Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Going along with public opinion can lead to disastrous results… just ask the Carolina Panthers

The National Football League team Carolina Panthers have gotten off to a dismal 0-3 start this year, in large measure due to significant deficiencies in a key player position, quarterback. Earlier in the year, it jettisoned the seasoned veteran QB starter of previous seasons Jake Delhomme, where an injury currently prevents him from competing. Matt Moore was anointed as starter at quarterback at the beginning of the season. Stepping in as a backup during last season, Moore showed flashes of competence, and at times even played extremely well. The franchise decision makers settled on Jimmy Clausen, a rookie fresh from Notre Dame University as Moore’s backup. After the first two games ended in the L column, Moore was pulled and his backup Clausen was given the starting nod for game number three. Unfortunately, the outcome was no different than before.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, the Eagles are riding a 2-1 record, in large measure due to the arm and legs of its QB Michael Vick. After a forced 18 month hiatus, imposed by the justice system because of his role in a dog-fighting enterprise, Michael Vick was slated as a backup quarterback to the less experienced starter Kevin Kolb (only two previous pro starts). When Kolb was knocked out of the game in the second quarter, Vick nearly brought the Eagles a come from behind victory. Vick’s play in the second game of the season (while Kolb sat out due to a concussion), not only garnered a victory for the Eagles, but earned him the starting position. In game three, the Eagles handily prevailed with Vick posting a three touchdown passing game.

What makes Michael Vick so valuable is his ability to escape from the pocket and eat up big chunks of yardage. This particular talent opens up passing opportunities which would not be available to pure pocket passers and QBs slow of foot. Vick is also gifted with a powerful and accurate throwing arm. However one of his greatest assets might just be his many years of league experience in which he as faced many defenses, game situations, and pressures.

Now, I do not profess to be a sports fanatic, or even an aficionado. So, how, you may wonder, does this discussion relate to the usual topics of discussion on this blog? Simple. It explains how going along with public opinion does not always result in a positive outcome. In this case specifically, Michael Vick could easily have been on the Carolina Panther roster. He could have been designated as the starter which he deserved to be, or brought in off the bench to dig the Panthers out of a hole in trying to secure a come from behind victory. And after his release from prison, Vick was available to any NFL team for a song. But they all passed on him… even the Oakland Raiders. Teams that desperately were in need of a quarterback, did not even give Vick an opportunity. None, that is, except the Philadelphia Eagles. Let’s face it, Vick is no slouch at the position, and is, in fact, a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame in Canton.

Why did Carolina, Oakland, and other teams in dire need of talent in the most important position in the game, willing to overlook Michael Vick? It was certainly not because he lacked talent. There was a generalized view that because of his dog-fighting past Vick was a pariah intended to be ostracized. Owners of football teams were wary of P.E.T.A. and the public outcry against Vick’s past involvement with the promotion and involvement in dog-fighting, and they silently decided amongst themselves to basically blacklist Vick from the game and to penalize him by preventing him from making a living by playing the game he loved. Everyone, including the Carolina Panthers, was on board… except for the Philadelphia Eagles. Now the bigwigs and owners of the Carolina Panthers are probably kicking themselves in the rear end for letting the golden opportunity of having a talented, quality, exciting quarterback like Michael Vick end up with the Eagles when it was well within their grasp. And if they are not kicking themselves, they should be as they languish in their division’s cellar.

Believe it or not, I do like dogs… although I am more of a cat person. Also, I detest dog-fighting for sport… and other sports which pit animals against one another in brutal battles to the death. I also believe that Michael Vick’s punishment was excessive because of his celebrity, however, to his credit, he handled it with much dignity. He served the time for the crime with which he was convicted, and he should have been free to pursue his career without the animosity and hostility to which he was subjected. And, yes, the Carolina Panthers, with its quarterback uncertainties, should have leapt at the chance to acquire him when he first hit the market. But bowing to media and public opinion and sentiment, Carolina decided to go along with the other teams and freeze Vick out of the league… which was where his career was headed when Vick finally received a chance with the Eagles.

Had Carolina Panther owners had the courage to do the right thing and bring Vick on board early on, it would have been to their benefit. Instead, they folded to pressures of public opinion and passed on him, despite knowledge that he could have undoubtedly been a great addition to the team. Now the Panthers are hurting at the quarterback position and they have no one to blame but themselves. Other teams, like the Oakland Raiders, are in the same boat. But going along with public opinion is safe, and does not require courage.

That is why the vast majority of individuals, who have been spoon-fed gobs of Carpetbagger Jihad anti-Nifong propaganda succumb to the Jedi mind-tricks of the media and espouse vitriolic sentiment against former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong. They feel the security in being among the vast majority of people in their beliefs. Plus, it requires no courage to side with the majority and those perceived to be in power.

Members of the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong are vastly outnumbered in their support of justice for Mike Nifong… and to acknowledge their position which is markedly in the minority, takes a tremendous amount of courage. And courage has been tested, as I was nearly arrested on the Duke University campus earlier this year solely because of my support for Mike Nifong. And no one represents courage like Mike Nifong, who weathered the public sentiment whipped up against him by the biased media storm, as he carried forth with his prosecution in the Duke Lacrosse case. (The North Carolina State Bar had to intervene with its trumped up ethics charges in order to get Nifong off the case, the first step in getting charges dropped against the three Duke lacrosse lads from families of wealth, status, and privilege.)

Mike Nifong mustered up the courage to go against prevailing wishes of the state and media-generated sentiment of the public when he pursued the charges against the Duke Lacrosse defendants. Members of the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong mustered up courage to support justice for Mike Nifong against overwhelming anti-Nifong public opinion. Taking an unpopular stand did not, and probably will not, accrue to the benefit of Mr. Nifong or his supporters in the near term. However, the same cannot be said for the Carolina Panthers. Had the Panther owners shown some guts to go against the flow of the opinions held by the public and NFL, they would undoubtedly have a better record and be in contention for making the playoffs.

