An article in today’s Durham Herald Sun reminded me of a very important aspect of the Duke lacrosse case that media in Durham and Raleigh are ignoring.
First, the H-S article which begins:
The Duke lacrosse rape case likely will get an "exceptional" designation from the state Supreme Court that would be the first of its kind for a criminal issue in Durham, officials said Friday.A defense lawyer wanting a speedy trial. To paraphrase President Reagen: “There they go again.”
The designation, which must be approved by the chief justice of the state's highest court, could speed the case by providing one judge to handle every detail from now until the end of a trial.
With only one judge making all the decisions, consistency and efficiency would be vastly improved, officials predict.
"I think it's a great idea," lawyer Bill Cotter said Friday.
Cotter represents Collin Finnerty, one of three Duke lacrosse players indicted on charges of raping an exotic dancer in March at an off-campus party.
From the time Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann were indicted defense lawyers have been asking for a speedy trial while Durham DA Mike Nifong seems very contents to let time go by. He’s never joined defense attorneys in their requests to speed up the trial.
Our local media - the Durham H-S, Raleigh N&O, WRAL – TV, and News14 - to name a few, haven’t done very much that I’ve noticed to point out how unusual it is for defense attorneys to be demanding a speedy trial while the DA is content to smile during procedural hearing, make disparaging remarks about the defense, and wait, wait, wait for a trial date.
Usually DAs want a trial ASAP, especially if the case will depend heavily on eyewitness testimony.
DAs usually want to go as quickly as possible from indictment, when they‘re supposed to present to the grand jury the reasons why they should take the case to trial, to the trial itself.
Trial delay only gives time for witnesses to become forgetful or, if they’re not forgetful, there’s the matter of a jurors listening and saying to themselves, “The witness is so sure after all this time. But I wonder. Coaching? Rehearsal?”
Delay also gives the defense to find supporting witnesses, find new exculpatory evidence, etc.
Nifong’s willingness to accept delay and the defenses’ eagerness to go to trial are big stories that should be examined and reported extensively.