Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rare occurrence: State Bar to take prosecutor before Grievance panel

Mark September 18, 2009, on your calendar because that is when the North Carolina State Bar is going to have its Grievance Commission weigh in on Johnston County prosecutor Gregory C. Butler’s conduct in a murder trial. This grievance, which was initiated by the N.C. State Bar’s own attorneys, accuses the Roseboro attorney of failing to gather and hand over potentially exculpatory evidence in the murder case against Tiffany Ann Bassett.

Butler, who was assigned to the case a year after the crime, was specifically faulted for turning over a 437 page report from the police department to the defense attorneys a week before trial was to begin, in violation the state’s “open file discovery law.” Although the bulk of information within the report had been previously disclosed, it did contain exculpatory evidence, according to Bassett’s defense attorney Bob Denning. A delay in the trial resulted, but the defendant subsequently pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of second degree murder, and was sentenced to 18 years.

Prosecutors of the following cases (James Arthur Johnson, Erick Daniels, Theodore Jerry Williams, and Floyd Brown) have acted far more egregiously and their actions have resulted in a far greater injustice to their defendants than actions by prosecutor Gregory Butler. Yet, the N.C. State Bar failed to initiate actions against these prosecutors.

Prosecutor Bill Wolfe charged James Arthur Johnson as an accomplice in the murder, rape, kidnapping and armed robbery of Brittany Willis. This was after Johnson, who had nothing to do with the crime, told the police the identity of the perpetrator who had confided in him. Johnson spent 39 months in jail on these charges before they were dropped by a special prosecutor. In a pre-arranged scheme, the special prosecutor then charged Johnson with an “accessory after the fact,” all in an attempt to protect Wolfe from a complaint of prosecutorial misconduct filed by the NAACP. Eventually, Johnson ended up making a Alford plea to avoid the possibility of further incarceration on a “misprision of felony” charge (failure to tell police knowledge of a crime… he waited three days before going to police with information which solved a heinous crime that would most likely have remained unsolved without his intervention). Bill Wolfe had no physical evidence tying Johnson to the crime, and attempted to employ two eyewitnesses (with ties to the police department) after the person identified by Johnson recanted his statement made in anger that implicated Johnson. Yet the N.C. State Bar took no action against Prosecutor Bill Wolfe.

Prosecutor Freda Black charged 14 year old Erick Daniels with armed robbery, based solely on the victim’s identification of his eyebrows in a middle school year book. Although he did not have the hair style or complexion of the robbery suspect, nor any physical evidence linking him to the crime, Prosecutor Black convicted him of the crime in an adult court, with the aid of a defense attorney who made the mistake of putting the young man on the stand. Although another young man, who was later arrested and fit the description of the perpetrator in the armed robbery, and had a history of armed robbery was willing to confess to the crime, Prosecutor Black did not interview him. Erick Daniels wrongfully spent seven years of a fourteen year sentence in jail for a crime he did not commit, after being charged without probable cause. The N.C. State Bar took no action against Prosecutor Black.

A prosecutor, who has not been named by the media, destroyed crucial, exculpatory evidence in the case of Theodore Jerry Williams. He was charged with assaulting a prison guard, although the charges were trumped up by authorities as a vendetta because Williams had the audacity to complain about the local district attorney. When a judge learned that the evidence which was requested by the defendant was destroyed by the prosecutor, he dropped the charges against the defendant. Attorney General Roy Cooper used his office to appeal the judge’s ruling, with full knowledge that the prosecutor destroyed evidence so crucial to the case that charges were dropped. The Attorney General’s Office failed to get the appeal overturned, and rightfully so. However, the N.C. State Bar took no action against the prosecutor(s) involved in destruction of evidence.

Anson County Prosecutor Michael Parker charged a retarded man, Floyd Brown, for murder. His primary evidence against Brown was a confession which mental health experts testified Brown was so mentally retarded that he could not have possibly authored such a statement. Parker held Brown in custody without a trial for over fourteen years, until a judge finally dropped the charges against him. The N.C. State Bar took no initiative to take actions against Prosecutor Parker.

It is extremely curious to me as to why the N.C. State Bar would go to such lengths to go after a prosecutor in which justice may have been delayed somewhat, yet ignore cases in which justice has been shredded and trampled upon by prosecutors. The rationale of going after Butler while ignoring the shenanigans of Wolfe, Black, Parker, and others escapes me.

Regardless, I doubt that Gregory Butler will be disbarred. Nor do I believe that he should, knowing what I do about the complaint filed against him. But whether or not future prosecutors are disciplined or disbarred by the State Bar, the Bar’s actions will not ameliorate the stains of injustice wrought by the unjust and selective disbarment of Mike Nifong.

By September 19th, we should have a better idea of what the North Carolina State Bar is up to regarding its complaint against Gregory C. Butler, prosecutor.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Victoria Peterson is quest on the Bill LuMaye Show

On Thursday, July 2, 2009, Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong president Victoria Peterson was a guest on the Bill LuMaye Show – a program on the conservative talk radio station WPTF-680 AM. Rick Martinez (the station’s news and programming director), along with his wife Donna, hosted the three hour afternoon program sitting in for the vacationing LuMaye.