In life, people are often presented with opportunities to go with the flow or swim upstream against the tide. Which direction you go is not the issue of importance. Choosing to take the right path, even when it is in the face of a hurricane, is the right thing to do. Just keep in mind that the greater the headwinds, the more courage will be required.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What would you do..? Extreme version

When I was growing up in the 50s, and television was in its infancy, many critics of the new fangled contraption derisively referred to it as the “idiot box” because time spent being entertained by it deprived boys and girls from time that could be much better spent reading and doing homework. As a result, today I spend very little time watching free TV. I definitely do not subscribe to cable or satellite because that would only encourage me to watch more television just in order to get my money’s worth… like gorging oneself at a buffet, such as Golden Corral. The only shows I currently watch are “The Bold and the Beautiful” (a soap opera that is mercifully only 30 minute long), the local and national news, occasional re-runs of “The Patty Duke Show,” “Jeopardy,” and a few minutes of sports, usually ones showing highlights. I almost never watch a sporting event from beginning to end.

From my relatively brief viewing, I have become aware of a show advertised on CBS or ABC titled “What would you do?” It is a take off on the old “Candid Camera” hidden camera show that featured Allen Funt, except, from what I gather, a bit more sinister. Whereas “Candid Camera” was played strictly for laughs, “What would you do” stages hidden camera incidents to unsuspecting civilians that are much more stress producing, and afterwards conducts an interview with them. Depending on the video victim’s reaction, they are berated or lauded for their behavior. One example of an actual episode filmed in a public bar, exposed the unsuspecting video victim to a staged scenario in which a man laced his female companion’s drink with a substance that could have been a date-rape drug while she was away. The video victim is then faced with the dilemma of what to do… mind his/her own business and say nothing, or butt in and attempt to prevent an assault. Not an easy choice, especially when not all the facts are at hand. So that is the basic gist of the program, as I am able to deduct from the advertisements on TV.

Now, I would like to invite the reader to play the game based on a real-life situation. Let’s see what your response will be.

Unlike the television version, this game requires a little role-playing. First, let’s assume that you’re an average Joe in America (either living in poverty, or on the verge of poverty). Also, let’s assume that you are an alcoholic and have a bit of a drug habit… mainly marijuana and cocaine. Finally, let’s assume that you’re white. Now, let’s set the stage. You’re out late at night getting high with an African American friend, and your vehicle gets stuck in mud and you’re forced to walk home. On the way, you come across the body of a partially clad black woman in a cul-de-sac, but do not come in close physical contact with her. The following morning when you go to retrieve your vehicle, police are at the scene as you walk to your SUV located nearby. You are arrested for the crime of murdering the victim whose body you came across the night before, but knowing your total innocence, feel the misunderstanding will be cleared up shortly and that you’ll be only a few minutes late for work. Then you meet with the prosecutor and you declare your innocence. The prosecutor dismisses it and gives you a choice. Implicate your black drug-using friend (who you know to be innocent) as the perpetrator of the murder in return for a light charge and sentence, or be charged with the murder and face life in prison or the death penalty if convicted. WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

Hold on… we’re not through yet. You end up being convicted of the murder with which you had nothing to do, and you’re sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Now the prosecutor returns and makes you another offer. Implicate the black man you did drugs with as the murderer, and get your sentenced substantially reduced, possibly with time served and probation. Your choice is to lie and put a black man who is innocent of the murder in jail for life in exchange for your release from jail and a short period of probation, or to defy the prosecutor and turn down his offer and remain in jail for the rest of your life. WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

This is the exact true-life “What would you do?” situation that faced Gregory Flint Taylor. Prosecutor Tom Ford counted on getting perjured testimony from Taylor in order to convict Taylor’s black friend Johnny Beck. He did not believe it would be a difficult task because Taylor was an alcoholic and drug user, and in order to save himself, surely he would have no problem in getting Taylor to go along with his plan to put an innocent black man in jail. If Taylor was faced with life in prison, surely he would go along with the program in order to taste freedom. After all, Tom Ford had no trouble getting two other people to falsely implicate Taylor for the murder in return for promises of leniency related to their criminal cases. The truth of the matter is that Tom Ford specialized in getting perjured testimony in exchange for plea deals… that’s how he won his cases. This was especially true in cases where the victim is poor, disenfranchised, and of color, and closing the case is more of a concern with Ford than solving it. So what if an innocent person lands in jail… who cares?

But Ford misjudged Gregory Taylor. Taylor was, and is, a man of great inner strength, high ethical standards, and a determination to do the right thing. He refused the multiple plea deals of Prosecutor Ford, and as a result, remained in jail for seventeen years before finally being freed… and there was no guarantee that he would ever be free.

I have tried to put myself in Greg Taylor’s shoes, and have always come to the same conclusion… I would not implicate an innocent man in exchange for my freedom. But hypothetical and real life are entirely different. In real life… I just don’t know what I would do. There is no doubt in my mind that the majority of people, if not all, if faced with this choice would have caved in and worked with Prosecutor Ford to put an innocent black man in jail. That is what makes Greg Taylor’s case all the more remarkable and worthy of being told. That is the movie that HBO should be making, instead of the propaganda fictional movie about the Duke Lacrosse case.

Only by putting yourself in his moccasins can you begin to appreciate what Greg Taylor did. In a similar situation, what would you do?

LINK to HBO struggling with its Duke LAXer movie:

LINK to preview trailer of Episode V of “The MisAdventures of Super-Duper Cooper:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tying up a few loose ends…

This blog will mainly be dedicated to making a few announcements. The first is that a date has tentatively be set for the highly anticipated Episode V of “The MisAdventures of Super-Duper Cooper.” The 17 part episode (bigger than the previous four episodes combined) is scheduled to begin its run on the first Sunday in 2011. It is titled: “Super Heroes Smackdown: Initial Encounter.” Per custom, one part of the episode will be posted on the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong website. There will be a new posting each Sunday up to the episode’s conclusion, 17 weeks later. Unlike previous episodes, this one will be inundated with local newsmakers and celebs… What’s even more gratifying is that Roy Cooper’s alter ego, Super-Duper Cooper, will make his first appearance since the opening episode. Episode V definitely fills the prescription for comic strip adrenaline junkies – loads of action. A link will be posted below for a preview trailer to the comic strip.

Also, the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong has expanded its horizons, and in addition to being available on Amazon’s Kindle offering as a subscription, it has a page on Facebook, which is “Justice 4 Nifong.” Also you can now subscribe directly to the blog. (See panel on upper right side of the page.)

Finally, the website will be undergoing a few change within the next couple of weeks to make it even more easily navigated. There will be an attempt to add more animation, and more interactivity with the new web pages, and likewise, there will be an attempt to keep files small, and the download time as short as possible.

