Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Durham’s lax frame contributes to probation problems

In today’s Raleigh News & Observer - - -

City Councilman Eugene Brown on Monday night called on the state of North Carolina to get "the will and the wallet" to fix its failure-ridden criminal probation system.

The current system, he said, is "putting our own citizens in harm's way."

During the comment period at the council's regular meeting, Brown praised The News & Observer's recent series on the system, "Losing Track," which revealed that, since 2000, probationers have committed almost 600 homicides.

"Its conclusions were a shock to many, but less so to those in Durham," Brown said. "We have been working on the front line of public safety here in the Bull City for many years, and for many years ... fought to get the governor and the General Assembly ... to pay attention."

Among North Carolina's 100 counties, Wake and Durham have the worst track records for keeping tabs on probationers, The N&O investigation found.

The well-publicized killings of a Duke graduate student and the University of North Carolina student-body president last spring put a spotlight on the probation system. The people accused of the killings in both cases were on probation at the time. …

The entire N&O story’s here.



The N&O’s story fails to point out that for most of the last three years the Durham DA’s office, Durham police, and city officials have wasted huge amounts of time and money that should have gone to improving Durham’s probation system.

Instead of keeping track of probationers and promptly arresting probation violators, we’ve had some prosecutors, police and public officials who instead libeled and slandered members of Duke 2006 Men’s lacrosse team; then attempted to frame three team members for gang rape and other felonies; and then, lest the truth come out, began working a cover-up that continues to this day.

The victims of the Duke/Durham hoax, framing attempt and cover-up have filed massive suits against Durham city and police.

Durham's spending millions to try to squash the suits.

Citizens don’t really know who all the people are who worked the hoax, framing attempt and are working the cover-up. We don’t know why they did those things and have only a partial understanding of how they did them

Ideally, Durham’s City Council would act to settle the suits as soon as possible at the least cost to the taxpayers and with full disclosure of all that happened.

I’m sure that won’t happen.

But can’t the Council at least stop blaming the state for all the probation system problems when it’s failed to lead effectively in fighting crime problems in Durham?

The following is from a Sept. 2006 post: Johnsville’s Questions. Text in plain is from the Johnsville News' post; the text from the ABC report is in italics.

Durham has real problems - gang problems. How are Mike Nifong and the Durham Police Department able to justify in their minds expending the time and effort on prosecuting a hoax against three innocent lacrosse players, when gang violence is erupting in the Durham courthouse? ….

ABC reported:

The first-degree murder trial of 17-year old Calvin Nicholson is on hold. He is accused of gunning down an 18-year-old Hillside High School student on Bacon Street in 2005. Police say it was gang-related.

Tuesday's courthouse melee erupted on the fifth-floor, after key witnesses backed out of the Nicholson trial. They said they were being threatened.

"An incident occurred when information came up that caused people from one courtroom and gang to come to the other courtroom, where members of a rival gang were involved," said Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong.

Durham police are investigating the threats, which are a major challenge in prosecuting gang-related trials.

"You can't really conduct trials in an atmosphere, where there is intimidation of witnesses, or where there is fear that something might happen," Nifong said. "The District Attorney's Office is not equipped to protect witnesses in any situation. There aren't any local witness protection programs, or anything of that nature. The fact is people are to some extent on their own, in terms of their protection." (bold JN)

People are on their own in terms of their protection? So that’s what DA Nifong has given us. Well, at least it’s more truthful than most of what he’s been saying.


Anonymous said...

IMHO given the timing, Nifong's remarks might also have been intended to be heard by potential witnesses in the lax case.

After all, he had arrested Elmo; the police chief's daughter; the boyfriend, girlfriend, and ex-husband of the accuser; had the power to take the accuser's children away; had the power to determine Kim's fate on other charges; etc.

Would he have stopped at notifying them that there was no way he could protect them if they were to testify?

And he might as well have said the same thing to potential jurors.

Anonymous said...

One issue--which is central to the whole question--is why does North Carolina not keep grand jury transcripts? As we saw very clearly in the lacrosse frame, the Durham police officers who testified before the GJ that indicted the players obviously perjured themselves. The AG, Cooper later said "there was no crime" committed against Mangum. If there was no crime, then what was the GJ told to convince them there had been a sexual assault? With no evidence of a crime, the police obviously lied to the GJ. Until the state passes a law requiring GJ transcripts to be made available for legitimate review, police and prosecutors have a license to abuse the system and malicious prosecution cannot be prevented. North Carolina is one of only three states that doesn't maintain transcripts. I have the greatest respect for law enforcement professionals, but there is ample evidence that there are many police and prosecutors out there who game the system for their own advantage. This must end.
Tarheel Hawkeye

Anonymous said...

It is shocking — or should be — that North Carolina still doesn't keep transcripts of grand jury proceedings. This is simply outrageous. Why aren't the governor and the attorney general pushing hard to get this changed?

Anonymous said...

I've gotten exactly nowhere with letters to my representatives in Raleigh. (And Liddy Dole, our soon-to-be former U.S. Senator, didn't even know that the State AG had declared the team members innocent three months after his announcement!) Seems the good ol' boys are reluctant to change their ways of "doin' bidness."
If enough folks would demand change, maybe something would get done. Maybe if some of our newspapers did their danged jobs (Hurled Scum and the infamous N&O), they could bring the problem to the public's attention. They obviously like the way our criminal justice syatem works. Or should I say "Criminal Just Us?"
Tarheel Hawkeye