The cordial and even questioning by the Martinezes covered a range of issues on the topic of Mike Nifong. Ms. Peterson made comments and fielded queries for an hour before departing. The second hour which followed consisted of calls from listeners who continued the conversation. To kick off the questioning, Mr. Martinez asked how Mike Nifong was doing. Ms. Peterson responded that he was doing well, and mentioned the fact that the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong was organized and operated without the consent, knowledge, or input from Mr. Nifong.

During the first hour, callers had negative positions related to Mr. Nifong, with one media-misguided caller of African descent incredulously asking Ms. Peterson how she could support a prosecutor who “withheld exculpatory evidence” from the defense (a false allegation). Another caller felt Ms. Peterson’s forceful, “take no prisoners – yield no quarter” manner was too overpowering, and he lamented the fact that there was not an equally vociferous devil’s advocate on the program.

A point repeatedly hammered by Victoria was that Crystal Mangum, the Duke Lacrosse accuser, never had a chance o tell her story, and that she never had her day in court. When Donna Martinez countered that Attorney General Roy Cooper didn’t bring the case to trial because he felt that there wasn’t sufficient evidence, Ms. Peterson had earlier responded that the attorney general overstepped his bounds and instead of deciding not to prosecute, took the extra unprecedented step of declaring the Duke defendants “innocent.” This, she stated, opened the city of Durham an Duke University to a slew of civil suits.

The first hour of the show is on the station’s website podcast. Hopefully the website will soon have the interview posted alng with the second hour (which contains comments by some callers supportive of Mike Nifong).

It is rare that the media affords the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong a forum wherein it can support and defend Mr. Nifong, and put forth its objective (which is for the North Carolina State Bar to unilaterally and unconditionally reinstate Mike Nifong’s license to practice law in the state, without restrictions). WPTF-680 AM is to be commended for the opportunity to the Committee.

The Committee looks forward to having a full in-house, no holds barred debate about Mr. Nifong’s disbarment with Bill LuMaye, himself, in the near future. Keep tuned to this blog site or the home page of our website,, for information.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Our sympathies to Rhonda

For those who have not visited the comments portion of our blog, a brief introduction: Rhonda Fleming is a lady in a tremendous amount of grief over the passing of her beloved brother, Jack. He died years ago in Durham, North Carolina, of what was determined to be a suicide, however Rhonda believes that his death was due to homicide, and she cannot find closure until the perpetrator is brought to justice. She has been actively trying to get any possible witnesses to come forward and for authorities to designate the case as a homicide and re-open the investigation. The depth of the love she had for her brother is evidenced by her passion and persistence in pursuing this issue.

On behalf of all members of the Committee on Justice for MikeNifong, I extend to you our deepest sympathies over your loss. Although I do not know the particulars of your brother’s passing, I will put a link to your website on our Links page when we get it up and running. (There is much important information, especially on the Documents page, that has yet to be posted, so it will not be done in the near future, but as soon as possible.)

There are a few misconceptions you and other readers may have that should be clarified:
(1) The Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong took it upon itself to seek the reinstatement of Mr. Nifong’s law license because his license was selectively and unjustly taken from him by the North Carolina State Bar.
(2) Mr. Nifong is the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the State Bar since its inception in 1933. One prosecutor disbarred over a 76 year period, although other prosecutors have conducted themselves far more egregiously than the petty nonsense with which Mr. Nifong has been accused. North Carolina ranks third behind Illinois and Louisiana in the number of death row inmates who have been exconerated, and most, if not all of them were convicted through prosecutorial misconduct.
(3) Mr. Nifong is not seeking to have his law license reinstated by the State Bar, and has stated that he has no intention of practicing law in North Carolina in the future even if his license were reinstated. In pursuing reinstatement of his law license, we are aware of his position regarding the practice of law, but we do not hold him to it.

We are aware that emotionally you are in pain, but we do not understand your animus towards Mr. Nifong. Again, we do not know your brother’s case, but I would like to think that if evidence existed that suggested that he was murdered, that the Durham Police would have thoroughly investigated. Often, a murder is staged to appear as a suicide, so I do not believe that your view regarding the cause of his death is totally unreasonable.

Feel free to share with us any specific evidence or information you might have to support your case. Please be aware that our efforts are focused first and foremost on obtaining justice for Mr. Nifong, which would be the reinstatement of his license. Only after achieving that goal will be able to consider giving our full attention to your brother’s case.

Let us know if there is anything else we may do that may be of help to you.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Comparing Duke Lacrosse to Scottsboro: Blasphemy!

