Sunday, March 28, 2010

Why Prosecutor Tom Ford is among the worst of the worse

On the morning of September 26, 1991, Raleigh police officers come upon the body of Jacquetta Thomas, a 26 year old African American, in a cul de sac at the end of Blount Street. The murder victim, who worked as a prostitute, had been severely beaten and her body partially exposed. Near by, but out of sight, is an SUV belonging to Gregory Flint Taylor, which had been abandoned earlier that morning after it became bogged down off-road in marshy land.

When Greg Taylor returns to the scene to see about extricating his vehicle, he identifies himself to the police at the crime scene as the owner of the vehicle and cooperates with their questioning in the homicide investigation. He does so freely and without legal consultation, and even goes to the police station to submit to further interrogation.

During his interviews, Greg Taylor gives consistent statements to the investigators. He he tells that he did not know the victim Jacquetta Thomas, never met her, and that she never was inside of his SUV. He states that his only passenger that night was Johnny Beck (an African American man), that they were riding around seeking and using drugs, and that while driving off road, his car got stuck in the moist terrain during the wee hours of the morning. He tells detectives that unable to remove it from its quagmire, the two decided to leave the vehicle to walk and try to hitch a ride home. On exiting the cul de sac, they noticed for the first time what appeared to be a body, but did not get close or examine it; planning instead to call authorities later in the morning if it had not been discovered by then.

Within twelve hours of the police’s discovery of Jacquetta Thomas’s body, Greg Taylor is charged with the murder. He is charged without forensic evidence linking him to the victim or vice versa, and without evidence confirming the victim’s presence in his vehicle. The unsubstantiated motive for the murder, according to Wake County Prosecutor Tom Ford is that Jacquetta Thomas, a prostitute, refused to engage in sex with Taylor, which resulted in Taylor becoming so enraged that he severely beat her to death. As was pointed out during the February 2010 hearing before the three judge panel, Gregory Taylor has never had a history or reputation of violence, either before the murder or afterwards during his 17 years of incarceration (during time spent in prison, he was not charged with any violations or misconduct… a rare accomplishment).

Prosecutor Tom Ford, I strongly believe, does not care whether or not the killer of Ms. Thomas is apprehended and faces judgment because he has absolutely no compassion for the victim… an African American and a prostitute. His only priority is closing the case, and not solving the crime. So, he rushes to judgment in charging Greg Taylor with the murder of Jacquetta Thomas without reasonable cause or due diligence. Tom Ford heeds the state’s tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color” when he charges Taylor, who is white but admitted to drug use and did not come from a family of material wealth and privilege, with the murder of Ms. Thomas.

Now, this is where Tom Ford’s actions become really sinister and despicable. His plan is to entice Greg Taylor, the white owner of the SUV, to falsely implicate his black passenger and fellow drug user Johnny Beck for the murder of Jacquetta Thomas. If Taylor refuses, Ford threatens to convict Taylor and have him spend the rest of his life in jail. By doing so, Ford could accomplish two objectives… close the case on a murder, and take a black man off the Raleigh streets (innocent or not). Ford initially believes that wrapping up this case would be relatively easy, thinking that Taylor would jump at the chance to avoid a conviction for murder and a lifetime in prison by simply implicating a black man for the commission of the crime, even though Taylor knew Beck to be innocent. However, Tom Ford does not count on Greg Taylor being a man of such integrity that it far exceeds what little that Ford, himself, possesses. Gregory Flint Taylor, at the repeated urgings and threats by Prosecutor Ford, refuses to give false testimony implicating Johnny Beck, a man he knew to be innocent.

Because Greg Taylor refuses to perjure himself by giving false testimony at the behest of Prosecutor Ford for the purpose of implicating another innocent man, Tom Ford makes good on his threat to convict Taylor of the murder. Ford achieves this goal by making deals with two other incarcerated individuals (a prostitute and a jailhouse snitch), who are facing long stretches behind bars, and like him, are lacking morals and integrity. They provide false testimony against Taylor in exchange for the promise of a reduction in their sentences. What is particularly egregious about this action is that Taylor’s defense team is not made aware by the prosecution of this backroom deal between Ford and the perjurers. In addition to the false testimony, false forensic blood test results, as well as the falsely misinterpreted actions of a scent hound, are used by Prosecutor Ford to win a conviction against Taylor in 1993 for the murder of Jacquetta Thomas. Greg Taylor is sentenced to life in prison.

Facing a life sentence for a murder he did not commit, Prosecutor Ford continues to offer Greg Taylor incentives for a reduced sentence and a chance at freedom in exchange for the false testimony needed to convict Johnny Beck, the black man against whom Ford was forced to drop charges because Taylor would not provide the false and necessary testimony to needed to convict. Despite the prospect of spending the rest of his life and dying within the dreary confines of a small prison cell, Greg’s ethics and integrity remain strong. Ford is unable to break him.

After sixteen years in prison, the North Carolina Actual Innocence Commission takes up Greg Taylor’s case and presents it to the Innocence Inquiry Commission. After a thorough review of the case, the eight member board unanimously recommends that Greg Taylor’s case be brought before the three judge panel to determine whether or not he should be proclaimed innocent and freed, or remain in jail… the burden of this hearing being placed on the defense.
Wake Prosecutor Tom Ford, with full knowledge of the sleazy backroom deals made with the jailhouse snitch and the prostitute, and full knowledge that the SBI lab test results were not confirmatory for the presence of blood on Greg Taylor’s SUV, nonetheless decides to work with Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby to fight and try to keep an innocent man in jail for the remainder of his life. Tom Ford is definitely no “minister of justice.”