I would like to make just a few statements about false accusations made recently by a commenter to the blog. He/she stated that I called the Duke Lacrosse defendants rapists. There is nothing that could be further from the truth. It is not my objective to prove or disprove the case. What is obvious is that Mike Nifong, the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since 1933, was selectively and unjustly disbarred. My focus is on the persecution and mistreatment of Mike Nifong. The guilt or innocence of the Duke Lacrosse defendants is irrelevant to my concerns… in other words, it has nothing to do the unprecedented draconian treatment to which Mr. Nifong was subjected.

LINK to comic strip preview trailer:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

N&O editorial: “naïve wanderers” or just plain dumb

The editorial staff in the September 16, 2010 edition of The News & Observer published an interesting editorial titled “Free all three.” It is a call for the Iranians to free the two remaining Americans being held on spy charges. Thankfully, Sarah Shourd, the third American was freed by the Iranian government on humanitarian reasons because of alleged health problems.

Although I give credit to the N&O editorial staff for admitting that anything is possible, I strongly disagree with its claim that charges of espionage against the three Americans are laughable. First, a lot of assumptions are tossed around, such as the three are left-leaning in their political philosophy, even though they are alums of the University of California-Berkeley. Not all alums from Berkeley are left-leaning or liberals. But the spy agency in the United States (almost all nations have them) is smart enough not to send men in trench coats and wearing sunglasses to the Iranian border to snoop around. They’re going to send someone who seems most unlikely to fit the mold of a spy… say, for example, a hiker with left-leaning tendencies.

Now, I’m not saying that the trio of hikers is spies, because I do not know. However, I would not call them naïve… a more appropriate adjective would be stupid. Why in the world would three Americans, without knowledge of the local language, go hiking around the border of a country openly hostile to the United States, and a country listed as a terrorist country by the United States? Not only that, but they were on Iran’s border with Iraq, a volatile country which doesn’t embrace Americans or the Christian religion. Sarah Shourd did not clarify why they were hiking around the Iranian border during snippets of interviews given following her release. The only comment she could say on that issue was, “It’s a misunderstanding.”

I have nothing against hiking, but with all of the beautiful national parks, open country, and nicely designed cities in the United States, why would one even leave the States to get in some hiking? And if one just had to get out of the States, there are plenty of countries with much more hospitality towards Americans than Iran. For me, if I felt the need to hike abroad, my first choice would be Ireland. Nice and green, and I can sorta understand the language. My second choice would be Scotland, for the same reasons, except the language is a little bit more difficult to understand. My third choice would be England… you get the picture. Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and all the other “stans,” North Korea, Darfur, would not even garner consideration. Although Cuba and Venezuela have some bad blood between them and the U.S., I would feel relatively safe going to those countries, but they would not be on the top tier of my list of foreign countries to go hiking in.

Another sticking point for the N&O editorial staff writer appears to be the “$500,000 bail.” Well, all I can say is that it is a lot less than the bail set for Heather Holley on a charge of identity theft – which was $6 milllion. Of the two charges, I would consider espionage much more serious than identity theft. Bail for some defendants charged with murder is less than six mil. Still, I have yet to see an editorial in The News & Observer about the excessive bail amount set for Ms. Holley.

According to recent media accounts, the Iranian leader has made subtle overtures suggesting a willingness to exchange the two American hikers for eight Iranian citizens being held in U.S. jails. I don’t know the charges against the eight Iranians, but such a prisoner exchange would be ideal. First we would be able to free the two remaining hikers. Secondly, we could free the American taxpayers of the burden of providing room, board, and health care for eight individuals which our country doesn’t want to begin with. It’s a win-win situation, and we should jump at the opportunity.

What all Americans should learn from this sad and unfortunate series of events is not to do dumb things. For an American to be hiking around Iran, or Iraq… or Afghanistan… or Pakistan is dumb. Just like it would be dumb for me, or any outspoken Mike Nifong supporter, to set foot on Duke University campus. After I was humiliated, embarrassed, and nearly arrested for no reason by campus police, it makes absolutely no sense for me to venture onto Duke property again.

For those of you unfamiliar with events leading up to my Henry Louis Gates Jr.-like near arrest, here’s a condensed version. I went to the Duke University Law School (wearing my Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong tee shirt… no big deal – right?) to attend an event open to the public on a first come, first served basis. Arriving early, I struck up conversations with about a half dozen or so people, and gave some of them my business card (which had information about the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong). Upon leaving the large classroom where the event was held, en masse with others in attendance, I was singled out by a uniformed security guard. He asked me what I was doing there, and I told that I had just attended the event. (Duh..) He then proceeded to tell me that I was trespassing and needed to leave the campus (which I was in the process of doing before he intercepted me). I asked why I was being kicked off campus, and he stated that he did not know… that he was just following orders of the building manager. He refused to take me to the building manager and so as I left, he followed me like I was an imminent threat. I told him that he did not need to follow me, and he responded that he was going to make sure that I left the campus grounds. As I was walking, he called backup, and an extremely menacing officer drove up in a patrol car seconds later, and got out. Now I had two uniformed officers following behind me. As I boarded the city bus to leave campus, the guard told me that I was nearly arrested three times.

I pressed Duke University for an answer regarding my inhospitable treatment, and was told by Michael Schoenfeld, a vice president, that the university employees did not mistreat me, and that I was kicked off campus for repeatedly violating their rules against solicitation. Schoenfeld described solicitation as me handing my business card to someone and asking him/her to visit my website. (Absurd… right?) Then he deflected responsibility for actions ordering me off campus from the administration to the campus police. Evidently, according to Schoenfeld, some people complained to police about the business card I gave them. This is nothing more than a lie. Mr. Schoenfeld expects me to believe that someone who accepted a business card from me went to the police to complain. He then expects me to believe that the campus police is going to waste its time, manpower, and resources to escort a person who handed out a couple of business cards off campus. The excuse Mr. Schoenfeld came up with, besides being full of falsehoods, is laughable, but it was the best excuse the university could come up with for humiliating me, embarrassing me, and nearly arresting me. To end his correspondence, Mr. Schoenfeld stated that I am welcome to return to the campus as long as I don’t engage in solicitation.

