick Daniels (a 14 year old prosecuted for an armed robbery based on the shape of his eyebrows from a photo in a school yearbook). The bogus tag is used to discredit the prosecution against the three Duke University students who come from families of wealth, status, and privilege, and the media, in general, has definitely assumed a biased position in favor of the student defendants.

Mr. Coffey then makes a statement that is both true and false. He accurately states that the main excuse used by the North Carolina State Bar to disbar Mr. Nifong is because of his “failure to promptly disclose DNA (results)…” Unlike the majority of media types and Nifong detractors, he did not follow the universally accepted mantra that Mr. Nifong withheld DNA evidence. To his credit, Mr. Coffey stated that the excuse used was that Mr. Nifong did not turn DNA evidence over to the prosecution quick enough. Never mind, that when all DNA evidence was received by the defense team on October 27, 2006, a trial date had not even been set. The Duke Lacrosse defense had adequate time to mount a defense utilizing those DNA results. Compare this with Prosecutor Jim Hardin who withheld from defendant novelist Mike Peterson’s defense team the knowledge of the existence and testing performed on a possible murder weapon. Such lack of disclosure by the prosecution caused irreparable damage in building the best possible defense on Mr. Peterson’s behalf.

Secondly, Mr. Coffey refers to the delayed DNA evidence provided by Mr. Nifong to the Duke Lacrosse defense team as being “testing that exonerated the defendants.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Lack of DNA test results from the accuser’s rape kit exam being linked to any of the Duke lacrosse players was not exculpatory… its absence did not rule out the possibility that a sexual assault occurred. This is unlike the exculpatory evidence withheld by Prosecutor David Hoke from Alan Gell’s defense attorney. In that case, seventeen independent eyewitnesses gave statements that they saw the murder victim alive during a period when his suspect, Mr. Gell, was incarcerated on an unrelated charge, and could not possibly have committed the crime. Although these exculpatory statements were available well before trial, their existence was never disclosed by Prosecutor Hoke, and it never came to light until nine years after the defendant was convicted and served time in prison, half on death row.

Next, Mr. Coffey writes that Mr. Nifong was convicted and served a day in jail for failing to deal honestly with the court. If you’re looking for a bogus charge, the contempt charge against Mr. Nifong is about as fitting as one can find. Mr. Nifong’s explanation about a statement (which had no bearing on the case) was ignored by the judge, who sided with the defense team’s interpretation of the innocuous statement made by Mr. Nifong in court… “This is the first that I’ve heard of this situation..” It is apparent that the situation he is referring to is the complaint of withholding evidence lodged against him by the defense. Instead, the defense claimed that Mr. Nifong was referring to the first that he heard of certain DNA test results. Such a claim doesn’t make sense, and for him to serve jail time because of it is a travesty of justice.

Again, going with the media, Mr. Coffey refers to the Duke Lacrosse defendants as being “falsely accused.” I presume this is based on Attorney General Roy Cooper’s proclamation that the three Duke Lacrosse defendants were “innocent.” Such a pronouncement coming from a prosecutor, much less an attorney general, is unheard of. Attorney General Cooper definitely overstepped his boundaries, yet the media, including Attorney Kendall Coffey, gives credence to Cooper’s judgment instead of questioning its appropriateness and validity.

Mr. Coffey ponders “whether Nifong’s high-profile disaster is sufficient to give other prosecutors a chill.” It will if they, like Mike Nifong, believe in following the principle of “equal justice for all,” instead of the current North Carolina tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color”… the latter which was reinforced by the persecution of Mike Nifong. To put things in perspective, the ethics complaint was filed by the North Carolina State Bar to create a conflict of interest for the purpose of forcing Mike Nifong off the case. Mr. Nifong was too independent, and would not let the charges against the Duke students to be swept under the rug, as was standard protocol prior to his appointment as Durham district attorney. As a result, he, like the independently minded Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Beckett who defied England’s King Henry II, suffered the consequences at the hands of the state and the media. Likewise, he was used to set an example for other prosecutors. Lessons learned for North Carolina prosecutors to maintain their law license in good standing would be as follows: follow the state’s tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color;” don’t defy protocol or positions of the state; and don’t go against the North Carolina State Bar, the unregulated agency that is capable of arbitrary, selective, and unjust disbarment.