In February 2010, the truth, as cogently and orderly presented by Attorneys representing Greg Taylor (Mumma, Klinkosum, and Cheshire), combined with the pathetically convoluted, disjointed, and irrelevant presentation by the state assures a pronouncement of “innocent” by the judicial body at the hearing. Gregory Taylor, at long last, is unfettered by shackles and bars, and tastes freedom for the first time in nearly two decades. Seventeen years of his life are lost because of the actions of a prosecutor who, is angered by Taylor’s refusal to work with him to wrongfully convict an innocent black man in the Thomas murder. This anger is what led Ford to punish Taylor by convicting him of the Thomas murder.

Clearly, actions by Ford in the Greg Taylor case, warrant Tom Ford the dubious distinction of being hailed as among the “worst of the worse prosecutors in the Tar Heel state. Other deserving North Carolina prosecutors include David Hoke, who withheld from the defense attorney of Alan Gell exculpatory testimony of seventeen independent eyewitnesses which absolutely refuted Gell’s guilt in a murder for which he was sentenced to death and served a decade wrongfully behind bars. Wilson County Prosecutor Bill Wolfe deserves mention as one of North Carolina’s worst prosecutors for charging James Arthur Johnson for the murder of Wilson teen Brittany Willis, a crime that Wolfe knew Johnson did not commit… a charge based on the statement of Kenneth Meeks, a black teenager and the true killer of the victim. Meeks made the statement implicating Johnson (who is also African American) in the murder of the Wilson teen after police informed the killer that Johnson snitched on him. When Meeks, more than a year later, recanted his statement and admitted that he made it out of anger, Prosecutor Wolfe had no case against Johnson because there was no forensic evidence tying Johnson to the crime. Therefore, Wolfe shortly thereafter manufactured two eyewitnesses, both related to the Wilson Police Department (one being a retired police officer) to implicate Johnson in the crime. The use of these two false witnesses was quickly jettisoned by the prosecution after Dr. Reverend William Barber, President of the NC NAACP became involved; because with his involvement came closer media scrutiny… scrutiny that the false testimony of Wolfe’s two eyewitnesses could not withstand.

As horrendous as these overt acts of prosecutorial misconduct are, and the terrible injustice for which they are responsible, only one of the prosecutors, David Hoke, was taken before the unregulated North Carolina State Bar’s Disciplinary panel. He was merely given a mild reprimand by the group. However, professionally Hoke did not suffer as he was promoted to the position of Assistant Director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts. Rev. Barber filed a complaint of prosecutorial misconduct with the North Carolina State Bar against Bill Wolfe, which the Bar proceeded to ignore. Likewise, the North Carolina State Bar refused to act on my complaint against Tom Ford (for his actions in the Gregory Taylor case) which was filed in August 2009. As things now stand, former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong remains the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception in 1933.

And why was Mike Nifong disbarred? He was disbarred because, as Rae Evans (mother of Duke Lacrosse defendant Dave Evans) so insightfully put it during an interview on “60 Minutes,” he “picked on the wrong families.” In other words, Mr. Nifong did not automatically stop the investigation and he did not refrain from pressing charges in the alleged sexual assault against the Duke University student-athlete partygoers who came from families of wealth, status, and privilege, as was expected from a Durham district attorney. Instead Mr. Nifong pursued the investigation and prosecution as he would in any other case, without Class or Color entering the equation. To express the displeasure by the state, Mike Nifong was singularly persecuted to an extent never before seen… and it was done in order to set an example for other North Carolina prosecutors who might consider not complying with the unwritten state tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color. In addition to disbarment, Mr. Nifong was convicted on a trumped up contempt of court charge and sentenced to jail; the U.S. Department of Justice was asked to launch a criminal investigation into Mr. Nifong for depriving the Duke Lacrosse defendants of their civil rights; Mr. Nifong was denied immunity to which he was entitled as a state employee carrying out his duties; the Attorney General’s Office refused to represent him at his hearing before the North Carolina State Bar; the North Carolina State Board of Elections chose to harass Mr. Nifong by singularly auditing his campaign without cause; and he was blatantly bashed by the biased mainstream media.

The unregulated and self-serving North Carolina State Bar was so hard pressed to come up with a complaint carrying enough substance against Mr. Nifong to appear legit that it was forced to amend the complaint initially filed… a rare action indeed and not supported by law. The Bar alleged that Mr. Nifong withheld evidence… which he did not. The Bar alleged that Mr. Nifong lied to the court… which he did not. The Bar alleged that Mr. Nifong made prejudicial and inflammatory statements against the defendants… which he did not (most, if not all, of the statements for which Mr. Nifong was accused of making took place prior to any indictments being handed down). It is the position of the Committee of Justice for Mike Nifong that Mr. Nifong acted within the acceptable standards of the state’s prosecuting attorneys.

F. Lane Williamson, the chair of the Bar’s grievance panel, used his divine powers of mind reading to reach the conclusion that Mike Nifong prosecuted the Duke Lacrosse case solely for political gain (to retain his post as Durham district attorney). A rigged poll by SurveyUSA conducted for WTVD – ABC 11 News helped fertilize the idea that the May 2, 2006 primary for Durham district attorney was close and that wooing black voters would assure Nifong of victory. In actuality nothing could be further from the truth, as black voter registration was low, and black voter turnout was even lower. Using common sense and logic, the best route to a victory would have been for Mr. Nifong not to have brought charges against the Duke lacrosse player or to dismissed them. Instead, his pursuit of the prosecution turned a landslide May 2006 primary victory into a narrow one, and enabled another campaigner (who ran on a platform of solely beating Nifong and promising to give up his position to enable an appointment to the Durham D.A. position by Governor Mike Easley) to garner a whopping 39% of the fall election vote. The only person to use the Duke Lacrosse case for his/her own political gain was Attorney General Roy Cooper, whose main television campaign ad begain with a screen showing in big letters: “The Duke Lacrosse Decision.”

