Saturday, September 08, 2007

Questions for Liestoppers

At Liestoppers today Baldo does his usual wonderful job cartooning Nifong and Joan Foster has a poem that asks what we all ought to be asking Duke's and Durham's leaders:

What's the price for thirty million lies?
Your name disgraced, your face despised?
Nifong, professors, pundits, press...
Baker "stands behind" Crystal's 5-tale mess.
LS has a bumper sticker that says it all about Nifong.

And there are all those Nifong mug shot prints.

But don't let those mug shots stop you.

Be sure to visit and keep scrolling.

Now questions for Liestoppers’ legal team:

If DPD Officer Ben Himan turns state’s evidence and admits he saw someone conspiring with DNA Security owner Brian Meehan to withhold evidence exculpatory for the Duke lacrosse players;

and when Himan’s shown a photo array of 7 mug shots, he immediately points to one and shouts, “That’s the guy; that’s the guy who wanted the evidence kept out of Meehan’s report;”

could the state use Himan’s photo ID to get an indictment even if all 7 photos were of Nifong?

What if the photo “lineup” had been approved by Durham City Manager Patrick Baker and DPD Deputy Chief Ron Hodge? Would that make a difference?

Also, would it make a difference if the Durham City Council and Duke’s senior administrators and Board of Trustees all knew about the ID setup and raised no objection to it?

Could Nifong later bring a suit, claiming he’d been framed?

Please take your time before answering. The last thing Durham needs is another rush to judgment, racism and criminality.

The last one led to monumental injustices and has already cost the city and state millions, with some of the biggest bills for investigative travesties and crimes committed yet to be paid.

Nifong To Prison? I Think So

Press reports say when he left jail today after serving a one day sentence for criminal contempt involving lying in court, disgraced and disbarred former Durham DA Mike Nifong “ thanked the jail staff for 'the professionalism of which I was treated and the respect which I was shown.’” The entire story is here.

I think it's very likely Nifong will get another chance to thank professionals who keep him incarcerated.

Why do I say that?

I’ll start my answer by reposting Cheshire's News; JinC Comments which was posted May 19. The post ends at the star line, after which I’ll offer some commentary concerning events since May 19 that make it even more likely than it was on May 19 that Nifong will go to prison.

Now let's start with Cheshire's News; JinC Comments

News from Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle:

A six-page internal report on the Durham Police Department's conduct during the lacrosse case has left some calling for an external investigation. …

"I would not be surprised if [an independent investigation] would uncover conduct that was criminal in nature as it relates to obstruction of justice and creation of evidence," Joe Cheshire, an attorney for Evans, wrote in an e-mail. …
Commentary from JinC:

Some people reading Cheshire’s statement may be saying: “What else is new? I’ve been saying that for months.”

Yes, haven’t we all. But only one of us could possibly be Joe Cheshire, one of North Carolina’s most experienced and best criminal defense and appellate attorneys, and certainly its best known.

When in reference to the Durham Police investigation, Cheshire says publicly and in a written document that he “would not be surprised if [an independent investigation] would uncover conduct that was criminal in nature as it relates to obstruction of justice and creation of evidence,” what he’s really saying it he feels very sure it will.

At this point, with his client David Evans out of legal jeopardy and actually declared innocent along with Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, Cheshire can only hurt his reputation if he makes such serious charges and they’re not sustained.

Cheshire will also damage his working relationships with honest law enforcement personnel (there are many) if they view him as irresponsibly throwing charges at crime investigators and police.

Cheshire knows all of that, and he doesn’t want to hurt his reputation and working relationships he’s worked very hard to build. He's also a fair person who doesn't cheap-shot.

So we can be very confident Cheshire feels sure criminal acts were committed by members of the Nifong/DPD “team;” and that it can and will be proven to the public beyond a reasonable doubt that the Nifong/DPD “team” committed those crimes.

That, to me, makes The Chronicle’s Cheshire news item hugely important.