In prosecuting the Duke Lacrosse case, Mr. Nifong was honorably performing his duties as district attorney. The assertion that his actions in doing so were politically motivated is nothing but baseless speculation. To make this reckless promulgation is to suggest that while running for re-election, Mr. Nifong or any incumbent candidate for district attorney should suspend all professional activity on grounds that his/her acts could be construed as pandering to the public for votes.

Finally, CNN’s special observer Kendall Coffey concludes that Mike Nifong makes a good poster-boy for prosecutors who pursue baseless charges. Obviously, I strongly disagree, and instead would offer the following nominees: Prosecutor David Hoke (who withheld from defense attorneys exculpatory evidence which clearly exonerated the defendant, Alan Gell); Prosecutor Bill Wolfe (who, without probable cause, charged James Arthur Johnson with murder, rape, kidnapping, and armed robbery even though Johnson heroically supplied information to police which solved the crimes); and Prosecutor Freda Black (who without probable cause convicted a 14 year old boy on armed robbery charges based on the shape of his eyebrows from a school yearbook, despite the fact he did not fit the victim’s description and another inmate who was later jailed and fit the description confessed to the crime).

By using wording such as “falsely accused,” “bogus sexual assault prosecution,” “testing that exonerated the defendants,” and “politically motivated, baseless charges,” Kendall Coffey does a superb job in subtly molding the minds of the public in generating sympathy for the three Duke Lacrosse defendants, and overt hostility against their prosecutor, Mike Nifong. For those who are not knowledgeable about the case, who are not fair-minded, who accept what the media spews out as truthful without question, and who are not objective when it comes to the Duke Lacrosse case, the Jedi-mind trick is working… and it is very effective.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The laws, not the technicalities, are the problems

In her Wednesday, October 21, 2009 column in the News & Observer, titled “File this under 2 wrongs,” Ruth Sheehan blames technicalities in the law for what appears to be two miscarriages of justice. The cases referenced in her article are the release of 20 violent felons who were sentenced to life, and consequences for defense attorney Johnny Gaskins, who was convicted of depositing funds in a way to avoid IRS notification of the deposits.

With regards to the release of felons, laws were enacted by the North Carolina General Assembly in the 1970’s that defined the length of a life sentence as being 80 years. This was followed by a law which cut sentences in half, which in essence meant that defendants sentenced to life would be required to serve a maximum of no more than 40 years behind bars. Members of the General Assembly, who should have been looking out for the welfare of the public, did not consider the consequences of their actions in passing this law, which is straightforward. The Court of Appeals and the state’s Supreme Court, agreed with the inmate who ignited a firestorm when he proclaimed he had served his “life” sentence, as defined by laws passed in the 70’s. His release, as is the release of others, is not due to a “technicality” but rather to sloppy legislating.

Instead of placing blame on the 1970’s North Carolina General Assembly, the media is directing the public’s ire towards the inmates who stand to benefit from its gross miscue. Had the state’s senators and representatives been more attentive and committed to conscientiously fulfilling their duties, than enriching themselves personally and professionally, there is less likelihood that such an unintentional outcome would present itself. The “lifer” who was incarcerated and probably read law books and newspapers, was obviously more motivated to achieving his goals than the politicians were in passing sound legislation.

As for Attorney Gaskins, the federal law is clear that it is a crime to try and deceive a banking institution in an attempt to avoid triggering IRS notification when making large cash deposits. In this case, the severity of the crime, I feel, should be conditional with the intent of the depositor. Because Mr. Gaskins reported all monies deposited and paid taxes on them, it is obvious that his “criminal” manner of depositing was not for the purpose of defrauding the IRS of taxes due. Mr. Gaskins definitely deserves leniency, and if anything, what he did should be categorized as nothing more than a misdemeanor. What Mr. Gaskins did, as determined by the jury, was clearly in violation of the law. It is not its interpretation that needs changing, but rather the law, possibly to include intent and/or fraud.

So, I respectfully disagree with Ms. Sheehan that the release of prisoners and Mr. Gaskins’ conviction on depositing practices were due to technicalities. In these cases the laws were unambiguous and correctly interpreted by the courts and the jury. The lesson to be taken from these episodes is that the lawmakers of the state need to be conscientious, to take their duties seriously, and to pass laws that will protect the public and assure that people are not unjustly punished.

