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 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 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 general manager acted timely, responsibly, and appropriately in correcting the headline and including an editor's note. ( 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: 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 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,, 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.