What do you think?

The Chronicle story is here.

Now let's look at some of what's happened since May 19.

Nifong admitted during a July 26 apology in court to the players and their families that there never was any evidence of the players' guilt.

Yes, he subsequently went back on that admission during his contempt trial Aug. 30 & 31, but his doing that only adds to his reputation as a chronic liar. Being known as a chronic liar isn't a crime, but it makes it tougher for you to defend yourself when you're accused of crimes and try to convince a jury: "I didn't do any of that stuff. Honest, I didn't."

Also, the brief defense attorneys prepared for Nifong's contempt trial, depositions and contempt trial testimony, all strengthen the case that Nifong's conduct during the "investigation" was criminal.

And, of course, there was Judge Smith's finding at the conclusion of the trial as reported by the AP:
Reading his decision from the bench minutes after the end of two days of testimony, Judge Smith said Mr. Nifong "willfully made false statements" in September when he insisted he had given the defense all results from a critical DNA test.
If a prosecutor "willfully" makes "false statements" to a court regarding a case in which he was the de facto lead investigator as well as the prosecutor, it's hard to see how he could not have committed crimes in addition to criminal contempt of court.

And how many times during his live blogging of the trial did KC Johnson call attention to statements other witnesses made that contradicted statements Nifong made?

Now add in the recent request then interim Durham DA Jim Hardin made that the NC Attorney General launch a criminal investigation of the Nifong-led "Duke lacrosse investigation."

What does it tell us that Hardin, the man who in 2005 recommended Nifong succeed him as DA, now recommends a criminal investigation of the Duke lacrosse case after he's had many weeks to study the case file?

It's not 100% certain that Nifong will be convicted of crimes, sentenced, and wind up spending time behind bars.

But it's all very likely to happen. Nifong had to do an awful lot criminal to indict three innocent young men on multiple felonies when he had no real evidence (recall Cheshire's term "creation of evidence").

Nifong then had to do an awful lot criminal to cover-up what he did to get the fraudulent indictments.

I'm betting and hoping Nifong goes to prison for what he did. And I wouldn't rule out that he'll be convicted of both state and federal crimes.

What do you folks think?

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Churchill Series – Sept. 7, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

In August 1941 Churchill sailed on HMS Prince of Wales to Placentia Bay, Newfoundland where met with President Roosevelt. On his way, Churchill had a chance to do some recreational reading.

In Chasing Churchill: The Travels of Winston Churchill (Carroll & Graf, 2003), his granddaughter, Celia Sandys, says:

For relaxing reading, he had a copy of C. S. Forester’s naval adventure Captain Hornblower which had been given to him by Oliver Lyttelton, the Minister of State in Cairo.

When radio restrictions were briefly lifted he sent Lyttelton the message: “Hornblower admirable.”

This caused consternation among the staff at Middle East Headquarters, who vainly searched their files for an operation code-named “Hornblower,” on which they thought they were being complimented. (p. 141)
I hope you all have an admirable weekend and are back on Monday.


Fun with Hill & Bill

With his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, Chicago Tribune columnist Bill Kass begins:

After his latest stunt, who can doubt that former President Bill Clinton is the smartest, craftiest fellow in the history of American politics?

For months, most of America -- myself included -- has been avoiding a question of national importance. It's the big Bill question:

What do we call Bill should his wife, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Hsu), win the presidential election, allowing Bill to romp about the White House once again?

Clinton answered it on Oprah Winfrey's show.

He now wants to be called the First Laddie.

"My Scottish friends say I should be called 'First Laddie' because it's the closest thing to 'First Lady'," he joked with Winfrey on her program the other day.

Oprah, surprise, surprise, is backing U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Rezko/Daley.)

"I'm not so worried about what I'm called as what I'm called upon to do," said Clinton.

He's not the only one who's worried. I figure half the Democrats and most Republicans are worried, too. . . .
I don’t know about First Laddie. I’m still waiting for him to tell us what is is.