It should be noted that Mr. Nifong acted as a “minister of justice” as evidenced by the fact that he dropped the rape charges against the Duke Lacrosse defendants after the alleged victim could not give assurances in later testimony, to his satisfaction, that a rape had taken place. Mr. Nifong’s actions in this respect are in stark contrast to those of Tom Ford, who continues to press for Greg Taylor to remain in jail for the rest of his life in spite of the fact that his contention that blood evidence used to convict Taylor was false, as was the interpretation of actions by a scent hound in the initial trial. Also, the Attorney General’s Office continued to fight for Alan Gell to remain locked up after it came to light that 17 eyewitness statements that proved Gell could not possibly have committed the crime for which he was sentenced to death.

Wake County Prosecutor Tom Ford is no minister of justice, but as a prosecutor he most definitely is among the worst of the worse. Yet, the state does not go after him professionally or personally. The biased mainstream media follows the PAPEN (Protect All Prosecutors Except Nifong) Policy and shields his identity from the public whenever possible when discussing the Taylor case. Even Greg Taylor’s attorney, Joseph B. Cheshire V, has not a disparaging word to say about Tom Ford, the prosecutor responsible for his client losing 17 productive years of his life due to Ford’s malicious vendetta. Yet, Cheshire, the most powerful attorney in North Carolina, is quick to chastise and criticize Mr. Nifong for his actions in the Duke Lacrosse case (well within standards practiced by other prosecutors), even though Cheshire’s client (one of the Duke Lacrosse defendants) does not spend one day in jail, and receives a $7 million out-of-court settlement with Duke University.

What I find most disheartening, however, is the response, or lack thereof, by the leadership of the African American communities in Durham and throughout the state of North Carolina. To my knowledge, Dr. Reverend William Barber (president of the NC NAACP) and other leaders have not been critical of Prosecutor Tom Ford and his actions in the Gregory Taylor case. To my knowledge, leaders of the black communities have also been silent about the barbaric treatment of Mike Nifong by the state and the media for his handling of the Duke Lacrosse case in which he adhered to the principle of “equal justice for all.” And now that fallout from the Carpetbagger Jihad against Mike Nifong etal. has engulfed Crystal Mangum (charged with attempted first degree murder for allegedly scratching her boyfriend and held in jail on a million dollar bond), the black leadership continues to follow its course of timidity, and remains silent about this injustice. This is disgraceful.

Don’t believe the hype fostered by the Carpetbagger Jihad Juggernaut and dutifully disseminated by the biased mainstream media that Mike Nifong is the worst prosector in North Carolina history and the only one deserving of disbarment. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Mr. Nifong’s nearly thirty years of service to the state has been exemplary and exemplified by the principle of “equal justice for all.” The truly worst of the worst designation, without doubt, goes to Wake County Prosecutor Tom Ford, although compelling arguments could be made for prosecutors Bill Wolfe (in the James Arthur Johnson case) and David Hoke (the Alan Gell case.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Don’t believe the media hype… Crystal Mangum is Still in jail

The last sentence in the “Newsweek” article titled Crystal Mangum’s Return to Court: A sad final chapter to the Duke lacrosse scandal,” reads as follows: “She's under house arrest on a $250,000 bond.” This article by “Newsweek” writer and Duke University alum Susannah Meadows was posted online on February 23, 2010. However, a reliable source e-mailed me on March 22, 2010 (nearly one month after the “Newsweek” posting) to say that Crystal Mangum was still languishing behind bars in jail. In other words, she was not under house arrest as stated in the “Newsweek” article.

Unlike the unregulated and self-serving North Carolina State Bar’s disciplinary lead jurist F. Lane Williamson, who possesses the divine power of reading former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong’s and other attorneys’ minds and miraculously determining their intent, I am not blessed with such powers. Therefore, I am unable to determine whether the author of the article, Ms. Meadows, purposefully intended to mislead readers or whether this error was nothing more than another example of her blatantly sloppy journalism.

Normally I would attribute the mistake to the former, however, it is possible that she may have relied on confusing articles by other media sources, specifically NBC 17 News or the News & Observer, as a basis for her claim that Ms. Mangum was under house arrest. Both of these media sources, I believe, intentionally wrote questionable but convoluted and confusing accounts of Ms. Mangum’s incarceration status in order to falsely imply that she was under house arrest rather than being held within the confines of a small jail cell.

Possible misleading sources which Ms. Meadows may have referred to could possibly have included reports by NBC 17 News and/or the News & Observer. NBC 17 News posted online on February 22, 2010 the following article titled “Mangum To Remain On House Arrest, Bond Reduced To $250,000,” and opened with the following paragraph: “Crystal Mangum, the accuser in the Duke Lacrosse case, will remain under electronic house arrest until her next court appearance on April 5 based on last week's charges of arson, assault and child endangerment.” The News & Observer article of February 22, 2010 titled “Duke lacrosse accuser Mangum’s bond reduced” contained this confusing and misleading passage: “As a condition of the bond, Mangum must not have any contact with her boyfriend and remain under electronic house arrest until the case is resolved or the court changes the condition of the bond.”

Why, you ask, would the media prefer to mislead the masses into believing that Ms. Mangum’s custody arrangement was to be restricted to the premises of her home with her only discomfort coming from an electronic monitor strapped to her ankle rather than the stark reality of the cold, small jail cell in which she was actually confined? The answer is simple… to give the appearance that the courts and judicial system in North Craolina possess a modicum of compassion and fair play. However, under the selective circumstances of her arrest and its aftermath, such an illusion is impossible for the objective and logical mind to accept, much less comprehend.

