Sunday, March 22, 2009

Durham City Council, the Sandbox, and Courage

On Thursday, March 19, 2009, the Durham City Council agreed to complain to Duke University President Richard Brodhead about the bad behavior of partying Duke students in Durham communities. By addressing their complaint to the university president, Council member Howard Clement, III, said, “We need to go directly to where the buck stops.” Council member Eugene A. Brown referred to the rowdy Duke students with the following colorful analogy, “(They) see themselves as cool cats but they’re using that neighborhood (Trinity Heights) as their sandbox.”

I, for one, do not understand the rhetoric of the Council members. First, the buck does not stop with the Duke University president, because the residents in the affected neighborhoods are not all enrolled in the university, and the activities involving drunken behavior and other bad acts are not part of the curriculum. It is evident from the Duke Lacrosse case, that President Brodhead was unsuccessful in reining in the out-of-control behavior of the Duke lacrosse team at the numerous and infamous parties they hosted. As far as rowdy students disrupting Durham neighborhoods, the buck stops with Durham Police Department, the Durham district attorney, and finally, the state attorney general.

Not long ago, Durham was fortunate enough to have a district attorney who was committed to dealing fairly and ethically with students from the prestigious university who engaged in activity that was disruptive and criminal in nature. This district attorney was independent and was not bound by favoritism or the playbook of Duke University or Attorney General Roy Cooper. Because, in pursuing prosecution of a case, he did not give special advantage to Duke students from wealth and privilege, as was expected by those in higher circles, he was persecuted, prosecuted, professionally destroyed, used as fodder by the media for ridicule and contempt, sentenced to serve jail time for doing his job, and disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar. That prosecutor, with 27 years of exemplary service to the state of North Carolina, is Michael B. Nifong, the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the State Bar since its inception (a fact that the media has kept well hidden from the public).

The Durham City Council, which sat on its hands, silently while Mr. Nifong was destructed by the state and media, is whining because Duke students now, more than ever, have a feeling of entitlement to act without fear of suffering any consequences for their actions. This is a proximate result of outcome of the Duke Lacrosse case, where the Duke Lacrosse defendants were portrayed as sympathetic and innocent heroes and completely exonerated by Attorney General Cooper, while their prosecutor was vilified and personally attacked. The misguided outrage and animus against Mr. Nifong by the state, media, and public, along with the unwarranted capitulation by Duke University to the outrageous demands of the avaricious carpetbagger families of Duke Lacrosse defendants in reaching an out of court settlement, are not only responsible for the perpetuation of animalistic party behavior by Duke students in Durham neighborhoods, but are the grounds for the related legal problems that now face the city.

The carpetbagger families of the former Duke lacrosse players, whose greed is exceeded only by their malice, are cats which are using the city of Durham as its sandbox. The question is: what is the City Council going to do about it now? They can continue to remain silent, or they can belatedly come to the defense of Mr. Nifong. The State Bar disbarred Mr. Nifong for allegedly withholding irrelevant, extraneous information from the defense team about the presence of unidentified male DNA found on the rape kit exam of the accuser. (DNA information withheld was of no use to the defense team and had no bearing on the case against the defendants. ) However the State Bar, the Attorney General, Superior Court Judges, and the media go out of their way to defend, shield, and protect prosecutors who have destroyed evidence (Theodore Jerry Williams case), prosecutors who withheld exculpatory murder evidence from the defense (Michael Peterson and Alan Gell cases), prosecutors who have concocted false confessions of murder (Floyd Brown case), and prosecutors who have lined up false eyewitnesses (James Arthur Johnson case).

It doesn’t take courage to remain silent and do nothing. It doesn’t take courage to go along with a majority public sentiment that has been spoon-fed by a biased media.

Courage is represented by those who take a stand that is unpopular, and who are willing to put their names and their faces to a cause. Members of the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong have done just that, and it is evidenced by their web site with the address: I strongly recommend that the Durham City Council members visit that site, and hopefully it will stir within them a passion to see that justice is done for Mr. Nifong (which would be the State Bar’s unilateral and unconditional reinstatement of Mr. Nifong’s license to practice law within the state of North Carolina without restrictions).