The rest of Kass's column is here.

Pricing Durham Suits

At we read:

Three former Duke lacrosse players are asking the city of Durham for $30 million to stave off a civil suit, two media outlets reported today, citing unnamed sources. …

Barry Scheck, representing former player Reade Seligmann, and Brendan Sullivan Jr., representing David Evans and Collin Finnerty, seek $10 million for each of their clients, according to the reports. …

If Durham does decided to settle, $30 million would well outstrip the city's $5 million liability insurance policy. Taxpayers would be on the hook for the remaining $25 million. …
The entire article is here.

Now, folks, let’s do a little “suit pricing.” The “prices” won’t be exact, but they’ll give you a good idea of what these suits may cost.

Durham City has a population of a little more than 200,000.

Divide $1 million by 200, 000 and it comes to $5.00.

Multiply $5.00 by 25 and you get $125.00.

So if there was a $30 million settlement and the Durham taxpayers had to pick up $25 million of it, that would come to a cost of $125.00 for every man, woman and child in Durham.

For a family of 4, that’s $500.00.

But wait, there’s lots more.

If a 30 million settlement is reached and insurance picks up $5 million of that, the taxpayers may wind up paying a lot more than $25 million.


Well, for one thing, it’s not clear from the news reports whether the $30 million allegedly being requested includes the players’ attorneys’ fees. If it does not, the cost to taypayers could be much greater.

It’s certain Durham taxpayers will have to at least foot the bill for the city’s costs for negotiating and possibly defending the city employees – certain police officers, their supervisors, city manager Patrick Baker, and others – whose travesties and very possibly crimes made civil rights violation suits a very real possibility.

And remember this: the three young men Sullivan and Scheck represent aren’t the only victims grossly abused by Durham city employees. There will certainly be other suits.

Most of what the suits will be about concern matters, which, when they became publicly known, drew no scorn or demands for correction from Durham’s leaders.

On the contrary, our elected officials, our civic and religious leaders and Bob Ashley’s Durham Herald Sun either cheered Nifong and DPD on or turned their heads in craven silence.

Ashley has recently tried to direct public anger at the victims for exercising their right to seek compensation for the deliberate and monumental harms done them. If Durhamites follow Ashley’s lead, they’ll prove themselves suckers; and venal ones at that.

What Durham’s public needs to do now is start directing questions at our leaders.

For example, when the fraudulent April 4 lineup became public knowledge last year, why did not one city counsel member call for an immediate investigation of what attorneys, journalists such as Stuart Taylor, bloggers such as KC Johnson, and scholars such as Thomas Sowell and James Coleman were all saying was a fraud.

I'm sure you can think of many other questions.

And we all know there's much more to come on all of this.

Stay tuned. We're going to learn a lot we don't yet know.

Cheshire's Nifong Jest

With Mike Nifong going to jail this morning, I recalled something from the June 14 Durham Herald Sun’s account of testimony and releated events at his disbarment trial the previous day.:

[One of David Evans' defense attorneys , Brad Bannon,] criticized Nifong's inflammatory pre-trial statements. They included telling the news media that "one would wonder why one needs an attorney if one was not charged and had not done anything wrong." ...

Fellow Evans attorney Joe Cheshire said if he were questioning the Durham prosecutor, he would ask, " 'Who are those two people sitting with you, Mr. Nifong?' He would answer, 'They're my lawyers.' "

Cheshire said he'd remind Nifong of that pre-trial remark about not needing an attorney when innocent and ask, "What is going on here?"
What Nifong did was terrible. I hope today isn't the only time he goes to jail.

But recalling Cheshire's jest, I can't help smiling.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Churchill Series – Sept. 6, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Here’s another anecdote from Dominique Enright’s The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill (O’Mara Books, 2001). As with any story which begins, “According to legend,” the usual cautions apply:

According to legend, during the late 1920s or early 1930s, at a time when Churchill was speaking out against those who argued that the League of Nations and the power of civilized negotiation would secure peace, and calling for greater expenditure on defense, he addressed the St. George Society.