So without a logical explanation for my mistreatment and near-arrest on the Duke University campus, much less acknowledgement of guilt or an apology, does Mr. Schoenfeld actually think I would even consider returning to Duke University? Well, I’m no glutton for punishment, I’m not a masochist, and I’m not dumb.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

HBO struggles with its Duke LAXer movie

As you may be aware, we are approaching what is the third anniversary marking the HBO purchase of rights to make a Duke Lacrosse movie. It has had its ups and downs, mostly downs, due to it's impossible attempt to try and make the product it wants to make conform with history and fact. Other stumbling blocks include trying to make the Duke Lacrosse team members look decent when much of their time off field and out of the classroom is invested in its raucous party activities.

The following link presents an exclusive look into the making of the movie... a painful process which should be aborted immediately. As I suggested to Len Amato, President of HBO Movies, it should produce a compelling movie with substance... one that is worth watching. Such a movie would be about the life of Gregory F. Taylor. Not only that, but the movie would come with facts and a history that would not require alteration to make interesting and inspirational.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

N & O on Tim Helms’s death: An open case

Nearly a half century ago, Timothy Helms was born with severe retardation. Compounding his tragic life was the fact that he had been plagued with mental illness throughout his years. In 1994, he was accused of driving a vehicle which took the lives of three individuals, and later convicted and sentenced to three life sentences. While incarcerated, he racked up many “infractions,” including one for hoarding postage stamps. His retardation and mental illness made Timothy Helms a difficult prisoner to manage, and prior to his 2008 head trauma incident, he complained of abusive treatment he received and pleaded to be released from solitary confinement (euphemistically referred to as “administrative segregation” by authorities, while referred to as “The Hole” by those who have spent time there). Because of the great potential for psychological damage, solitary confinement is restricted to no more than 60 consecutive days. Helms had been in solitary for more than nine times that long (more than a year and a half) when he set his mattress on fire which resulted in his head being used as a battering ram on the concrete walls. Although setting the fire helped effect his release from solitary, it unfortunately resulted in head trauma that left him a quadriplegic who could barely speak. The SBI did its perfunctory investigation and to no one’s surprise could find no wrongdoing on behalf of the guards in solitary… they were stumped as to how Mr. Helms received his injuries (which in addition to two skull fractures and bleeding in the brain, included a fractured nose and welts all over his body consistent with those made by a baton). Department of Corrections Secretary Alvin Keller suggested that Mr. Helms might have sustained those injuries by falling and striking his head on the concrete floor. Paralyzed and unable to feed or take care of himself, Keller considered Helms too serious a threat to society to release from custody, so taxpayers continued to foot the bill for his lodgings and care until his recent, merciful death.

Now, The News & Observer wanting to toot its own horn about its four-part investigative report critical of the SBI lab, wrote an editorial in its September 8, 2010 paper titled “An open case: Recent revelations about the SBI’s work add to questions remaining in the case of Timothy Helms.” As usual, the editorial section in The News & Observer is a Johnny-come-lately… always making comments and observations long after they should have been made. To begin with, the newspaper editorial writers should have questioned the prosecution and conviction of the mentally ill and severely retarded man. Mr. Helms denied driving the car that took three lives, and to my knowledge there was no credible evidence that he did (the man Helms alleged to have been driving died from injuries in the crash). Furthermore, I do not believe that it had been established that Mr. Helms had been drinking or was drunk at the scene of the fatal accident.

Although Mr. Helms passed away some time ago, and the Department of Corrections and the SBI have closed their cases on the death of Mr. Helms, I agree with The News & Observer that the case of Timothy Helms should be opened and seriously investigated. It is obvious that, as Mr. Helms stated, after the brutal assault against him his head was repeatedly bashed into the concrete cell wall. The state, of course does not want to revisit this case anymore than it does other cases which the state closed with full knowledge that their resolution was far from just. In particular is the disbarment of former Durham Prosecutor Mike Nifong by the North Carolina State Bar. The Bar is an unregulated organization without accountability. It has a long-standing history of protecting prosecutors regardless of the magnitude of injustice they mete out. Since its inception in 1933, Mike Nifong is the only prosecutor to be disbarred by this organization. What’s worse, is that the was disbarred on trumped up trifle. Other prosecutors, such as David Hoke, Bill Wolfe, Tom Ford, Michael Parker, and Freda Black, have withheld exculpatory evidence, tried to force plea deals, won convictions on perjured testimony obtained in exchange for promises of reduced sentences, fabricated evidence and confessions… the list of unethical and dastardly prosecutorial practices by these state attorneys goes on. But these prosecutors are all protected not only by the state, but by the media which has embraced the PAPEN (Protect All Prosecutors Except Nifong) Policy.

What did Mr. Nifong do to deserve to be disbarred? Well, according to The News & Observer he was guilty of 20 ethics violations. The only problem is that nobody, especially media types, knows what they were. Media has gone out of its way to mislead the public by inferring that Mr. Nifong withheld exculpatory evidence. Truth of the matter is that Mr. Nifong did not withhold any discovery, and that the DNA lab evidence he has been accused of withholding is not exculpatory. Mr. Nifong has also been accused of lying to the court, which is, itself, a lie. But that is not important to the State Bar’s F. Lane Williamson… death of the truth was considered acceptable collateral damage in the state’s efforts to remove Mr. Nifong from the Duke Lacrosse case. In the Carpetbagger Jihad against Mr. Nifong et al., the truth, facts, morals, and justice are expendable concepts and contrary to their goals of destroying Mike Nifong and anyone and everyone who even had the most peripheral connection with the prosecution in the case.

Open the case regarding the death of inmate Timothy Helms… I agree. But I believe that The News & Observer editorial page should also call for opening the investigation into the trumped up disbarment of Mike Nifong.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Heather Holley - an appropriate and just resolution of her case

39 year-old Raleigh woman Heather Holley was recently booked in jail and saddled with 29 misdemeanor and felony charges with offenses including burglary, breaking into three homes, identity theft, and stealing mail, checks, passports, and other identifying information. She is also alleged to have went on a $1,800 shopping spree using a stolen credit card, and attempting to cash a $34,000 business check. One victim stated that Ms. Holley caused her added distress with postings on Craigslist that resulted in unwanted phone calls and knocks on her door. According to media reports she also tried to use the identity of two children to obtain health insurance benefits. These crimes had been carried out over a series of months, ending with her recent arrest.