The Trial of the Scottsboro Boys is widely held to be one of the worst cases of court room injustice in the history of the United States. It occurred in the southern state of Alabama during the height of Jim Crow and the Great Depression of the early thirties. In that case, nine black boys, the youngest being twelve, were rounded up by a gun toting posse after an altercation on a freight train in which they forced several whites off. One of the white women on the train, was a prostitute and was concerned about possible criminal charges she would face for traveling across state lines to provide service, so she convinced another white woman to divert attention from themselves by accusing the black boys of gang raping them. Of the nine boys rounded up on the freight train that night, they were confined in prisons and jails that were essentially hell holes, for many years, during numerous trials and re-trials. Outcome of almost all of the trials, despite evidence pointing to the innocence of the boys, was a conviction and death sentence. The last Scottsboro boy to be released, was released fifteen years later. It was a miracle that the boys even survived their incarceration, as the National Guard was called in to prevent their lynching by a mob shortly after they were first arrested and charged.

Now some individuals, such as Bill Anderson, want to compare the three Duke Lacrosse defendants to the Scottsboro boys and suggest a close kindred bond between the two. The purpose of trying to link the two is to try and convince people that the alleged injustice suffered by the Duke boys was of the same magnitude as that of the Scottsboro boys. Such an analogy is nonexistent, and to attempt to force such a relationship in the minds of people is blasphemous. There is definitely no comparison, other than both groups were charged with sexual assault. That is where the similarities end. Differences are as follows:
1) the Scottsboro boys were hitching a ride on a freight train in search of work when an altercation broke out with white riders on the freight. In the Duke Lacrosse case, the defendants were at a raucous party (ala “Animal House”) where their was under-aged drinking, drugs, and strippers. These parties were notoriously rowdy, and the Lacrosse coach had even been warned by the Duke administration to curb them, something he was unable to accomplish.
2) the Scottsboro boys were nearly lynched after charges were brought, and they faced the death penalty. Duke Lacrosse defendants’ safety was never an issue and they surely were not submitted to the stress of facing capital punishment.
3) the Scottsboro boys’ initial two defense attorneys were no dream team. One was so drunk that he couldn’t walk a straight line, and the other was in his 70’s and hadn’t been in the courtroom for decades. They didn’t call outside witnesses, didn’t effectively cross examine those on the stand, and made no closing statement. The Duke Lacrosse defendants families retained several prestigious law firms to represent their sons (which they claim charged them millions of dollars).
4) the Scottsboro boys were confined in small, squalid rat-infested cells, under the most deplorable conditions imaginable for many years. They were subjected to physical and psychological horrors routinely while incarcerated. None of the three Duke Lacrosse defendants spent any time in jail… the only one serving time as a result of the Duke Lacrosse case was prosecutor Mike Nifong.
5) although wrongfully charged and incarcerated, none of the Scottsboro boys receive compensation. The Duke Lacrosse defendants received seven million dollars ($7,000,000) each in an out of court settlement with Duke University, and they are avariciously suing the city of Durham for ten million dollars ($10,000,000) each.
6) the Scottsboro boys were not proclaimed innocent, however, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper took it upon himself to rule that the three Duke Lacrosse defendants were “innocent!”
7) many years after their ordeal, one of the Scottsboro boys wrote about the terrible experience. In the Duke Lacrosse case, a myriad of books, all favorable to the Duke Lacrosse defendants, have hit the market, and television and news programs, such as “60 Minutes” have produced stories about the case. At least one movie about the Duke Lacrosse case is already in the works.
8) the events that transpired with the Scottsboro boys are accepted and undisputed. However, what happened at the Duke lacrosse house party will never be known with certainty because Attorney General Roy Cooper saw to it that the case was shut down. No ensuing trial was held which would be able to bring clarity to what happened at the house on Buchanan Street in Durham on a night in March 2006. We will never know about the conversations the father of defendant Reid Seligmann had with the taxi cab driver and its effect on his changing testimony.

The aforementioned are just a few of the reasons that the Duke Lacrosse case doesn’t even come close to the standard of injustice set by the Scottsboro boys case. To suggest or insist that the two are comparable is a ploy used to steer the minds of those individuals who are not used to exercising theirs to think for themselves. The misguided followers and supporters of the Duke Lacrosse defendants have allowed the families of the defendants, the NC Attorney General’s Office, and the media (locally and nationally) to persecute Mr. Nifong, a dedicated prosecutor with 27 years of service to the state of North Carolina, who followed the principle of “equal justice for all” in prosecuting the Duke Lacrosse case. By doing so, these North Carolinians supporting the Duke Lacrosse defendants are enabling the carpetbagger families of the Duke Lacrosse defendants to further rape the state (the city of Durham alone has spent well over a million dollars in defending itself against the frivolous lawsuits of these families of wealth, status, privilege, greed, and vindictiveness).

A final analysis: The rape of the state of North Carolina by the carpetbagger families of the Duke Lacrosse defendants more closely approaches the magnitude of injustice associated with the Scottsboro boys than the pitiful alleged "injustice" suffered by the Duke Lacrosse defendants, which doesn’t even merit a blip on the scale of injustice.