His theme was how a contemporary St. George would save a maiden from the dragon.
“St George would be accompanied, not by a horse, but by a delegation. He would be armed not with a lance, but by a secretariat … he would propose a conference with the dragon – a Round Table conference – no doubt that would be more convenient for the dragons’s tail.

Then after making a trade agreement with the dragon, St. George would lend the dragon a lot of money.”
[Churchill] continued in this vein for a bit, until: “The [question of the] maiden’s release would be referred to the League of Nations of Geneva, and finally St. George would be photographed with the dragon.”
In fact, Churchill was for many years a supporter of the League of Nations. His principal disappointments were its failure to use international power to enforce its good intentions and its failure to face up to dictators bent on conquest. The two failures, of course, went hand-in-hand.

“At Duke, the Massacre of Innocence”

In today’s Wall Street Journal scholar and public intellectual Abigail Thernstrom, reviews Stuart Tayor and KC Johnson’s Until Proven Innocent.

A senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Thernstrom has a deep respect for the traditions of civil discourse and truth-seeking which once served as the guide stars for our college and university faculties.

Her review, “At Duke, the Massacre of Innocence,” follows in full, after which I offer a few comments under the double star line.

Now Thernstrom - - - - -

Privileged, rowdy white jocks at an elite, Southern college, a poor, young black stripper, and an alleged rape: It was a juicy, made-for-the-media story of race, class and sex, and it was told and retold for months with a ferocious, moralistic intensity.

Reporters and pundits ripped into Duke University, the white race and the young lacrosse players at the center of the episode, and the local justice system quickly handed down indictments. But as Stuart Taylor Jr. and KC Johnson show in " Until Proven Innocent" -- and as the facts themselves would show when they finally came to light -- it was a false story, a toxic controversy built on lies and bad faith.

There was plenty of wrongdoing, of course, but it had very little to do with Duke's lacrosse players. It was perpetrated instead by a rogue district attorney determined to win re-election in a racially divided, town-gown city; ideologically driven reporters and their pseudo-expert sources; censorious faculty members driven by the imperatives of political correctness; a craven university president; and black community leaders seemingly ready to believe any charge of black victimization.

"Until Proven Innocent" is a stunning book. It recounts the Duke lacrosse case in fascinating detail and offers, along the way, a damning portrait of the institutions -- legal, educational and journalistic -- that do so much to shape contemporary American culture. Messrs. Taylor and Johnson make it clear that the Duke affair -- the rabid prosecution, the skewed commentary, the distorted media storyline -- was not some odd, outlier incident but the product of an elite culture's most treasured assumptions about American life, not least about America's supposed racial divide.

A bit of college-age stupidity triggered the sequence of events. The co-captains of the Duke lacrosse team held a house party in Durham, N.C., on March 13, 2006, and hired two strippers from an escort service for the occasion. The women who showed up -- Crystal Mangum and Kim Roberts -- happened to be black.

It turned out that Ms. Mangum -- although the public would not learn of such details until very late in the life-span of the scandal -- had a serious alcohol and narcotics problem. She had been diagnosed as bipolar and had spent a week in the state mental hospital the previous summer.

Having arrived at the party late, she did not start dancing until midnight. Time-stamped photos show that her performance lasted only four minutes. By 12:30 she had passed out, as she often did -- it was later discovered -- at the Durham night club where she worked as an "exotic dancer."

The other dancer, Ms. Roberts, eventually drove her to a grocery store and asked for help, and the security guard there called the police, who assumed that Ms. Mangum was "passed-out drunk."