Monday, November 2, 2009

WRAL… Prime example of the Media molding minds of the public

“Walt in Durham,” the pseudonym of a frequent commenter in this blog site, www.justice4nifong.blogspot.com, is an intelligent individual, but even he has been duped and bamboozled by the media… WRAL, in particular. If the media is capable of feeding misinformation to Walt, and having him accept it as truthful, then it is obvious why the vast majority of media subscribers, like Walt, have negative attitudes towards former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong which are unwarranted.

This observation stems from a recent blog (around October 18, 2009) in which I made the following statement, “Just because Attorney General Roy Cooper said nothing happened at the party does not make it so.” Walt replied with a comment on October 21, 2009 which stated as follows: “But, Nifong himself said so twice” (insinuating that Mr. Nifong admitted that nothing happened at the Duke lacrosse party). When I requested the source upon which he based his comment, he told me it was from WRAL. And sure enough, I went to the WRAL website and upon searching, I found the following article posted on July 26, 2007, with the headline, “Nifong Apologizes, Admits Nothing Happened.”

That headline is an outright blatantly false and purposely misleading statement, and it was extremely effective in playing a Jedi-mind trick on Walt, and many others. The first part of the statement, “Nifong Apologizes,” is true, but the second part, “Admits Nothing Happened,” is offensively false on its face and baseless. There is absolutely nothing in the web article to substantiate such a claim.

Mr. Nifong does make the following statement, as published in the article: “I agree with the Attorney General’s statement that there is no credible evidence that Mr. Seligmann, Mr. Finnerty, and Mr. Evans committed any crimes for which they were indicted – or any any other crimes against Ms. Mangum – during the party.” Yes, he states that “there is no credible evidence” that the three defendants committed any crimes for which they were indicted, but that does not mean that he does not believe that they are not guilty of committing crimes against Ms. Mangum. Definitely it does not mean that Mr. Nifong believed that “nothing happened.” For the media to state that Mr. Nifong admitted that nothing happened is wrong and grossly irresponsible.

That said, there are many cases that move forward without credible evidence. In the Brittany Willis murder/rape/kidnapping/armed robbery case, there was no credible evidence against defendant James Arthur Johnson. Although Johnson heroically solved the crime for the Wilson police, he ended up spending 39 months in jail on charges which lacked credible evidence; charges that were later dropped. Notice that the media did not go after Prosecutor Bill Wolfe. In the case against 14 year old Erick Daniels, who was identified by a robbery victim due to the shape of his eyebrows in a school yearbook, there was no credible evidence that existed against him. Yet he wrongfully served seven years in jail and the media is not critical of his prosecutor, Freda Black. There was no credible evidence against Alan Gell for the murder with which he was convicted and unjustly served nine years in prison (half of it on death row). However, there was exculpatory evidence favoring Mr. Gell which the prosecutors withheld from defense attorneys in order to win a conviction. Even at that, the media went out of its way to protect and shield his prosecutor (David Hoke) from criticism. I could go on.

Bottom line is that there are many charges that are brought by prosecutors without credible evidence… but just circumstantial evidence. The admission by Mr. Nifong that no credible evidence existed does not necessarily exclude the possibility that a credible case could be built against the defendants.

Finally, the nexus between credible evidence and the occurrence of a sexual assault is non-existent, but WRAL and the media in general would like the public to believe that in this particular Duke Lacrosse case they are linked; one and the same. The folly of this argument is obvious when you consider, for example, the rape case against Ronald Cotton. Mr. Cotton was picked up off the street and placed in a lineup where he was positively identified as the rapist by a rape victim. There was no credible evidence linking him to the crime, nonetheless he was convicted and served many years in prison before being cleared by DNA. Because no credible evidence against him existed does not mean that the rape for which he was charged did not happen. In the Duke Lacrosse case, Attorney General Cooper has reached far beyond his bounds by declaring that no criminal activity took place against Ms. Mangum, based on the fact that there was no “credible” evidence against those accused by Ms. Mangum. And this is the line that the media, including WRAL, pursued and propagated.