Ms. Holley's initial bail was set at a whopping $5 million. At her first court appearance several days following her arrest, Ms. Holley told the judge that her bond was outside the legal guidelines for the charges with which she faced. So, the judge promptly raised her bail another $1 million to a total of $6 million. As referenced in a prior recent blog about Ms. Holley, a man charged with first degree murder had bail set at $1 million, one-fifth of Holley's original bail. However, to really illustrate the illogical disparity in the amount of bail being set in North Carolina, compare Holley's case to that of another North Carolina resident, Kristen Snipes.

Kristen Snipes, a 26 year-old Morrisville, NC woman, was recently charged with drunken-driving and having unsealed alcohol in the passenger area of her car. As a result, she had her driver's license revoked and was released to await trial for the DUI related offenses. However, the day following the revocation of her license, she was driving and struck a man on a bicycle from behind. Witnesses of the accident saw her flee the scene in her vehicle. The man was hospitalized for treatment of his injuries. The following day Ms. Snipes was apprehended outside the state of North Carolina... in South Carolina. She was returned to North Carolina where her charges now include DUI, driving with an open container of acohol, felony hit-and-run, and driving with a revoked license. Add to this, that she was arrested outside of the state of North Carolina. Her bail was set at only $26,000.

This is just one of many examples of North Carolina's system of selective justice based on Class and Color. There is no doubt that someone charged with murder should be given a higher bail than a non-violent thief. Also, someone who causes bodily injury while driving a vehicle on a revoked license should have a bail that is set much higher than a petty thief.

I refer to Holley as a small time thief because the financial amounts of her alleged crimes (from what was reported in the media) was less than a couple of thousand dollars. Compare this with the embezzlement of $5,000 by a 21 year-old employee from a Taco Bell franchise... his bail was $20,000. Another comparison is that of a former Durham County sheriff's lieutenant charged with 25 counts of embezzling nearly $100,000 from 2003 until 2009, embezzling drug evidence, felony obstruction, and felony possession of cocaine... his bail was set at a paltry $50,000 (one one-hundredth of that of Holley's initial bail). What makes crimes of the lieutenant more egregious than Ms. Holley's is that the sheriff's officer was in a position of public trust when he committed violations of the law.

Then consider the case of Durham's Somerhill Gallery president Joe Rowand. He fleeced consignment artists out of compensation they were due by pocketing the proceeds from the sale of their artwork and misleading artists into believing that their works had not yet sold. Artists are owed $270,000 on commissions from works sold as far back as 2002. Furthermore, while running the business into the ground, Rowand paid himself a monthly salary of $15,000 and his company owes more than $200,000 to its landlord, Scientific Properties. To protect himself, he has filed for Chapter 11 personal bankruptcy protection, making it extremely unlikely that the artists who were defrauded out of their commissions will ever be compensated. What, you may ask, is the bail for this man who is a combination of a small-time version of Bernie Madoff and CEO of AIG? Well, there is no bail (none, nada, zilch) because what he has done in ripping off hardworking artists for years is not considered a crime. In our capitalistic society it is called "doing business." In other words, a businessman can legally cheat people out of thousands of dollars and not even be charged with a crime. Are Joe Rowand's actions more despicable and criminal than Heather Holley's? Undoubtedly, yes. Just keep in mind that North Carolina is a state which follows the tenet of "selective justice based on Class and Color."

I do not believe that reasonable people possessing common sense would argue that the bail amount set for Heather Holley is absurd. It may even be possible, as Ms. Holley stated, that it is beyond the bounds of guidelines set for the charges against her. I am unfamiliar with specific law here, but my gut feeling is that she is correct on this point... in which case, the judge probably raised her bail from $5 million to $6 million out of pure spite.

The important issue to face is what direction to take now. Instead of continuing on this downward spiral, I would suggest that the justice system step back and consider taking the following avenue... one of Restorative Justice. Restorative Justice is a concept that is taught and widely promoted at Raleigh's Campbell University School of Law under Jon Powell. It consists of the following steps: 1) for the offender to admit responsibility for his/her actions; 2) for the offender to apologize to the victim; 3) for the offender to compensate the victim for his/her losses; and 4) for steps to be taken to prevent the re-occurence of the offense by the offender. In Ms. Holley's case, the scenario would play out as follows, under the supervision of a mediator: 1) Ms. Holley would meet with each of her victims (if they are agreeable, of course). She would admit her role in the offenses against the victims and offer her apologies. 2) She would re-pay the victims for financial losses, including interests for payments made over time. 3) To assure that Holley does not repeat her offenses, she would be placed under probation, she would undergo psychological evaluation (to rule out a mental cause for her sudden past criminal acts), and other non-malicious programs would possibly be instituted to monitor her. I have no objection to reasonable community service as a condition.

By following these principles of Restorative Justice the following benefits can be realized: 1) affording the victim of the most positive closure to a criminal event; 2) possibly salvaging the life of the offender; 3) freeing up space in correctional facilities for those requiring incarceration; and 4) saving hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

Proceeding down the current road, in which, if convicted on all charges could land Ms. Holley in prison for more than six decades, is detrimental for all involved and for society in general. For many traumatized victims, it is cathartic and healing to receive a sincere apology from the heart of the perpetrator of the crime. Even communicating and getting to know one another's circumstances and background can foster empathy. This has been supported by certain cases in which family members of murder victims communicated with the murderer and surprisingly even forgiven them for taking the life of their loved ones in certain instances. Heather Holley, who claims to have not been in trouble with the law prior to the current string of crimes, would spend a significant number of productive years locked behind bars, which would not offer much in the promise of rehabilitation. It would be yet another life, unnecessarily wasted in a warehousing mentality of the North Carolina justice system. Furthermore, in a country which leads the world in the percentage of its population incarcerated, it would free up prison space for those convicted of truly heinous and violent crimes. There would be less over-crowding in the correctional facilities, which would lead to less stress, fewer confrontations and fights among the prison population, and better control of inmates and compliance to rules. Finally, the cost to the taxpayer of seriously prosecuting and keeping Ms. Holley in prison amounts to more than the cost of sending her to get a college education. Housing people in prison is an extremely expensive proposition that politicians don't want to discuss or acknowledge for fear of the appearance of being "soft on crime." But the truth is that the state's budget crisis would not be as dire if those who did not deserve to be incarcerated were released and either monitored and/or placed on probation. Placing Ms. Holley in jail for years is taking money out of North Carolinians' wallets and decreasing funds available for social programs needed for the poor, ill, and disabled.