In the custody of police, Ms. Mangum said nothing about a rape. (Ms. Roberts called the rape charge a "crock" when she first heard of it, until District Attorney Michael Nifong bribed her to say otherwise by reducing a bondsman's fee -- from an earlier conviction -- by roughly $2,000.)

Ms. Mangum, fearing recommitment to a mental hospital, landed on rape as the explanation for her incoherent and generally woeful condition when she was prompted by a nurse-advocate at a mental-health processing facility. There was no medical evidence to substantiate the charge.

In a series of interviews with prosecutors, Ms. Mangum drew wildly different and implausible pictures of the alleged rape. DNA tests from swabs taken the night of the incident revealed that she had had recent sexual contact with as many as four men, none of whom were Duke lacrosse players. Defense lawyers discovered this damning detail only after combing through more than 1,800 pages of documents released by the district attorney months after the testing was done.

The DNA cover-up was only one of the procedural travesties that eventually cost Mr. Nifong his job and law license and (last week) earned him a one-day jail sentence.

In two photo-identification lineups, Ms. Mangum couldn't identify anyone as her rapist. On a third try -- before which Mr. Nifong announced to her that all the photos that she was about to see were of Duke lacrosse players -- she suddenly fingered three: David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann.

It was apparently of no consequence to Mr. Nifong that the lineup violated basic departmental rules and that none of the men she identified bore the slightest resemblance to the descriptions she had given police.

Time-stamped photos -- at the party and at an ATM -- along with cellphone and taxi records showed indisputably that Mr. Seligmann could not have participated in the 30-minute, three-orifice gang rape and vicious beating of which Ms. Mangum accused the three players.

Messrs. Evans and Finnerty did not have such air-tight alibis, but each cooperated fully with the police, even offering to take lie-detector tests, and there was not a shred of evidence against them.

The district attorney branded the defendants as "hooligans," but others -- like Messrs. Taylor and Johnson here -- described them in glowing terms, as earnest, hard-working students.

The state attorney general -- after an agonizing yearlong investigation, culminating in Mr. Nifong's removal from the case -- determined in April 2007 that Messrs. Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann were innocent of all charges. Nothing -- absolutely nothing -- had happened at the party.

The players' innocence had been apparent to their own attorneys from the outset. It should have been apparent to Mr. Nifong, too, given all the exculpatory details he knew. But he was desperate to win a close primary election and needed black votes, so he proceeded with an unjustified prosecution and publicly vilified innocent young men.

In this fundamental injustice, he was aided and abetted by others in Durham. Richard Brodhead, the president of Duke, condemned the lacrosse players as if they had already been found guilty, demanded the resignation of their coach and studiously ignored the mounting evidence that Ms. Mangum's charge was false. He was clearly terrified of the racial and gender activists on his own faculty.

Houston Baker, a noted professor of English, called the lacrosse players "white, violent, drunken men veritably given license to rape," men who could "claim innocence . . . safe under the cover of silent whiteness."

Protesters on campus and in the city itself waved "castrate" banners, put up "wanted" posters and threatened the physical safety of the lacrosse players.

The vitriolic rhetoric of the faculty and Durham's "progressive" community -- including the local chapter of the NAACP -- helped to intensify the scandal and stoke the media fires.

The New York Times' coverage was particularly egregious, as Messrs. Taylor and Johnson vividly show. It ran dozens of prominent stories and "analysis" articles trying to plumb the pathologies of the lacrosse players and of a campus culture that allowed swaggering white males to prey on poor, defenseless young black women.

As one shrewd Times alumnus later wrote: "You couldn't invent a story so precisely tuned to the outrage frequency of the modern, metropolitan, bienpensant journalist." Such Nifong allies -- unlike the district attorney himself -- paid no price for their shocking indifference to the truth.

Thernstrom liked the book, didn’t she? That’s a great recommendation. She’s a tough-minded person with high standards.

Sure, Until Proven Innocent speaks to her concerns about the erosion of the Academy’s traditional values and the growing disregard for the rights of certain groups at the expense of other groups carrying PC “seals of approval.”