Furthermore, the media, instead of questioning the legitimacy and propriety of the attorney general’s “innocent” proclamation of the three Duke Lacrosse defendants, accepted it as being legitimate and binding. This declaration is an example of overreaching and irresponsibility by the attorney general at its greatest, and the media has been content to completely ignore its lack of legal substance. This is an outrage that WRAL reported without question and as factual with its online statement: “Following North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper’s declaration this April that the three men were innocent, …”

A final disgracefully misleading passage in the WRAL article is: “The defense’s request to drop the motion for criminal sanctions means that Nifong will no longer be required to reimburse the defendants thousands of dollars for costs incurred in the defense’s uncovering of exculpatory DNA evidence that could have cleared the players had the case gone to trial.” First of all, the defense probably decided to drop the motion for criminal sanctions because of the absurdity of the charge, which would become apparent in a courtroom. To expect a prosecutor to pay for work performed by the defense team is absolutely ludicrous, yet the media’s take on it is matter-of-fact. But the most egregious and disingenuous part of the statement is the use of the adjective “exculpatory” when describing DNA evidence. There is absolutely no way in which the referenced DNA evidence could be exculpatory (that is, clear the players of sexual assault), and to suggest so is a monumental disservice to the public. WRAL, along with almost all other media sources, has consistently erred on this specific issue of great importance.

In reporting on the same event, John Stevenson, of The Herald Sun, makes statements similar to WRAL such as: “All remaining charges against the defendants were dismissed in April by Attorney General Roy Cooper, who declared the three innocent,…”

The Herald Sun goes out of its way to generate sympathy for the Duke defendants by quoting one of their attorneys, Joseph Cheshire: “…a long journey of suffering for innocent people.” Mr. Cheshire takes advantage of Attorney General Cooper’s “innocent” declaration, and then the public is supposed to believe that the Duke Lacrosse players suffered? First, they spent no time in jail (their prosecutor – Mike Nifong – spent more time in jail than they did combined). Second, they each received $7 million from Duke University in an out of court settlement (don’t ask me why). Third, their avaricious carpetbagger families are currently trying to gouge another $10 million for each of their defendant sons from the cash-strapped city of Durham. Fourth, they were represented by high-powered attorney, not public defenders. And fifth, they were certainly not oblivious to the biased media attacks being lodged against Mike Nifong, the accuser, and the city of Durham. With consideration of the aforementioned, I doubt very seriously that the boys endured a “long journey of suffering.” James Arthur Johnson, Erick Daniels, Floyd Brown, Charles Wayne Munsey, Theodore Jerry Williams, and other innocent people who were wrongfully incarcerated for long periods of time without compensation know what it is to suffer. On the other hand, the Duke Lacrosse defendants have mainly experienced pampering and coddling by the courts, the media, and the public… privileged treatment for which they have been accustomed and to which they feel is their birthright.

As outrageous and unfair as the coverage by WRAL and The Herald Sun was, it pales in comparison to the ranting of MSNBC Senior legal analyst Susan F. Filan. In an online article posted June 17, 2007, titled “Nifong’s punishment is extreme, appropriate,” Ms. Filan claims that Mr. Nifong damaged the sport of lacrosse. Now, I am not making this up. She actually wrote that! I would like to know how. First of all, I doubt that he even knows anything about the sport. Another unsubstantiated claim by Ms. Filan is that Mr. Nifong damaged the reputation of Duke University. Again, I would like to know how. Her article failed to explain. Ms. Filan claims Mr. Nifong damaged three innocent men. Like the rest of the media, she gives credence to Attorney General Roy Cooper’s “innocent” declaration. Now I have never attended law school, and I am certainly not the senior legal analyst of a major media network, but from my high school civics class I learned that the attorney general, or anyone else in the executive branch, does not have the authority to render judicial decisions. That authority lies clearly with the judicial branch of government, as in judges.

Finally, Ms. Filan blames Mr. Nifong for damaging the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Nifong, in prosecuting the Duke Lacrosse case on behalf of a victim who was poor, disenfranchised, and of color, against three young college men from families of wealth and privilege, was following the principle of “equal justice for all.” North Carolina justice, in practice, follows the tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color.” That is what prevailed in the Duke Lacrosse case. The powers that be, and the media (including Ms. Filan) which was in cahoots with those powers, are responsible for destroying the public’s faith in the criminal justice system of North Carolina. All one has to do is look at the cases of James Arthur Johnson, Erick Daniels, Floyd Brown, Theodore Jerry Williams, Wayne Charles Munsey, Darryl Hunt, and many others who are poor and disenfranchised, and then compare them with the Duke Lacrosse case.

I take umbrage at Ms. Filan’s baseless speculations, especially her following statement: “He used the Duke case to get re-elected, and he resigned to try to save his law license.” What proof does she have for making these claims? They are reckless, inflammatory comments that are unsubstantiated… definitely statements which I doubt that she can back up with fact.