Any reasonable person knows the excessively selective, punitive, and draconian treatment of Crystal Mangum by the Durham police, prosecutors, and courts stems from the fact that she was the accuser in the Duke Lacrosse case. The backlash against Ms. Mangum is the proximate result of the malicious Carpetbagger Jihad against Mike Nifong etal. invoked by Rae Evans, mother of Duke Lacrosse defendant Dave Evans. And even though Durham’s Duke University has given $21 million to the carpetbagger families in an out-of-court settlement, and the City of Durham has spent millions of dollars in attorneys’ fees in defending against the $30 million lawsuit filed by the avaricious carpetbaggers, the cash-strapped city mindlessly continues to target Mike Nifong, Crystal Mangum, and their supporters, as well as any other detractors of the Duke Lacrosse defendants.

The abhorrent treatment given to Ms. Mangum by the state of North Carolina only solidifies the assertion that the North Carolina criminal justice system is truly one of “selective justice based on Class and Color.” Some of the charges filed by Durham Police and prosecutors against Ms. Mangum (especially attempted first degree murder and communicating threats) are rarely, if ever, made in domestic violence cases. Likewise, the charge of identity theft against Ms. Mangum is inappropriate and rarely made against individuals who refuse to give their birth/legal names or use an alias when questioned by police investigating a crime which does not involve the use of another’s name for criminal or fraudulent means.

For a $1 million bond to be imposed in a domestic violence case is unheard of, especially when a weapon is not involved and there are no physical injuries sustained by either party. For a judge to set a bail for Ms. Mangum that is unreachable and unreasonable is a travesty of justice, especially when bonds of such magnitude are not routinely issued in other instances of domestic violence cases where physical abuse is far more grievous than in this case.

Because the biased main-street media is vested in carrying on the vindictive mandate set forth by the Carpetbagger Jihad, I am not surprised by the absence of editorial media outrage at the selective and unfair treatment of Ms. Mangum. Nor am I surprised by the silence emanating from the leadership representing African American communities in Durham and throughout North Carolina. Dr. Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP, is quick to attack as racist the statement of a Wake School Board chairman who referred to proponents of the school system’s standing diversity policy as “animals released from cages”… But when an African American woman falls victim to the blatantly excessive and draconian actions of the state’s criminal justice system, he doesn’t say a word. The same can be said for civil rights attorney Al McSurely. Surely, they do not believe her treatment in this “domestic violence” case is justified.

Leaders of the black communities of Durham and North Carolina should have supported Mike Nifong when he was being prosecuted and persecuted by the state because of his handling of the Duke Lacrosse case… but they abandoned him. So, it comes, therefore, as no surprise that Barber, McSurely, and other so-called leaders of the black people in North Carolina would turn their backs to the suffering and unjust plight of Ms. Mangum.

When it comes to a confrontation with the Carpetbagger Jihad Juggernaut, few people or organizations, with the exception of the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong, have the stomach to man up against its injustice. So, as leaders of the black communities of Durham and North Carolina intentionally stay away from the fray with regards to this issue of injustice, Crystal Mangum remains incarcerated within a tiny cell and continues to suffer injustice. She does not, as the biased mainstream media would like the public to believe, enjoy the small comfort of confinement under house arrest.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong members – Justice Crusaders

I think that it is imperative that I explain in greater detail about the brave individuals who make up the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong. The organization, which was formed in June 2008 with just two people, has recently seen a steady increase in its membership. Those who join the Committee come from all walks of life, varying backgrounds, and a diversity of cultures. They have different social-justice interests, however what they all have in common is the belief that former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong was selectively and unjustly disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar because of his handling of the Duke Lacrosse case. He is the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception in 1933. This is an outrage when one considers that other prosecutors have conducted themselves far more egregiously than Mr. Nifong’s alleged misconduct. The Committee members are united in their goal of seeing that the State Bar unilaterally and unconditionally reinstates Mr. Nifong’s license to practice law in the state of North Carolina without restrictions.

What makes members of the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong special is that they backup the conviction of their commitment by courageously lending their names and faces to a cause that is at odds with the State of North Carolina, at odds with the biased media, and at odds with the misguided public which has succumbed to the Jedi mind tricks of the media. Members have the freedom to contribute what legal and moral efforts they wish in pursuing the Committee’s goal of Mr. Nifong’s reinstatement. This may be in the form of letter writing, participating in peaceful demonstrations, or engaging in debates.

As the Lay Advocate of the Committee, I am actively involved in writing letters, posting and maintaining the Committee’s website and blog site, and interacting with media types and politicians. It must be kept in mind that everything that I write represents my opinion solely, and that I am solely responsible for my comments and actions. That does not preclude the fact that others wholeheartedly agree with what I say or do. However, I believe that it is important for this distinction to be clear, especially as membership in the Committee grows.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thank goodness D.A. Willoughby ignored my pleas

After the unanimous September 2009 decision of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission to recommend the case of Gregory F. Taylor be taken before a three judge panel for adjudication, Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby had the perfect opportunity to work to free the man who had spent 17 years wrongly incarcerated for a murder which the state failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt. Instead, he chose to fight the release of Taylor by first requesting a lengthy delay in the hearing. The judge refused to acquiesce and the February 2010 date of the hearing remained firm.

Because Greg Taylor had already lost 17 years of his life behind bars, I felt that each day was especially precious, and I wrote two letters to the Wake district attorney imploring him to work to have Mr. Taylor released as soon as possible and forego the scheduled hearing before the three judge panel. D.A. Willoughby never responded to my correspondence and refused to do so. Instead, with the assistance of Tom Ford – the prosecutor responsible for Taylor’s initial conviction in 1993, Willoughby proceeded to argue before the three judge panel to have Greg Taylor remain imprisoned for the rest of his life.