But unless Thernstrom thought the book was well-done and made a compelling case, it wouldn’t have received such praise.

I think the key paragraph in Thernstrom’s review is this one:

"Until Proven Innocent" is a stunning book. It recounts the Duke lacrosse case in fascinating detail and offers, along the way, a damning portrait of the institutions -- legal, educational and journalistic -- that do so much to shape contemporary American culture. Messrs. Taylor and Johnson make it clear that the Duke affair -- the rabid prosecution, the skewed commentary, the distorted media storyline -- was not some odd, outlier incident but the product of an elite culture's most treasured assumptions about American life, not least about America's supposed racial divide.
There are a few errors in the review. Nifong didn't tell Mangum the ID lineup was stacked. He told the cops to do the stacking, and they told Mangum what they'd done. Also, Mangum picked four players, not three.

Final comment: Thernstrom called Houston Baker "a noted professor of English." Instead of "noted," I wish she'd said "notorious."

The NC AG in Durham?

Durham Herald Sun’s reported :

Durham County Interim District Attorney Jim Hardin has asked state officials to determine whether current or former government officials should face criminal prosecution over their handling of the Duke lacrosse case.

The request was confirmed Wednesday by Noelle Talley, spokeswoman for state Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Potential targets include anyone who acted "under the color of law enforcement," meaning former District Attorney Mike Nifong and an array of people in the Durham Police Department.
I’ve already posted once tonight on the H-S story here.

That post was all reporting.

Now, some brief commentary with more to follow tomorrow - - -

I obviously don’t know whether NC Attorney General Roy Cooper will agree to launch a criminal investigation.

I think it’s likely he will, but there may be one or more law or procedure-based reason(s) why his office would not.

Regardless of which way the AG decides, what makes tonight’s story so important is this: Hardin’s request helps “push” the investigation of criminal activity during the Duke lacrosse “investigation” away from Durham “authorities” such as city manager Patrick Baker, who praised what Nifong and Durham police did during the Duke lacrosse “investigation.”

If AG Cooper says, “My office agrees with Hardin’s request. We’ll take the case,” then you have the same investigative office looking into criminal activity that looked into Nifong and DPD’s “investigation” and declared the players “innocent” and found Nifong to be “a rogue prosecutor.”

I don’t have any problem with an investigation of criminal activity in the case going from Hardin’s office to Cooper’s.

If, on the other hand, Cooper feels he has to say, “No,” what do we have?

We have a situation where there are possible civil rights suits pending. They’d be filed by some of the best known attorneys in the country. What’s more, the situation involves a former DA who’s been disbarred and found guilty of criminal contempt; and a current interim DA who’s just asked the state to step in and launch a criminal investigation into the conduct of the disgraced DA and others.

If the state has to pass on Hardin’s request, what he’s done, and the circumstances that led him to do it, has surely added to the pressure on the Feds to come to Durham.

So whichever way Cooper decides, Hardin’s request today moves us further down the road to understanding what was done in an attempt to frame three innocent young men as well as what has been done, and is still being done, in an ongoing conspiracy to cover-up the frame-up.

I’m sure even Durham’s city manager, Patrick Baker, himself an attorney, will tell you that, provided you catch him in an honest moment.

But if you plan on doing that, be quick.

Moving on –

I know many of you think attorneys Scheck and Sullivan coming to Durham today on behalf of the young man some people here worked hard to frame while our city’s leaders looked on may have had something to do with Hardin’s request.

Well, so do I.

But that doesn’t change anything else I said in this post.

It's a big step forward that Hardin, who recommended Nifong to succeed him as DA, today recommended the state AG launch a criminal investigation of Nifong and others acting under “color of law?”