Although Mr. Nifong has no intention of practicing law in the state, even if his license were to be reinstated, the mere fact that the City Council would back such a resolution, would not only serve justice well, but place Durham in a much stronger position when it comes to determining whether or not the city will continue to remain a sandbox for the cool and the well-heeled cats.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mike Peterson denied a new trial: Another miscarriage of justice aimed to protect NC prosecutors

Durham Superior Court Judge Orlando F. Hudson joins Judge Milton F. Fitch as being guilty of ruling against justice in order to rescue two more North Carolina prosecutors who were obviously and undeniably guilty of prosecutorial misconduct. On March 10, 2009, Judge Hudson denied a defense motion for a new trial for convicted killer Michael Peterson, a novelist. Convicted of murdering his wife in 2001, Mr. Peterson and his defense team were not informed by the prosecutors of the existence of a potential murder weapon. Prosecutors surmised that a weapon, like a fireplace poker was the murder weapon, which was never found. What was found, however, was a tire iron that had been abandoned near the scene of the crime and reported to police days after the crime’s commission. The police took possession of the tire iron, and purportedly conducted forensics tests on it, but failed to notify the defense team of its existence or results of tests performed on the possible murder weapon.

These actions by prosecutors, James “Jim” Hardin and Freda Black, deprived Mr. Peterson’s defense team the opportunity to present the best possible case for their client, who faced the worst possible consequences.. death or life in prison. The existence of the tire iron undoubtedly brings into question the guilt of Mr. Peterson, and it’s omission from the arsenal of possible defense scenarios drastically and unfairly increased his chances of being convicted. Throughout his ordeal, Mr. Peterson has steadfastly maintained his innocence.

In defending his decision to deny Peterson a new trial, Judge Hudson stated about the tire iron evidence, “I don’t think this would have changed [the outcome of the trial] that.” Well, evidently, the prosecutors did, and that is the reason that they withheld knowledge of the tire iron and the tests they supposedly conducted on it from the defense team. If Peterson’s defense attorneys present their case before an unbiased appeals court, I am sure that they will prevail. They should prevail.

Likewise, James Arthur Johnson maintained his innocence when Wilson police tried to convict him of the murder, rape, kidnapping and armed robbery of a Wilson teen in 2004. He spent 39 months in jail before a cockamamie ruling was handed out several weeks ago in which the prosecutors were able to pretend to save face when Johnson pleaded no contest to a charge of misprison of felony for not reporting knowledge of a crime to police the instant he was aware of it. Judge Milton Fitch, who should have dismissed the case against Johnson as soon as it hit his desk, worked against Johnson by denying a defense motion for a change of venue from the racially divided town. (The town of Wilson was divided by the police, prosecutors and media, and the family of the murder victim who should have embraced Johnson for solving the crimes against their daughter, were instead misguided into having a strong desire to persecute him. In addition, they reneged on the $20,000.00 reward that Johnson earned, a fact that the media refuses to look into.) With Johnson facing fifteen additional months if convicted, he accepted the last plea deal from private sector prosecutor W. David McFadyen in order to avoid serving additional jail time. McFadyen, Fitch, and others worked out this deal to help protect Wilson prosecutor Bill Wolfe from a complaint of prosecutorial misconduct lodged against him with the State Bar by the NAACP.

In both cases, the rulings were unjust and illogical and made to protect the prosecutors who were guilty of misconduct far more egregious than what former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong is accused of in his handling of the Duke Lacrosse case. Yet Mr. Nifong was disbarred, the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception (a fact that is never mentioned by the media), he was sentenced to serve time in jail, the state refused to represent him at his hearing before the Bar, and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper even asked the U.S. Attorney General to prosecute Mr. Nifong for depriving the Duke Lacrosse defendants (who never spent a day in jail) of their civil rights.