There was never a question in my mind about the outcome of the three judge panel’s decision, as Tom Ford’s “rush to judgment without credible evidence” case in 1993 was fraught with problems: no forensic evidence linking the victim to Taylor or Taylor to the victim; prosecutor testimony of two witnesses who fingered Taylor in exchange for the promise of a reduced sentence; blood evidence on Taylor’s vehicle which the State SBI lab knew was not of human origin; and the motive for the murder did not hold water. The state’s case against Greg Taylor was so weak that I believe that first year Campbell University law students representing Taylor would have prevailed before the panel of jurists… despite the burden of proof being shifted to the defense.

Now, had Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby followed my advice and taken the initiative to release Mr. Taylor prior to the February hearing, then the testimony from prosecution witness Duane Deaver about SBI lab’s uneven reporting practices in 1993 might never have come to light. According to Mr. Deaver, protocol in place at that time prevented him from putting in his report the results of confirmatory tests which favored Taylor’s innocence and countered the presumptive test which tended to be damaging to Taylor. This revelation is of immense importance because other convictions won while this biased and flawed lab policy was in place could now possibly earn a second look. So even though Greg Taylor’s liberty was delayed for several weeks, in the big picture his sacrifice will enable many wrongly incarcerated innocents to have another shot at freedom.

I do not expect the state to welcome review of the cases and work hard to identify the wrongly accused. This was made apparent when North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper first stated that an internal review would be conducted. He later succumbed to the intense prodding by defense attorney Joseph Cheshire V to permit an external review of the cases. As Joseph Cheshire stated… to paraphrase, the people do not trust the state to conduct a fair and objective audit of its own past practices. Nor should they.

This hearing is not the first time that prosecutorial egos and the desire to protect the misconduct of a prosecutor overtook common sense. Not long ago the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office decided to retry Alan Gell despite the presence of irrefutable exculpatory evidence of his innocence. This trial was undertaken for the purpose of mitigating David Hoke’s obvious misconduct in the initial Gell trial in which he won a death penalty conviction. However, with the exculpatory evidence in play at the re-trial, the jury was quick to find Alan Gell not guilty. In a more recent case, Forsyth County prosecutor Belinda Foster was forced by D.A. Tom Keith to file an “accessory after the fact” charge against James Arthur Johnson while she dropped charges of murder, rape, kidnapping and armed robbery. Special prosecutor W. David McFadyen then stepped in to prosecute the case, which resulted in an Alford plea by Johnson to a charge of misprision of felony (not reporting knowledge of a crime to authorities). Now, although James Arthur Johnson did report to the Wilson Police three days after his knowledge of the crime (which resulted in the case being solved), he evidently did not report it quick enough.

So, thanks to the hubris and desire of Willoughby to shield Tom Ford from criticism of his prosecution of the innocent Greg Taylor, he did not take my advice and instead proceeded with fighting against the release of a man wrongfully convicted. And, as a result, other innocents may hopefully find another avenue by which they can obtain a justice that has been denied.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Million dollar bail... a case comparison - Part 3

Late in the night of February 18, 2010, the nine year old daughter of Crystal Mangum called 9-1-1, and with screaming in the background told the emergency operator, “This is an emergency. Please hurry. My mom is going to die.”

Police were dispatched, and upon arriving found that Crystal Mangum, the accuser in the Duke Lacrosse case, was involved in a heated argument with her boyfriend that had allegedly turned physical. According to police, Ms. Mangum threw punches and objects at her boyfriend and scratched him. So, naturally, they arrested her for attempted first degree murder. To really thicken the case against her, they tossed in a few more charges such as five counts of arson, and identity theft.

She was put in the Durham County jail and placed under a $ 1 million bail.

Contrast this with the case of Democratic State Senator R.C. Soles, who never spent a day in jail despite using a firearm to assault another individual in August 2009. Evidently, one of two men who knew the senator kicked the door of Sole’s home. This act resulted in Mr. Soles grabbing his rifle, walking outside his house and firing at the men. (The media did not disclose much about the incident, except to say that one of the men sustained a non-life threatening wound.)

The Attorney General’s Office, which took over the case from a district attorney with conflicted interests, offered a plea bargain in which Senator Soles pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault, was fined $1,000, and avoided incarceration and probation.

Meanwhile, Crystal Mangum has been languishing in jail under a ridiculously humongous bail for allegedly scratching her boyfriend, while Senator Soles, who used his rifle outside his home to wound a person, spends no time behind bars. I have heard of bullets killing people, but never fingernails.

The lenient bias in the ruling is so slanted that it prompted Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger to state in reference to the Sole’s judicial outcome, “It seems to me the same rules don’t apply to average folk that apply to powerful Democrats.” Now, I am certain that Senator Berger would take his statement a step further and agree that the same rules do not apply to average folk that apply to powerful Republicans, as well. In short, within the confines of this situation, Senator Berger, it would seem, agrees that the criminal justice system in North Carolina is one of selective justice based on Class and Color.

However, the outrageousness of the charges against Ms. Mangum and the draconian treatment she has received by the courts, police, and the state belies the hostile attitude smoldering beneath the surface against supporters of Mike Nifong or detractors of the Duke Lacrosse defendants. Sadly, for the average folk, the carpetbagger jihad mentality has been well indoctrinated amidst those in positions of power within the state of North Carolina.

Monday, March 8, 2010

HBO picked wrong case for its movie

If you enjoy comedy, especially the kind in which its humor is derived from the contrast of its content with reality, then you won’t want to miss the upcoming TV-cinematic fare offered by HBO about the Duke Lacrosse case. Although I am sure it is going to be marketed as an objective docu-drama about the Duke Lacrosse case, I cannot help but believe that it will be nothing more than just another thinly veiled volley from the carpetbagger jihad against former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong.