Let’s all stay at it. There much more that needs to be done.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Churchill Series – Sept. 5, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

I think it’s been a year or more since I used Dominique Enright’s The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill (Michael O’Mara Books, 2001). The book has much to recommend it, but it doesn’t cite sources. And it frankly tells the readers that certain of its Churchill stories are “generally attributed to him” and “according to one telling of the incident.”

So, Readers, beware!

With that caution in mind, here’s an anecdote that sounds just like Our Man:

A few years before the outbreak of the First World War, Churchill was at a diplomatic reception. An Italian military attaché asked a Luxembourgeois diplomat about a medal he was wearing. “It’s an ancient order called the Royal Admiralty Cross,” the diplomat replied stiffly.

After he had stalked off, the Italian turned to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, and remarked how odd it was that Luxembourg should have this when it did not even have a navy.

“Why shouldn’t they have an admiralty?” Churchill answered cheerfully. “You in Italy, after all, have a minister of finance – yet you don’t have a treasury!”(p. 118)
Smile when you can. Churchill always did.

Durham DA Asks State Investigation

The Durham Herald Sun is reporting tonight:

Durham County Interim District Attorney Jim Hardin has asked state officials to determine whether current or former government officials should face criminal prosecution over their handling of the Duke lacrosse case.

The request was confirmed Wednesday by Noelle Talley, spokeswoman for state Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Potential targets include anyone who acted "under the color of law enforcement," meaning former District Attorney Mike Nifong and an array of people in the Durham Police Department.

Hardin's request surfaced Wednesday, as attorneys for exonerated lacrosse players David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann were meeting with Durham officials to discuss a potential federal civil rights lawsuit against the city.

The three players were indicted last year on what Cooper eventually ruled were false charges of rape, sexual assault and kidnapping.

The subsequent fallout has included Nifong's disbarment, resignation and last week conviction on a charge of criminal contempt, all stemming from his attempts to hide exculpatory evidence from the players' defense team.

North Carolina law authorizes only a sitting DA, a sheriff, police officers or judges to request an investigation by State Bureau of Investigation.

Cooper's office is reviewing Hardin's request, said Talley.

Talley couldn't say who was reviewing the request or when the review might be completed.

Hardin said it would be inappropriate for him to comment.
Folks, you know this story is huge. I’ll comment later tonight and again tomorrow.

For now a little info about “color of law” ---

From Law.Com dictionary:
color of law

n. the appearance of an act being performed based upon legal right or enforcement of statute, when in reality no such right exists.

An outstanding example is found in the civil rights acts which penalize law enforcement officers for violating civil rights by making arrests "under color of law" of peaceful protesters or to disrupt voter registration.

It could apply to phony traffic arrests in order to raise revenue from fines or extort payoffs to forget the ticket.
And this from the FBI’s Miami-based Civil Rights Program website [excerpt]
An official would violate the color of law statute by fabricating evidence against or conducting a false arrest of an individual. That person's rights of due process and unreasonable seizure have been violated.

In the case of deprivation of property, the official would violate the color of saw statute by unlawfully obtaining or maintaining the property of another.

In that case, the official has overstepped or misapplied his authority. […]
At the Miami FBI site we also find this:
The public entrusts its law enforcement officials with protecting the community. If it is shown that an official willfully failed to keep an individual from harm that official could be in violation of the color of law statute.
As the public considers what might happen as a result of interim DA Hardin’s request, we here in Durham can recall that our City Manager, Patrick Baker, has always praised our police force for its handling of the Duke lacrosse case.

Baker is an attorney.

The entire H-S story is here.

More later.

There’s a War Going On

A while back Democratic presidential nominee candidate John Edwards chided President Bush for using what Edwards said was a “bumper sticker slogan:” War on Terror

Now this just off the AP wire:

Three suspected Islamic terrorists from an al-Qaida-influenced group nursing "profound hatred of U.S. citizens" were arrested on suspicious of plotting imminent, massive bomb attacks on U.S. facilities in Germany, prosecutors said Wednesday.