Now I'm not suggesting that Ms. Holley should go scott-free for the crimes which she committed, but I do not believe that she should be held under unreasonably high bail, and that she should be sentenced to an exceptionally lengthy sentence if convicted. Mitigating factors should be considered in her case, and not the desire for carrying out a vendetta against Holley because of the victims' standings. If warranted by evidence, prosecution should offer a fair and just plea deal before proceeding with a costly prosecution. Taking a fair, logical and humanitarian approach regarding the treatment of Ms. Holley would be in the best interests of society, and all involved. The only ones to suffer by taking this uplifting path would be the CEOs and fat-cats of corporations invested in building, operating, and maintaining the state's correctional facilities.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The sad life and cruel death of Timothy Helms

On Sunday, September 5, 2010, the tragic life and brutal death of Timothy E. Helms mercifully came to an end at the age of 49. There are many people who live unfulfilled lives that are lacking love, amenities, and joy, but one would be hard pressed, by any measure, to find one as sad as Timothy Helms’s. He was dealt a bad hand at birth with a low I.Q. and the emergence of mental health problems as he developed. During his youth, he attended special education classes until he dropped out of school at the age of 16. His many psychiatric problems led to frequent hospitalizations in mental health facilities throughout his adult life. However, his early demise began with his entanglement with North Carolina authorities after a 1994 vehicular accident.

In 1994, Helms claimed that he was a passenger in a truck, driven by a drunken friend, which collided with another vehicle resulting in three deaths. Although he had no driver’s license, and it is unknown whether he even knew how to drive, North Carolina police and prosecutors determined that Helms was the driver and won convictions on three counts of second degree murder against him. He would be held in custody to live out the rest of what would be his remaining sixteen years of life.

The prison system is ill-equipped to treat the mentally ill, although many mentally ill people who allegedly run afoul of the law are housed there. During his years of incarceration, Helms accumulated 125 rule infractions, according to
The News & Observer article. An infraction could be anything from threatening to harm staff and using profanity, which he was accused of doing, plus hoarding 84 postage stamps. Why hoarding postage stamps would be considered an infraction, I am unaware, but it does seem to bring into question the legitimacy of the other “infractions” against Helms. His punishment for these so-called infractions included spending 1,459 days in solitary confinement… referred to by the prisoners as “The Hole”… and euphemistically by corrections officials as “Administrative Segregation.” Although rules restricted solitary confinement to no more than 60 consecutive days (two months) for a prisoner, it was documented that Helms spent 571 consecutive days (more than a year and a half) in isolation. Researchers have stated that excessively long periods of isolation can lead to or exacerbate mental problems in individuals… and Helms already had a well defined history of mental illness (which included at least six mental disorder diagnoses). For good measure, while locked in his cell, Helms was typically kept in handcuffs and shackles.

Prior to the events which led to his head trauma, Timothy Helms told the psychologist assigned to visit him that he was being abused by the guards, and he pleaded to be released from solitary confinement. But that request was never realized until August 3, 2008, when Helms, according to officials, managed to use two batteries and a strip of metal to set his mattress on fire. It was at that time that he was dragged out of his solitary confinement cell by guards, and out of range of security cameras. The remainder of security camera footage showed Helms being carried to other prison cells, never ambulating upright.

It wasn’t until the following day that corrections officials decided to have his physical condition evaluated. At the emergency room at Catawba Valley Medical Center in Hickory, where he was transported in the back of a patrol car, he was found to have two skull fractures with bleeding in his brain, a fractured nose, and bruises and welts all over his body consistent with those made by a billy club. As a result of the injuries, Helms was reduced to a bed-ridden quadriplegic who could not even feed or bathe himself, and could barely speak.

How he sustained the injuries is in dispute. Helms stated that after being taken from his smoke-filled cell that fateful day, officers picked him up and used his head as a battering ram against the concrete block wall. Corrections officials in the “Hole” are mystified as to how Helms sustained his injuries. The SBI, after a thorough investigation, was stymied, as well, as to how Helms received two skull fractures with brainstem bleeding, a fractured nose, and “billy club”-like welts and bruises over his entire body. Department of Corrections Secretary Alvin Keller suggested that Helms may have slipped and fell, striking his head on the concrete floor.

The only person charged with any wrongdoing in this incident was Timothy Helms (who was already serving three life sentences) for destroying government property in setting the fire. Prosecutors eventually had the wisdom to drop the charges against him and not waste additional taxpayer dollars with the senseless prosecution of him.

In 2009, Disability Rights North Carolina, an advocacy group for the disabled, petitioned Secretary Keller to release Helms under a program that discharges prisoners whose medical condition ensures that they are no longer a threat to the public. Helms seemed to fit the requirements as he was a bed-ridden quadriplegic… but this request was denied by Keller. In addition, Keller denied requests to release the SBI’s investigative report into the matter, which is not surprising, at least to me.

Tragic, senseless, inhumane, brutal, criminal are all words that could be used to describe Helms’s treatment by the North Carolina criminal justice system. It reinforces the premise that a certain population (usually the disenfranchised, poor, people of color, and the mentally ill and retarded) can be abused by authorities without consequence. The media is selective in which cases of correctional misdeeds and malfeasance it does report on, and is quick to tamp down its coverage of the most egregious actions by prosecutorial or correctional officials.

What makes the Timothy Helms story so heart-wrenching is that he probably never should have been charged with a crime to begin with. I believe that it is questionable as to whether Helms was even the driver of the vehicle… and I doubt that he was. Instead of being confined to a prison cell, Helms should have been hospitalized in a mental health facility where he could have received treatment. The correctional system repeatedly hindered Timothy Helms’s family’s efforts to see and communicate with him, depriving them of the ability to monitor their loved one’s treatment at the hands of correctional officers. Department of Corrections administration also proved it is not above making false statements when it stated that guards at the facility did not carry billy clubs, when video tape at that time showed the contrary. Family members inquiring on Helms’s condition were also lied to by those in charge.

But I would not expect legislators to get upset over the horrendously cruel treatment Helms sustained, because politicians, prosecutors, media types, and many in the public view criminals as expendable entities who’s treatment and fate is of little or no consequence. In addition, the wealthy, powerful, and privileged in our society receive special privileges when it comes to scrapes with the law. For example, politician R. C. Soles can shoot an unarmed man (who has his back to him and is retreating) in the leg and only have to pay a small fine. The unregulated North Carolina State Bar won’t even consider taking any action against Soles for his criminal act and exceedingly poor judgment.