I admire HBO for accepting the inherent challenge of trying to present the beer guzzling, publicly intoxicated, public urinating, spoiled and privileged Duke student athlete partygoers as decent and respectable innocents who are targeted by a ruthless and conniving district attorney for the sole purpose of wooing the black vote as a surefire means of retaining his D.A. position in the May 2006 primary. The entire premise is total folly itself, and actually lends itself as fodder for a hilarious comedy… the only problem is is that this movie is supposed to be taken seriously.

Now I have not read the screenplay, but I believe that the producer’s intention is to sympathetically portray the members of the Duke Lacrosse team in a favorable light by omitting the fact that nearly a third of the 47 lacrosse team roster had had skirmishes with the law (including an assault charge against Duke Lacrosse defendant Collin Finnerty, and an alcohol related charge against Duke Lacrosse defendant and team captain Dave Evans). I would imagine that the made for HBO-TV movie is supposed to tug at its viewers’ heartstrings because of the travails and trauma suffered by the three defendants and their families (although not one of the defendants spent a day in jail and they each received $7 million in an out-of-court settlement with Duke University). Also, remember to disregard reality as the movie will undoubtedly present North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper’s April 11, 2007 “Innocent Promulgation” as a watershed moment that cements the innocence of the three Duke Lacrosse defendants. (Since that day, the media has knowingly embraced that declaration – which they knew to have no legal weight – as a basis upon which to use descriptive terms such as “innocent,” “falsely accused,” and “exonerated” to describe the Duke defendants.)

It is important for the potential viewer of this future movie to enjoy it for its comedic offerings, and not to try and extract anything deep, significant or meaningful from it. Keep in mind that in a range of artistic offerings it is much closer to a Hardy Boys mystery than a time weathered classic such as Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables.”

Instead of wasting its money to buy the rights for the pitiful story of the Duke Lacrosse boys attending a stripper party and its aftermath, HBO should have waited for a story with real merit to come along. It would not have had to wait long, as a tragic story with a Hollywood ending recently unfolded when Gregory Flint Taylor was released from jail… a free man. After spending 17 years wrongfully imprisoned for a murder he did not commit, all that remains, at this time, is a pardon from North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue. Odds are highly in Greg Taylor’s favor that it will come sooner rather than later.

What would make the Greg Taylor story such an inspirational tear-jerker, is that it is about a man of convictions and moral fortitude who would rather face a lifetime in prison than falsely implicate an African American man who he knew was innocent of a murder. It is about a kind and good natured man with a kind heart and good soul, but with personal demons tied to an addiction to drugs and alcohol. It is a redemptive story of a man, who during his 17 year incarceration in one of the most highly improbable places, prevails over his addiction to crack and beer, and betters himself by taking advantage of the educational opportunities available inside the correctional facilities. It is a story of a loving family that is unified and galvanized to fight and leave no stone unturned in order to free its innocent kin. It is the story of an innovative program, the brainchild of former Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake, that helps many wrongly accused, who are otherwise without hope, get another chance at a justice denied. It is the story about a state’s selective justice system based on Class and Color, and the attempts by two of its prosecutors to keep a man they knew to be innocent confined for the rest of his life. It is the story of a man who took the horrendous hand fate dealt him, and with the help of his family and friends, and religious faith endured.

It is anyone’s guess as to why HBO would want to glorify accused members of the raucous Duke Lacrosse team with its well-earned and deplorable reputation, and highlight the vindictive carpetbagger jihad call for action against Mike Nifong by Rae Evans (mother of Duke defendant Dave Evans).

Rae Evans, whose son did not spend one day in jail, received $7 million in a settlement with Duke University, and is currently trying to appropriate another $10 million from the cash-strapped city of Durham, stated that Mr. Nifong picked on the “wrong” families… and that “he will pay, every day, for the rest of his life.” Contrast this statement with Gregory Taylor who lost 17 years of his life after being convicted (without credible evidence) for a murder he did not commit, who wisely commented shortly after his release that there were times when he wished he could be more angry, but that “it is not a sustainable emotion.” Anger is not a sustainable emotion in a person with a kind heart and a good soul.

My advice to HBO executives is if they wish to have a feel-good and positive impact on viewers, that they select stories that offer substance, hope, and inspiration. The Gregory Taylor story fits the bill, and is as close to a non-fiction “Les Miserable” as you can get.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

NC media able to dish it out, but can’t take it

An interesting article by Anne Blythe appeared in the March 2, 2010 edition of the News & Observer titled, “Media protest call for reports on Carson case.” It states how media companies across the state of North Carolina are fighting attempts by federal defense attorneys to have media outlets in North Carolina hand over copies of everything published about the Eve Carson homicide case. The defense contends that media in the state have saturated the public with such adverse publicity against Carson’s accused killer, Demario Atwater, that it would be impossible for him to get a fair trial within the state. They are seeking to have the federal capital murder trial held in the neighboring state of Virginia.

Sixty news organizations have been subpoenaed by the defense to produce copies of all related newspaper articles, letters and editorials, and copies of TV and radio broadcasts. In response to the request, news organizations teamed up to quash the subpoena. Raleigh attorney Amanda Martin, representing the News & Observer argues that it would be unduly burdensome and expensive to comply, despite the fact that a man is facing a death penalty if convicted. Obviously, the media’s convenience and bottom line are more important than whether or not a man, who is fighting for his life, has the benefit of a fair trial.

