Thursday, August 30, 2007

Nifong Today & "The Attorney's Lesson"

From this afternoon:

Former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong began fighting a criminal contempt of court charge today in the same courtroom where he once prosecuted people accused of crimes.

Nifong, who was stripped of his law license this month, is facing Judge W. Osmond Smith III on the charge, which arose from his handling of the Duke lacrosse case.

The former prosecutor pleaded not guilty this morning. And at the close of prosecution evidence this afternoon, Smith refused Nifong's motion to dismiss the charge.
You can read the entire report here.

KC Johnson’s been live blogging from the courtroom. His account of the morning session is here. His “highlights” of the session are here. As of 5 pm eastern he’s not posted on the afternoon session.

I’ll post later tonight on today’s session.

As I thought about Nifong standing before a judge and being held to account for some of the many great wrongs he’s done, I thought back to a “lesson” an outstanding North Carolina attorney gave me this past February. I was so impressed I posted on it.

I’m reposting it today because what the attorney said made clear the gravity and criminality of Nifong’s withholding the exculpatory DNA evidence.

If you don’t agree now that Nifong deserves jail time for the criminal contempt with which today’s court procedinga are concerned, and for so much more he did in an attempt to frame three men even he now admits were innocent, I hope you do after you read The Attorney’s Lesson.


An attorney I was talking with the other day gave me a lesson.

The attorney said the public still has no idea “just how extraordinarily important and powerful” the DNA evidence is that DA Nifong and DNA Security Lab director Brian Meehan conspired to withhold from the defense.

What follows is a close paraphrase, using a first person voice, of what the attorney then said:
Suppose it’s 1985 and those three guy are accused and indicted just as they were. Everything’s the same as it is now except no DNA.

At the trial it’s only the woman’s word and she’s changed her story a couple of times.

But that’s no problem. The prosecution puts expert witnesses on the stand who tell the jury it’s normal for a woman to change her story.

I’ve seen cases where prosecutors have told juries that the woman changing her story is one more proof she was raped.

Factor in the media onslaught you had against those kids and you get convictions. They’re sent away for life.

Twenty years goes by.

Now it's 2006 and DNA evidence identical to the evidence Nifong and Meehan tried to hide is brought forward in an actual innocence claim on the players' behalf.

That evidence, in and of itself, is enough to set those guys free. Just that DNA evidence. It’s that powerful. It's that important.

Not only that, and I could cite the appellate court decisions for you, in circumstances like that states have been directed by the courts to expunge any records of the charges, the convictions, and the imprisonments. The state is supposed to also make formal apologies to the guys.

It's all an attempt to “make the person whole;” only you can’t really make a person whole in those circumstances.

The state is also supposed to look at the case again.

Did the woman lie? Was she drugged and just didn’t know who? Did she just ID the wrong guys? Is she still claiming rape? ( The attorney mentioned that when North Carolina prosecutors seek indictment for rape, they almost always also seek indictments for sexual assault and kidnapping as happened in the Hoax case. Attorneys and judges refer to the practice of linking the three as “boxcaring.” - JinC)

If the state believes the woman is confused but still has some credibility or if it believes on some other basis a sex crime was committed against her, it should treat the other men, excluding the driver, whose DNA was found in her as suspects; and then either eliminate them as suspects or weigh bringing charges.
The attorney’s words were quite a lesson, at least for me.

They helped strengthen my belief the State Bar will disbar Nifong. Given the seriousness of what he did and the public's growing awareness of that, the Bar doesn’t dare do otherwise, even if it’s so inclined.

The attorney's lesson also helped strengthen my belief that what Nifong and Meehan did was so wrong and so serious that they ought to go to prison.


Anonymous said...

Will Judge Stephens cite Nifong for contempt?

Anonymous said...

Another great post. Keep it up.

JWM said...

Anon @ 7:54,

Judge Smith inherited the case from Judge Titus who inherited it from Judge Stephens.

Judge Smith has drawn the charge on narrow grounds concerning events which took place in his court. He has oversight of that and all else concerning the case to date that "is the business" of a Superior Court.

It would be very improper for either Stephens or Titus to interfere in any case.

Anon @ 9:45,

Thank you. I'll try to keep at it.


Anonymous said...

I'm 7:54. Didn't Nifong also lie to Judge Stephens in his courtroom?

JWM said...

Anon @ 4:57,

Nifong's been lying since he took on the case last March in and out of court.

At the time the case was before Stephens the direct contradiction between what he told the court and what Meehan testified to and what Bannon had uncovered had not come to light. That happened in December in Smith's court.

I hope that helps.


JWM said...

Anon @ 7:54,

Something I should have added.

What happened in Smith's court in December made clear that what Nifong had told Smith when he questioned him during the September hearing was false.

Hence the contempt charge drawn on narrow grounds: a brief Q&A between Smith & Nifong in Sept.