Ms. Filan did note in her article the rarity of the disbarment of an attorney, stating that it is the legal equivalent of a unicorn sighting. I would disagree when it comes to attorneys in private practice, but the statement is valid when it comes to state prosecutors. She failed to mention that Mike Nifong is the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception in 1933. During a 76 year period, hundreds, if not thousands of North Carolina attorneys have lost their law license, but only one prosecutor has been disbarred… Mike Nifong. This is a fact that the media has kept hidden from the public, especially in light of North Carolina cases in which there has been egregious prosecutorial misconduct… in particular the Alan Gell case. Furthermore, North Carolina follows only the states of Illinois and Louisiana in the number of death row inmates who have been exonerated.

This type of Journalism engaged in by WRAL, The Herald Sun, MSNBC and other media outlets is detrimental to the public which relies on the media for fair and objective reporting. The false, fraudulent, unsubstantiated statements and claims put forth by the media about Mr. Nifong are not the result of sloppiness or inattention, but they are carefully calculated statements made as propaganda intended to direct public sentiment against Mr. Nifong who has attempted to take class and color out of the equation when it comes to justice in North Carolina.

Mr. Nifong has always maintained that he felt that something criminal did happen to the accuser at the March 13, 2006 party hosted by the Duke Lacrosse team. Unlike Attorney General Roy Cooper, Mr. Nifong never said “nothing happened” at the party. So, the media took it upon itself to do it for him… even though there was no truth to it. And as a result, intelligent people, like Walt in Durham, believed the lie… proving that the media has become quite adroit at using the Jedi-mind trick on the public. That is what the media did in its coverage of the Duke Lacrosse case and its prosecutor, Mike Nifong – instead of informing the people, it was busy molding their minds.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Defense Attorney Johnny S. Gaskins deserves leniency

Raleigh criminal defense attorney Johnny S. Gaskins could be facing jail time himself, according to an article in the News & Observer by Mandy Locke. Her story titled, “Lawyer’s career ends in crime,” explains how his attempts to deposit large sums just under the amount that triggers banks to file reports to the IRS, resulted in a conviction that could land him in prison for up to 35 years. Also he stands to lose his license to practice law in North Carolina.

When considering that Mr. Gaskins reported to the IRS the deposits he made, and paid tax on the total amount, makes it clear that his attempts to shield his large deposits were not made with the intention of evading the payment of taxes. His explanation of his reasons for making large deposits, just under $10,000, sounds reasonable to me. His comment that he does not trust banks, also sounds reasonable, especially in lieu of the high risk investment policies they engage in, and the large salaries and bonuses the upper tier enjoys.

Now, I am no fan of Mr. Gaskins, especially in light of his actions regarding his former client James Arthur Johnson. On a broadly broadcast Fox-50 TV news program, Mr. Gaskins made inflammatory and prejudicial statements about Johnson which decidedly undermined Johnson’s likelihood of prevailing in an upcoming trial against charges trumped up by Wilson District Attorney Howard S. Boney, prosecutor Bill Wolfe, and others. Because of his actions then, which I believe deserved a disciplinary response from the North Carolina State Bar, I filed a complaint with the State Bar (which I am sure that it ignored). I even incorporated Mr. Gaskins’s misfortunes in Episode IV of “The MisAdventures of Super-Duper Cooper,” but in a light hearted and non-malicious way, of course. Although I believe Mr. Gaskins’s statements against his former client were a serious breach of attorney client privilege, I do not feel that they were necessarily grounds for disbarment.

Because he tried to deceive bank tellers by making repeated deposits of just under $10,000 at a time, does not merit disbarment by the State Bar, especially when his intent was obviously not to defraud the IRS. Unfortunately, in our capitalistic society, when it comes to money, the consequences for violations are much greater than for violations of injustice towards human beings.

Did Johnny S. Gaskins violate federal law with his depository dealings? Yes. Should his sentence be severe? No. I would definitely rule out any jail time. Some community service might be appropriate. Finally, should he be forced to surrender his law license? Absolutely not. If the unregulated State Bar were to disbar him, it would be an unfair, illogical, and insensitive action. With its 2007 disbarment of former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong, the Bar has already demonstrated its capacity to act without reason, justice, consistency, and mercy. Hopefully it will not make another mistake regarding Johnny Gaskins.