What makes this issue so pitifully hypocritical is the fact that many media sources, such as the News & Observer, frequently use the subpoena to obtain information that North Carolina state agencies arbitrarily withhold (against the law) in order to stonewall a media investigation. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, how does the media respond when they are subpoenaed by the defense in a capital murder case? They whine about the inconvenience of a reduced staff and hardships in the current economic times… and they do so to stonewall Atwater’s defense team in the federal case. But, that is not the overriding reason. In my opinion, the media are trying to dispel any notion that their reporting on the Carson case was in any way, shape, or form, biased. But it was.

For example the media constantly showed images from the ATM camera depicting the defendants withdrawing cash, allegedly using Eve Carson’s bank card. Evidence against the defendants in the Carson case is repeatedly played across television screens throughout the state. This is a prime example of the prosecution trying a case in the media. Only this time, they’re being called on it by competent federal defenders. Although former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong was accused of trying the Duke Lacrosse case in the media, the fact is that he did not. To call unidentified perpetrators in an alleged gang-like sexual assault “hooligans” is a far cry from trying the case in the media. Fact is, that Mr. Nifong never presented his case before the media, a trial was never held, and the public is, therefore, unaware of the evidence supporting the prosecution’s case against the defendants. It was the defense teams in the Duke Lacrosse case that held press conferences to release lab results, to display photographs taken at the Duke Lacrosse party, and to present other information favorable to their clients. However, the media has steadfastly represented Mr. Nifong as being the one trying his case in the court of public opinion… not the Duke Lacrosse defense team.

Of course, the media in North Carolina has been biased in its reporting on the Carson case, and a change of venue should be granted to assure that justice is served. A change of venue was not granted by Wilson Judge Milton Fitch in the case of James Arthur Johnson. Although Johnson’s attorneys filed a motion to have the case moved from the city of Wilson (racially divided due to the irresponsible actions of the local law enforcement, prosecutors, and media), it was denied by Fitch without explanation. This unreasonable action by the judge was an obvious harbinger of things to come, and most likely prompted defendant Johnson to accept an Alford plea for the charge of misprision of felony (not reporting knowledge of a crime… although he did, but his three day delay in doing so was not fast enough).

Nowhere is media bias more blatant than in the attacks against Mike Nifong, and they began in the early stages of the Duke Lacrosse case. WTVD ABC-11 News was instrumental in laying groundwork for a so-called motive for Mr. Nifong’s prosecution of the Duke Lacrosse case… the ridiculous claim that he pursued the prosecution for political gain in order to win the election for Durham district attorney. The rigged poll they used stated that Nifong was in a virtual tie with Freda Black, and that a large black turnout favored Mr. Nifong. It failed to mention that blacks represented only 38% of the registered voters and that whites represented 56 % of registered voters for that primary. It defies credulity to entertain the belief that Mr. Nifong would prosecute a case that was extremely unpopular in order to win a primary race. Yet, the media put it out there, and Mr. Nifong’s detractors used it.

One of the biggest Jedi mind-tricks played on the public by the media, however, has to do with their embracing the April 11, 2007 “Innocent Promulgation” by Attorney General Roy Cooper. They universally used it as a basis to proclaim the three Duke defendants as “innocent,” “falsely accused,” “wrongly accused,” “not guilty,” “exonerated,” “cleared of criminal charges,” etc. However, the use of these adjectives to describe the Duke Lacrosse defendants is legally, technically, and factually wrong! The attorney general does not have the legal authority to make such pronouncements of “guilt,” “non-guilt,” or “innocence.” Gregory F. Taylor, who was found not guilty by a three judge panel referred by the state’s Innocence Inquiry Commission, is, on the other hand, “innocent,” or “not guilty,” and terms such as “exonerated” and “cleared” are appropriate and applicable.

MSNBC’s senior legal analyst Susan Filan has fabricated a statement about Mr. Nifong, and CBS has written headlines that falsely put words in Mr. Nifong’s mouth. Just a few of the more egregious examples of biased reporting by North Carolina media.

At least Demario Atwater is getting what appears to be competent representation by his defense attorneys in his federal case. That cannot be said about the representation Mr. Nifong received before the North Carolina State Bar. Unfair media bias against Mr. Nifong should have been brought to the fore in his defense against the trumped up ethics charges. His attorneys (David Freedman and Dudley Witt from Winston-Salem) seemed more dedicated to appeasing the unregulated North Carolina State Bar and the media than presenting an aggressive no-holds-barred defense of their unjustly disparaged client.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

News & Observer’s familiar dance with the Attorney General’s Office

In an editorial by the News & Observer staff in the March 3, 2010 editorial page titled, “Testing the crime lab,” the newspaper and the Attorney General’s Office waltz around the issues of injustice for appearances sake. Not long ago the newspaper’s editorial chastised a state prosecutor for holding a man, Floyd Brown, for fourteen years without a trial. A judge later dismissed murder charges in this case in which a confession was cooked up by the prosecution. Problem is that the severely retarded defendant could not have possibly made the confession attributed to him. There was no physical evidence linking Mr. Brown to the crime, but he was poor, disenfranchised, and an African American. Nobody cared. However, the newspaper’s editorial pretended to be concerned by challenging the Attorney General’s Office to look into how the man could be held for 14 years without being taken to trial. Over the years, the Attorney General’s Office has not looked into the matter. The News & Observer has not pressed for a response.

With the exposure of the biased State forensic lab testing procedures which helped convict Gregory Taylor of a crime which he did not commit, the News & Observer is now calling for the Attorney General’s Office to investigate other cases in which convictions might have been won through faulty state lab procedures. Pitifully, the News & Observer is trying to reassure its readers that Attorney General Roy Cooper is conscientiously leading the charge in trying to uncover tainted convictions. As the paper puts it, “Fortunately, Attorney General Roy Cooper is facing up to the problem.” As in the Floyd Brown case, the newspaper pretends to be concerned about injustice created by the State’s lab procedures, and the A.G. is pretending to objectively review cases in search of convictions attained with faulty lab results.