Legislators will get upset, however, when the well-heeled get accused of criminal wrong-doing. What made the Duke Lacrosse case such an enigma and out of the ordinary is that a prosecutor would actually charge defendants from wealth, status, power, and privilege with a crime… especially when the alleged victim is an African American woman. Because Mike Nifong based his decision to prosecute on matters of justice and did not allow the defendants’ families positions and connections dissuade him from pursuing justice, the full weight of the Tar Heel justice system was brought down on his head. How dare he… the state was going to make an example of Mr. Nifong.

Whether or not the North Carolina General Assembly elects to get motivated by the mistreatment of Timothy Helms is of little relevance. All of the rules in place to protect inmates are of little value if those carrying out the supervision of those jailed ignore them without consequence. Timothy Helms was not supposed to be held in The Hole for more than 60 consecutive days. He was held in solitary for more than nine times the maximum amount allowed, but was anyone held accountable? No.

The brutal, cruel, vicious, inhumane, degrading treatment of those incarcerated, some of whom are innocent, is but another scar which taints our state’s justice system. Incidents similar to that which happened to Timothy Helms is not all that rare. The media has touched on a few cases in which correctional officers broke the arm and smashed the face of inmate Theodore Jerry Williams. It also wrote a blurb about a male inmate who was stripped naked and had a female guard give his genitals a dose or two of pepper spray. Unfortunately, people caught in the criminal justice cogs are completely vulnerable and at the mercy of correctional officers, many of whom are racist and sadistic.

What people should keep in mind is that, sadly, what happened, in some degree, to Timothy Helms may be more the rule than the exception.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Arbitrary and selective discrepancies in bail

The News & Observer had an article in the September 6, 2010 edition about a 39 year-old Raleigh woman who was being held on a $5 million bail. Surely she must have been charged with committing a heinous and violent act against a human being… possibly a brutal assault or maybe an armed robbery with a little pistol whipping involved or maybe even murder. That is the kind of offense that I would imagine would warrant a bail in the stratosphere that easily exceeds the million dollar benchmark. But no… I would be wrong, as this young lady was charged with nonviolent crimes including identity theft and burglary. In all, she faces 29 felony and misdemeanor charges.

Now I don’t condone unlawful acts, regardless the nature, as laws are supposedly in place for the benefit and protection of all individuals. And this lady, Heather Holly, even went to the diabolical extreme of trying to shift blame of her criminal spree onto another person who shared the same name as she. That is cold-blooded. And identity theft crimes can result in serious and long-term problems for victims, who oft times are unaware of their victimization.
From the article, there is no indication that the crimes were committed with Ms. Holly being armed, and there is no indication that anyone was ever harmed by her during the commission of her crimes. There are a myriad of cases, however, in which serious injury – often life threatening – is inflicted on children and adults. Yet the bail for suspected perpetrators of violent crimes never even approaches that of Ms. Holly. Recently, for example, five or six Special Forces soldiers who beat up a single male at a topless bar, in which the victim sustained four skull fractures, were released without having to pay a bond… they just had to promise to show up for their next court appearance. Infants, not even a year old, have been beaten, sustained skull and rib fractures, and left comatose, with the offender’s bail not even coming anywhere close to a million dollars.

Another case that comes to mind is that of Johnny West, a middle-aged man who became enraged when a stranger yelled at him to slow down while he was driving in a neighborhood in which children were playing. Well, he went home, retrieved his gun, and with his 9 year-old daughter, returned to the scene to confront the man. West fired at the man who happened to be armed himself. He returned fire wounding West in the arm and unintentionally striking West’s daughter in the abdomen with a bullet. She required emergency surgery which entailed the removal of her spleen and part of her stomach. The man who West fired at was not charged, whereas charges against West included assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, and felony child abuse. Bail set for Mr. West was $28,000… and he readily made bond.

Heather Holly evidently used her ill-gotten gains to go on a $1,800 shopping spree at Best Buy, and although she allegedly stole a business check for $34,000, it appears from the article that she was unsuccessful in cashing it. She also used identity theft to try and obtain health insurance benefits, but again, it is unlikely that she received any. Despite her prolific criminal activity the financial impact of her illegal activities were meager to miniscule in comparison with other who have embezzled and defrauded individuals and businesses of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yet, their bails, if they are held pre-trial, are meager to miniscule in comparison to that handed down to Heather Holly.

The problem with the court system in North Carolina, besides being one of “selective justice based on Class and Color,” is that bail is being used as a means to make an individual with a high bail serve a sentence without being convicted of a crime. The prime example is the James Arthur Johnson case, wherein he was held for 39 months without bail for a murder which the prosecutor, Bill Wolfe, knew that he did not commit. The prosecution knew that it could not win a fair conviction, so it moved the case along slowly while trying to get Johnson to plead guilty in exchange for time served. This is an horrendous case of injustice that the media has all but ignored. They won't even comment about how the Family and Friends of Brittany Willis stiffed Johnson out of the $20,000 reward he had earned.

However, using bail to make people serve a sentence without being convicted is not only morally and legally wrong, but it comes at a great expense to taxpayers. Even when charged with serious non-violent felonies, most defendants who are poor, disenfranchised, and of color, do not have the wherewithal to flee and start a new life elsewhere. So a reasonable bail, or pre-trial monitoring should be utilized in the majority of these cases. The other problem with housing non-violent defendants while awaiting trial, is the tremendous burden on taxpayer dollars. Pre-trial monitoring is a much better option than jail, in that it is much less costly, and does not totally disrupt the individual’s life. Lengthy incarceration invariably results in job loss, it the person was employed prior to arrest. Incarceration has a cascading affect on many facets of a person’s personal life in addition to work, and they include financial stress on family, stress on relationships, and loss of personal property. This only leads to the defendant and his family's need to rely more heavily on social programs in order to survive.

Unfortunately, the main purpose of bail (to assure the defendant shows up for trial) has been ignored, overlooked, and usurped by those who are intent on feeding and sustaining the correctional facility corporations. The big businesses whose bottom line depends on housing prisoners rely on bodies, whether or not they are non-violent or innocent, being held in jail. Those who are sacrificed to these beasts are society’s disenfranchised, poor, and people of color. As long this is the case in our capitalistic society, you can expect to see bail amounts escalate for those charged who are most vulnerable and least able to bond out. The well-heeled individuals with the ability to successfully flee the country and establish a safe haven abroad will continue to have little or no bail set for them, regardless of the charges they face or the seriousness of them.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

DAs on board regarding SBI lab shakeup… Hogwash!

