(First posted on 6/13/09)
In Apr. 2007 a Raleigh N&O story by investigative reporter Joe Neff told readers it wasn’t until Mar. 24, 2006 that then Durham DA Mike Nifong learned about the Duke lacrosse (DL) case.
In June 2007 at the State Bar trial which led to his disbarment, Nifong testified to the same preposterous story the N&O had published a few months before.
Neff’s & Nifong’s stories have to be false. I’ve explained why in a number of posts. See, for examples, here and here.
If Nifong didn’t learn of the DL case until after his close friend, mentor and predecessor in the DA’s office Judge Ronald Stephens had already signed the “toxic” DL NTO that’s been described an “mammothly unconstitutional,” when did he learn of it?
I’m certain Nifong learned of it on Mar. 14, 2006, just hours after false accuser Crystal Mangum made a series of unbelievable, self-contradicting charges that she’d been robbed, beaten, strangled and gang raped at a party hosted by members of the Duke lacrosse team.
Here are some of the reasons why I’m certain:
As a matter of routine, the Durham Police Department (DPD) quite properly keeps the DA’s office current on cases that may make considerable demands on the time and expertise of the DA office and/or will garner heavy media attention.
The DL case was such a case.
It’s impossible to believe DPD didn’t on Mar. 14 directly inform Nifong and/or a member(s) of his office staff about the charges Mangum made in the early morning hours of that day at Duke Hospital’s ER.
It’s also impossible to believe any member of Nifong’s staff (it then consisted of about 20+ ADAs and 25+ other staffers) who knew about Mangum’s charges, would not have made sure “the boss” knew about them ASAP.
Any DA would want to be informed of such explosive charges that has already led to a police investigation, in response to which he might have to take certain immediate actions if arrests were made that day and about which he might have to respond at immediately if asked about the charges by a member of the press or by a citizen at a public event.
Would any Nifong staffer want “the boss” returning upset on Mar. 14 from a Kiwanis luncheon where he’d just spoken and had to tell the guy who asked during Q&A about “what they say happened last night at Duke Hospital” that he didn’t know what the guy was talking about?
For that matter, would anyone supporting Nifong in the tough primary election battle he was then fighting for the Democratic Party’s DA nomination, considered a sure lock on election in November, not want Nifnong to know ASAP about Mangum’s charges so he’d be prepared for questions?
No, they’d all want Nifong to be able to say to anyone something like:
“If you’re referring to charges a woman made about crimes she alleges happened at a party last night in Trinity Park, there’s obviously a lot I can’t tell you at this time. But I can say I spoke with the police this morning and they’re right now in the process of conducting a full investigation. My office is ready to provide the police any assistance they ask for.”Given he was the DA, it was right and important that Nifong should learn about the DL case on Mar. 14. His campaign situation also made it essential he know then.
What I’ve just said about why Nifong knew about the DL case on Mar. 14 can be classified as some of “the formal reasons” why Nifong knew then.
I want to now lay out some of what can be classified as “informal reasons” why Nifong knew of the case on Mar. 14.
But first, there's a question many of you may be asking right now:
“Why are you so sure he learned of the case on the 14th? Maybe he was out of town then and didn’t learn about it until the 15th or thereafter.”
Nifong may have been out of town on the 14th. I don’t know.
But in our world of email, pagers and cells, he was connected.
DAs, like the rest of us, sometimes want to get away from the job. But they know the nature of their work means they can’t be completely out of touch.
And Nifong had added reason for being reachable on Mar. 14: his tough primary battle.
Now to some of the “informal reasons” why I’m sure Nifong knew about the case on Mar. 14.
By about 7 AM that morning at least a few hundred people in Durham already knew something about Mangum’s extraordinarily explosive charges, with most of them not knowing they were false.
Those people included, of course, the officers directly working the case and Duke ER personnel. They also included brother and sister police officers on duty who learned by various means something of the case as well as non-ER hospital personnel who, for example, would’ve entered the ER area for any of a number of reasons, such as to transport a patient up to a floor.
Around 7 AM shift changes were occurring at Duke Hospital and DPD. Hundreds more began learning from those they were relieving something of what Mangum had said. It was part of their jobs to know what had happened on the shifts they were relieving.
At 8:15 AM the doors of the Durham County Courthouse (pictured here) opened. The Durham Sheriff’s Department has administrative responsibility for the building, including security.
Most court sessions wouldn’t begin before 10 AM. But by 8:30 ADAs, attorneys, courthouse staffers such as bailiffs and secretaries, jurors and prospective jurors were already entering the courthouse.
It’s safe to say most prospective jurors were hoping they’d be in the building just a few hours and wouldn’t be picked for a jury.
It’s also safe to say that by 8:30 the “courthouse regulars” – ADAs, attorneys, DPD and Sheriff officers and others – had started that day’s “buzz.”
The “buzz” in Durham’s courthouse is like the “buzz” in most other county courthouse across America: some of it relates to bond hearings, trials, witness testimony, court calendar scheduling.
A lot of the buzz has to do with seeking and granting small favors: “Will you agree to a trial postponement. I’m just not ready?” and “Judge, can you be sure to hear my client’s bail bond reduction plea before lunchtime? I need to be in Charlotte by 5:30 for dinner and a Hornets game.”
And some of the “buzz” has to do with what’s happened at the Duke ER where many crime victims are taken and where most gunshot wound victims in Durham County are taken.
It’s by keeping up with what’s happened at Duke’s ER that ADAs and criminal defense attorneys often first learn of events involving someone they’ve prosecuted or defended; and whom they might soon be professionally involved with again.
Anything that happened in Duke’s ER involving Crystal Mangum would have gotten lots of “buzz” at the courthouse on Mar. 14.
If Tiger Woods drops in quietly to play a round at a county club near you or Coach K has dinner in a restaurant when a friend of your is eating there, the chances are very good you’re going to hear about both events.
That’s because Woods and Coach K have “star” status.
At the Durham County Courthouse Crystal Mangum’s had “star” status since June 2002.
That’s when she stole a car, drove at high speeds with the car lights off and sometimes in the oncoming lane into the next county to escape a Durham deputy pursuing her; and finally, after he’d cornered her, tried to run the deputy down, in the process damaging his vehicle.
You know the Durham Sheriff’s deputies and DPD officers deal with lots of criminals. But only a very few try to run any of them down.
Here are some things that would have added to the Mar. 14 courthouse “buzz” about Mangum:
The deputy she tried to run down, John Carroll, is still a Durham deputy. He’s sometimes assigned to security at the courthouse and is there at other times to testify.
So most regulars know Carroll as do a great many DPD officers; and among those groups, many also know Carroll as a friend and neighbor.
The attorney who represented Mangum in the car jacking and attempt to run down Carroll is Woody Vann.
Like his criminal defense attorney father Art Vann before him, Woody Vann is a courthouse regular who in Mar. 2006 was long-time friend of Mike Nifong’s. ( I don’t know anything about their current relationship)
But with all the buzzing about Mangum going on at the courthouse, none of it reached Nifong’s ears.
And what about Nifong’s wife Cy Gurney? She’s regional coordinator for NC’s Guardian Ad Litem program. Her office is right across the street from the courthouse. She’s often in the courthouse in connection with her job.
Most courthouse regulars know Cy Gurney. So do many Durham police officers and sheriff’s deputies.
But if we believe the stories Neff and Nifong have told about Nifong only learning of the DL case on Mar. 24 after the NTO had been signed, we have to believe that not only did Cy Gurney not learn about the case on Mar. 14; she didn’t learn about until after Nifong learned about it with his copier “discovery.”
It’s either that, or Gurney did know about the case before Nifong’s copier “discovery,” but somehow didn’t tell her DA husband.
Something else is unbelievable.
It’s that among all the literally hundreds of people including DPD members, his staff, his friends, campaign supporters and members of the courthouse crowd wanting to stay in good favor with him who should have told Nifong or would want to tell Nifong about the case on Mar. 14, not a single one did.
Folks, if we ever learn the full truth of what happened in Durham on Mar. 14, one of the things we’ll learn is that friends, campaign supporters, Trinity Park and Durham “activists” and others who called Nifong’s office on the afternoon of Mar. 14 to “let Mike know about this” were told something like:
“Yes, it is shocking. And he’s known about it since this morning. You know how Mr. Nifong keeps up with things. But I’ll be sure to tell him you called. I know he’ll appreciate it.Note to skeptical: Thanks for posting about and linking at Liestoppers Meeting to my recent posts demonstrating the absurdity of the copier “discovery” story.
I’ll have another post up in a day or two explaining why the copier “discovery” falsehood was created.
I’ll bet you and many others can already guess what I’m going to say: you can’t sustain a complex cover-up involving many people without having lots of cover stories.
After that post I plan to post concerning others involved in the DL case you said I should have commented on before closing down JinC.
I hope you'll continue to comment.
Note to JinC readers: I’ll post again tomorrow afternoon.