The biased media, which is in cahoots with the Attorney General’s Office, likewise, refuses to mention the names of the prosecutors whose actions form the basis of the latest appeal by Mr. Peterson’s attorneys and the prosecutors who cost taxpayers countless dollars to conduct a phony charade against Johnson. The “News & Observer,” for example, buried the article at the bottom of the B section’s third page, and staff writer Anne Blythe, in lockstep with the A.G., did not mention the names of the prosecutors (Hardin and Black) who withheld the vital evidence from the defense team.

North Carolina’s justice system is surely broken, and with victims like Mike Nifong, Michael Peterson, James Arthur Johnson, and others, it looks as if it’s not going to get fixed any time soon. At the present time, Lady Justice is no match for Attorney General Roy Cooper and his “selective justice,” lap dog judges like Hudson and Fitch, and the media, on a local and national level, that lacks teeth, a stomach, a backbone, and a moral compass.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

State’s tradition of protecting its prosecutors remains strong

Attorney General Roy Cooper, in tandem with the media, continues its commitment to protect its prosecutors who abide by the North Carolina justice system tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color.” In a Saturday, February 28, 2009 News & Observer article titled, “Cooper urges no new trial for Peterson,” staff writer Anne Blythe makes an attempt to explain the state’s flimsy reasoning for objecting to a new trial for novelist Michael Peterson, who was convicted for the 2001 killing of his wife.

Peterson’s attorneys are appealing the conviction and requesting a new trial based allegedly on the fact that prosecutors Jim Hardin and Freda Black withheld valuable exculpatory evidence from the defense attorneys. According to their motion, a citizen contacted investigators and reported finding a tire iron near the scene of the crime shortly after its commission. The prosecutors, whose theory of the murder is that the victim succumbed because of head trauma with a fireplace poker, retrieved the tire iron and conducted forensics tests on it. They, however, did not notify the defense team of its existence, nor divulge to them the test results of their examinations on it. This is a point that was not disputed by Attorney General Cooper in Ms. Blythe’s article.

From our perspective (Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong), withholding from the defense team the existence of a tire iron, when a fireplace poker is considered to be the murder weapon, is far more egregious than withholding the existence of extraneous unidentified male DNA that had no relevance and no value for defendants in the Duke Lacrosse case. Yet, it is Duke Lacrosse prosecutor Mike Nifong who Attorney General Cooper persecutes and prosecutes, while going above and beyond the call of duty in protecting prosecutors Hardin and Black who obtained a life sentence conviction based on courtroom cheating and chicanery.

Cooper’s involvement in this case is not surprising, for it is his modus operandi. Consider the state’s case against Theodore Jerry Williams which was thrown out of court by the trial judge because prosecutors admitted that they had destroyed material exculpatory evidence against a defendant after he had requested it for his defense. Attorney General Cooper appealed this ruling, in an attempt to pursue charges, which he knew were trumped up, against a defendant who, in addition, was viciously assaulted by sheriff deputies.

Right in lockstep with the Attorney General’s Office, N & O staff writer Blythe did not mention the names of the prosecutors (Jim Hardin and Freda Black) responsible for withholding the evidence from Peterson defense attorneys, but she did, through some circuitously convoluted means, manage to gratuitously mention the name of Mike Nifong, who had absolutely nothing to do with the state’s case against Peterson. And although Ms. Blythe mentioned that Mr. Nifong had been disbarred, she, again, refused to mention that he is the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception. The media has consistently used Mr. Nifong as its sacrificial lamb when there is any question of wrongdoing, misconduct, or impropriety by a North Carolina state prosecutor(s).

Because of the magnitude of the prosecution’s misdeeds in winning a conviction in the Peterson case, and the irreparable damage caused by withholding the tire iron evidence from defense attorneys, the murder charge against Mr. Peterson should be dismissed, the conviction struck from his record, and he should be freed from custody. That is what Lady Justice would demand. At the minimum, Mike Peterson should be afforded a new trial.

The media is doing a grave disservice to its subscribers, the public, and justice itself when its biased coverage is used as a means of spinning public opinion in a view that is favorable to the Attorney General’s Office and the state. For an objective, fair, and balanced look at justice within the state, I recommend that you visit the home page of the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong’s web site: