Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A DPD Outside Investigation: Questions

It looks like there’s going to be some sort of outside investigation into the Durham Police Department’s Duke lacrosse “investigation” which led to the arrests and indictments of three clearly innocent Duke students.

An investigation is certainly needed into how and why Durham police arrested and charged three clearly innocent people when, as NC Attorney General Roy Cooper said, there never was evidence of their guilt.

To do that, sworn officers of DPD had to engage in a lot of careful planning and coordination with each other, as well as with outside the department members of the “Nifong/DPD team.”

The frame-up of the Duke lacrosse players was especially difficult and time consuming given that they had effective defense attorneys.

Which DPD officers did what and why? Who directed them? Who coordinated their activities? Was the decision that DPD repeatedly tell the public falsehoods in order to cover-up what was really happening made by DPD officers or someone on “the Nifong/DPD team?”

For an outside investigation to answer those questions with confidence and in detail it will need to have first-rate investigators with powerful investigative tools and financial and other resources.

So some questions:

What kind of charge will the Durham City Council give the investigators? What resources of money and personpower will they have?

Will they be able to compel cooperation from DPD officers? If some officers balk at cooperating, what powers will the investigators have to compel their cooperation? Subpoena power?

What legislation and regulations will govern what the investigators can and can’t do?

Will statements made by DPD officers be under oath? Will they be made in public?

Will the investigators be limited to interviewing DPD officers? Or will they be able to interview others such as defense attorneys who represented the framed students?

What about DA Mike Nifong and members of his staff, such as Durham’s Chief ADA David Saacks?

How did Saacks, an experienced prosecutor sworn to protect the rights of the innocent, come to accept that all 46 white members of the lacrosse team were suspects; and that a court should order them to submit to police DNA testing and face and torso photographing?

We need to learn from Saacks what DPD did to convince him to request what many NC attorneys say was an unprecedented and dubious court order. And, of course, we need to hear DPD’s side of that matter.

Something else: Will investigators talk to people such as Durham attorney Alex Charns?

Charns represents one of the lacrosse players “the Nifong/DPD team” didn’t indict. He's asked for an official investigation into the production and distribution of a Durham CrimeStoppers Duke lacrosse Wanted poster that told the community an “horrific crime” was committed at the lacrosse party.

A DPD officer wrote the text of the CS Wanted poster and released it to DPD substations, media and others. The poster was then distributed in the community on a DPD header.

Folks, there’s more I could say but I’ll stop now and ask what are your thoughts concerning an outside investigation?


Anonymous said...

John - These are fascinating questions. I hope we get some answers, particularly the DNA order. When they was written in March, I don't think anyone in particular had been identified by Crystal. The DPD involvement is a mystery. Gottleib got his Superiors to sign off on Nifong's highjack of the investigation - very smart. Hopefully, the big boys in the DPD will come into play. I think Gottleib knew where enough bodies were buried, he got himself off the case ASAP. Making SGT in any organization is not easy feat and he is no dope. A lot more interesting than the rape kit, which passed muster.

Ex-prosecutor said...

It will be interesting to see how this proceeds. Regardless of what charge is given to the investigator, officers have a right to avoid self-incrimination, and they may well assert this right simply to avoid answering questions.

Should they refuse to answer, the question them becomes, what, if anything can be done. Generally, police union contracts spell out the rights of officers being investigated for wrong-doing. As a veteran of prosecuting police officers (with an 0-4 record), I can tell you that they are very hard to pin down, for they know all the tricks.

They know the paths an investigation will take, the questions to be asked, how to get their storied straight and, in one case I had, what records should be doctored or just disappear.

Anonymous said...


With all the discussion, I think a lot of questions have already been answered (to some degree).

Nifong had incredible control over the police department. Why that was the case is not clear to me. It may have been his personality or natural presence.

He had willing helpers, no doubt about that. I suspect he gave the orders and everyone just followed them. There doesn't appear to be anything special about it.

It may all boil down to having an evil amoral person in the DA's office. Everything he touched was contaminated. Whether things can return to normal once he exits is anyone guess.


Ex-prosecutor said...

I should have added that since Mr. Nifong and his assistants are not city employees (I expect they are state employees), they can, in my opinion, decline to cooperate, or respond only to written questions.

MY experience is that police officers, with rare exceptions, are not whistle-blowers but, rather, have them against us attitude. Often, their careers have advanced based upon their abilities to trick criminals, and they are masters at avoiding being pinned down.

To every extent possible, they likely will cover for each other. Dumping on Mr. Nifong is one way to deflect blame, and I expect that this route is not unrecognized by the Durham PD.

QuadDog said...

I think to get the truth an investigation will need to be done by persons with the power to grant immunity. I hope that this investigation will uncover enough to show that it is highly probable that crimes were committed and the follow up investigation finds someone to sing.

Anonymous said...

I believe if the investigation of the DPD finds that very few are cooperating then I can say that a criminal investigation is needed. If there were no DPD crimes then everyone will answer all the questions. If there was DPD crimes then all those involved will clam up tighter than a dark spot on the sun. We will know when the report justifies its conclusions.

kbp said...

Thanks John!

It may all boil down to having an evil amoral person in the DA's office. Everything he touched was contaminated. Whether things can return to normal once he exits is anyone guess.

You're forgetting all that took place between the time they started the investigation (2 days late) and when Mikey became involved (approx. 3/22). None of that is Mikey's fault during that window of time.

Is a conspiracy to obstruct justice not already on the record in Meehan's 12/15 testimony?

Is false information supplied in affidavits to obtain a search warrant and non-testimonial investigative order not on the record?

Anonymous said...

The DPD was obligated to investigate Crystal's claims of rape. It looks like the cops pursued an investigation. Saacks got the NTO for team DNA - signed by Stephens. Detectives talked to the Captains. The thing took off after Ruthie's We Knew article and Nifong exploded into public view the next day. The DPD pretty much dropped out of the game after that. Do the DA's in NC have this much powere over law enforcement>

Anonymous said...

I still wonder how Nifong can look his son in the face, or better yet, how Nifong Jr. can look his father in the face.
Good job Mikey!

Anonymous said...

I don't think Nifong is the first man to fail a son and he won't be the last. At least this guy has cloths, food on the table, a house and medical insurance - tens of thousands of under 18 are a lot worse off.