According to The News & Observer editorial of August 31, 2010, the state’s district attorneys understand that clouds over the SBI hurt their ability to make cases. What the district attorneys should be concerned about is that the clouds interfere with the administration of justice. As so-called “Ministers of Justice,” prosecutors should have their priority as the goal of justice before that of winning a case. For many, if not most North Carolina prosecutors, that has definitely not been the case. The recent case exposed in an article by N &O investigative reporter J. Andrew Curliss about Derrick Allen is a prime example of a prosecutor, Freda Black, placing a conviction ahead of seeking justice. Ms. Black is also the prosecutor responsible for winning an armed robbery conviction against a 14 year-old Erick Daniels. There was no credible evidence or forensic findings tying the young Daniels boy to the crime… only the robbery witness’s linking the shape of Daniels’s eyebrows in a school yearbook to those of the assailant. He served more than half of a 14 to 20 year sentence before he was finally released on appeal. Tom Ford, Wake prosecutor responsible for unapologetically stealing seventeen years of a man’s life (Greg Taylor) because Taylor did not implicate an innocent man in a murder, is unfortunately representative of many of the prosecutors who have no qualms about unjustly incarcerating innocents who are poor, disenfranchised, and people of color.

Although The News & Observer would have you believe otherwise, it is the prosecutors and not the people in the SBI lab who are driving the show. The lab people are merely backseat passengers in the prosecutor’s vehicle. It is the prosecutors who benefit from winning a conviction, not the lab technicians. Even the SBI agents don’t get the glory of convicting the defendant in a heinous crime. Therefore, when a prosecutor’s case is weak, he/she has the built-in incentive to lean on people in the lab in order to force them to skew, omit, fudge, tweak, or otherwise manipulate lab results in hopes of improving their odds at trial. Not all prosecutors take this devious avenue; just the unscrupulous ones such as Tom Ford, Freda Black, Bill Wolfe, and Michael Parker.

The fact that justice is a secondary or tertiary concern of prosecutors is best illustrated in the Alan Gell case. Prosecutor David Hoke was in possession of 17 eyewitness statements that proved beyond doubt that defendant Alan Gell could not possibly have committed the murder for which he was charged. Hoke withheld this information from the defense counsel, and won a capital conviction against Gell. Now, The News & Observer wants to blame this wrongful conviction on the lead investigator in the case, Dwight Ransome. However, a decade after Gell’s conviction when the existence of these witness statements came to light, and the Attorney General’s Office was aware that there were 17 witness statements that proved Gell could not have committed the murder for which he had languished in jail (half on death row), the Attorney General’s Office went ahead and prosecuted the case in a second trial. Roy Cooper didn’t issue an “innocent promulgation” on Gell’s behalf. He tried to keep an innocent man in jail. However, once the jury got the case, they immediately found Gell not guilty. How does The News & Observer explain that? The Attorney General’s Office used SBI agent Ransome’s work to support their case against Gell at re-trial. Somehow, it is not the prosecutors at fault… it’s Ransome.

Currently, Alan Gell is incarcerated on a convoluted vendetta charge concocted by a Johnston County prosecutor. His unreasonable and lengthy sentence is nothing more than payback for having the audacity to file a complaint for the malicious and blatant injustice he suffered with his death penalty conviction. Although he wrongfully served ten years, he was convicted on technical trifle and is serving a five year sentence. According to my math, even with the ridiculous five year sentence, he had five years credit. He should never have served one day of this most recent vindictive sentence.

What is truly tragic is that the prosecutors with integrity who prosecute in good faith and act as “Ministers of Justice” are the ones that are targeted, mainly by the Powers-That-Be, and the unregulated North Carolina State Bar. Gregory Butler was a prosecutor in Johnston County, who when he became aware that the defense attorney lacked some of the prosecutor’s discovery, immediately notified the defense. This act, publicized in The News & Observer, resulted in a delay in the court proceedings while the defense was granted time to review the information presented. It also prompted the North Carolina State Bar to initiate a complaint against Mr. Butler, which forced him to remove himself from the case, causing a further delay. Fortunately, there was no bounty on Mr. Butler’s head, and F. Lane Williamson and his band on the Bar’s grievance panel, did nothing more than give Mr. Butler a slobbery tongue lashing.

But what happened to Mr. Butler pales in comparison to the persecution administered to the prosecutor of the Duke Lacrosse case, Mike Nifong. This prosecutor, with 27 years experience as a prosecutor, and who was appointed to the Durham district attorney position by Governor Mike Easley, had a stellar reputation as a fair and hard-working prosecutor. Since he first practiced as a prosecutor, Mike Nifong had always maintained an open file discovery policy… that is, he provided the defense attorneys with all of the evidentiary information he had in his file. (This was decades before such policy became mandated in the state.) Most of the ardent defense attorneys who sparred with Nifong in courtroom, gave him high marks when it came to opening his files for them and prosecuting fairly. As it is with individuals who possess both high ethical standards and courage, Mr. Nifong was not swayed by pressure applied by peers and higher-ups. He followed his conscience… which made him too independent… which made him too dangerous. Therefore, he was brought down by the big power machine, with assistance from the biased media. The state, along with the Carpetbagger families of the Duke Lacrosse defendants and their attorneys set out to make an example of him, and make him pay, every day, for the rest of his life.

When Mike Nifong was taken down, Durham lost the best district attorney it will most likely ever see. He was a prosecutor who prosecuted cases in good faith based on sound evidence and good science. He did not lobby lab technicians for reports or results favorable to his case, and as a result, the lab technicians and agents did not feel the need to help effect the outcome of his cases. Mike Nifong’s priority was to see justice fairly administered, and to see equal justice for all. He did not subscribe to the state’s tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color.” If he did abide by that principle, he certainly would not have prosecuted the Duke Lacrosse defendants… especially when doing so severely compromised his chances of winning the election for Durham district attorney.

The News & Observer editorial did get it right. The state’s district attorneys understand that clouds over the SBI hurt their ability to make cases… and that’s what they’re interested in; making their cases. Unfortunately, unlike Mike Nifong, they are less interested in seeing that equal justice prevails for all.