The truth of the matter is that the prosecutors knew that the State’s lab was biased against the defendants long ago. Prosecutor Tom Ford and Wake District Attorney Colon Willoughby were aware that the lab results used to help convict Gregory Taylor were flawed when they recently fought to keep him incarcerated for the rest of his life, despite a case that hinged completely on the testimony of a jailhouse snitch and prostitute who received promises of reduced sentences in exchange for their testimony. The backroom deals that Tom Ford hatched with the “witnesses” were withheld from Taylor’s original incompetent attorneys.

Look at the facts in the Gregory Taylor case. D.A. Willoughby and Prosecutor Ford have knowledge that the blood evidence used to convict Taylor was not reliable, yet they fought against justice for Mr. Taylor. Willoughby, because he knew that he had no case, initially tried to indefinitely delay the hearing before the three judge panel which resulted from the Innocence Inquiry Commission. Is this the action of a true minister of justice? The Attorney General’s Office, in the meantime, was silent. However that is not surprising when one reflects on the Alan Gell case in which Prosecutor David Hoke withheld crucial exculpatory evidence from the defense in winning a capital murder conviction. When a new trial was ordered by a judge, the Attorney General’s Office chose to fight to keep Gell incarcerated. The jury, when armed with knowledge of the exculpatory evidence that proved that Gell could not have committed the murder, immediately found him not guilty.

The difference between Hoke, Ford and former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong is that when new evidence or testimony was presented to Mr. Nifong, he was a true minister of justice and acted accordingly. For example, when he heard that the accuser in the Duke Lacrosse case could not say with absolute certainty that she had been raped, he immediately dismissed those charges. Tom Ford and David Hoke were unyielding in their positions despite the overwhelming logic against them. And whereas the media, in accordance with the carpetbagger jihad against Mike Nifong, has unfairly and wrongfully defined Mr. Nifong, it has gone out of its way to adhere to the PAPEN (Protect All Prosecutors Except Nifong) Policy. Tom Ford’s name wasn’t even mentioned in the March 3, 2010 editorial.

What is most telling is what the editorial attributes Attorney General Roy Cooper as saying… which is that “the review (of the cases for flawed State lab reports resulting in convictions) will be conducted internally at the outset, but that an independent look might be warranted.” What is that supposed to mean? Basically, it means that the process will not have transparency and that the so-called review is undertaken for nothing more the sake of appearances. Everyone’s pretending, including the media.

Monday, March 1, 2010

$1,000 offered for logical explanation of illogical statement

In a Newsweek web exclusive by Susannah Meadows dated February 23, 2010, is the following passage:
As the trial wore on, one defendant's mother, Rae Evans even expressed sympathy for Mangum. "You know, when I'm trying to get over the rage, I am thinking about so deeply this young woman who has been abused by men all her life, and nobody has abused her more than Mike Nifong," she said, referring to the Durham prosecutor.

In accordance with many error-plagued media articles about the Duke Lacrosse case and its original prosecutor former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong, Newsweek writer Susannah Meadows stated that a trial was held in the Duke Lacrosse case. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Most people, at least those in North Carolina, are aware of the fact that after Mr. Nifong was forced to recuse himself from the case, the Attorney General’s Office dropped charges against the three Duke Lacrosse defendants. A trial date was never set, a jury was never selected, and a trial was never held.

Whether or not this misstatement was the honest result of sloppy journalism, or the willful attempt to mislead the reader, I do not know. What I find most ludicrous is the quote attributed to Rae Evans, mother of Duke Lacrosse defendant Dave Evans. Ms. Evans states, “… I am thinking about so deeply this young woman who has been abused by men all her life, and nobody has abused her (Crystal Mangum) more than Mike Nifong.” Naturally, Rae Evans does not explain how she came to the conclusion that Mike Nifong abused Ms. Mangum, and how the abuse she suffered at his hands is worse than the abuse she suffered at the hands of other men. Is she talking physical abuse? Emotional abuse? Mental abuse? Spiritual abuse? And, of course, writer Meadows doesn’t delve into the issue or question the alleged abuse by Mr. Nifong. She just tosses it out there like a piece of rotten bologna for the media subscribers to consume. More media Jedi mind-tricks played on the public.

In my quest to try and understand the illogical statement by Ms. Evans, I am offering a one thousand dollar ($1,000.00) award to anyone who can explain to me what Rae Evans said and meant in her quote about Mr. Nifong’s abusive behavior toward Ms. Mangum. The explanation must make sense and be reasonable in order to collect the prize. This offer is open worldwide, without age restrictions, and without I.Q. restrictions. I alone will make the judgment as to whether or not any of the entries satisfies the requirement needed to be granted the award. The payment, if any is forthcoming, will be made by cashier’s check, and will be presented after James Arthur Johnson receives the $20,000.00 reward offered by the family and friends of Brittany Willis for solving the death of the young Wilson teen. Entries can be made either in the comment section of the blog, or sent by e-mail to:

Unfortunately, the Newsweek article was as anti-Nifong biased as they come. For Newsweek to assign the subject matter to a Duke alum staff writer (Ms. Meadows) doesn’t instill much confidence that an evenhanded and objective work will be the end product.

And Ms. Meadows states that this is the sad final chapter to the Duke lacrosse scandal…? Don’t count on it! The final chapter in the Duke Lacrosse saga will end with Mike Nifong’s law license being unilaterally and unconditionally reinstated by the North Carolina State Bar.