A senior State Department official said German investigators had determined the Frankfurt International Airport and the nearby U.S. Ramstein Air Base were the primary targets of the plot but that those arrested may have also been considering strikes on other sites, particularly facilities associated with the United States.

It was the second time in as many days that European officials said they had thwarted a major attack, following the arrest by Danish authorities on Tuesday of eight alleged Islamic militants with links to senior al-Qaida terrorists.

It also comes less than a week before the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

German Federal Prosecutor Monika Harms said the three suspects, two of whom were German converts to Islam, had trained at camps in Pakistan run by the Islamic Jihad Union, a group based in Central Asia. They had obtained some 1,500 pounds of hydrogen peroxide for making explosives.

"We were able to succeed in recognizing and preventing the most serious and massive bombings," Harms told reporters. She declined to name specific targets, but said the suspects had an eye on institutions and establishments frequented by Americans in Germany, including discos, pubs and airports […]
Edwards should stick to the things he knows: haircuts and building himself and his family a 28, 000 sq. ft. house.

There’s a War on Terror going on even if many Dems, liberals and leftists won't admit it.

It’s a war that has to be fought and won unless we want to lose Western Civilization of which America is the leading defender.

The entire AP story is here.

“Democracy & Journalists:” Nothing So Far

Back on August 22 I sent American Journalism Review editor Rem Rieder an email. A copy of that email is included in the post below which I first published on August 22.

As you may recall if you read the email then or as you’ll see if you read it now, I promised Rieder I’d publish his response in full.

I also promised to keep you informed.

So far I’ve heard nothing back from Rieder. I’m about to send him the email you find following the double starline at the end of this post.

Let’s hope we get a response this time.


Democracy & Journalists - August 22, 2007

Rem Rieder, editor and senior vice president of American Journalism Review, is worried about the decline in newspaper readership and the consequent decline in what he calls “large armies of [MSM] reporters.”

In Sunday’s Raleigh News & Observer Rieder tells us why he thinks we should worry too:

Here's why: democracy.

An informed electorate is critical to democracy. And providing that information properly is expensive. It requires a lot of reporting firepower. And large reporting staffs tend to be fielded by newspapers.
I decided to send Rieder the following electronic letter.

Rem Rieder, Editor and Senior Vice President
American Journalism Review

Dear Editor Rieder:

I blog at John in Carolina where I report and comment concerning MSM news organizations, particularly the Raleigh News & Observer.

I read your opinion column in Sunday’s Raleigh N&O. I’ve also listened to an audio tape of the May 22 National Press Club’s Duke lacrosse newsmakers forum at which you served as a panelist.

In your N&O column you noted the vital link between journalists and democracy.

I agree. Honest and accurate news reporting enables democracy as surely as dishonest and inaccurate reporting destroys it.

With that in mind, I’d like to ask you some questions concerning your response and the audience’s response to statements N&O investigative reporter Joseph (Joe) Neff made when he served with you as a panelist at the press club forum. I transcribed Neff’s statements in question from an audio purchased from the club. (Purchase information is in this post.)

Neff said:
“One of the things that I think really helped our paper throughout this story is we have a really strict policy against the use of anonymous sources and we did not use a single anonymous source or unnamed source in our – uh – I think as of now we’ve written 541 articles by – with at least 19 different bylines on it and what that (Neff pauses)

It was really frustrating in the initial couple of weeks when it was so competitive and no other newspaper and no other radio or TV station felt compelled to – they were going with 'sources close to the prosecution' or 'we have learned' or 'Nightline has found out' and they would just put stuff out there.

Now some of it we knew because we were told off the record, but we won’t use it, but some of it was absolute nonsense –ah – ah – so it allowed us to get beat on some very small things, but in general by not using anonymous sources, we were really saved – ah – from putting some –ah- some bad stuff in the paper.”
(Moderator moves to another matter)
Could there have been more than one or two journalists at the forum who didn’t know the N&O story which launched witch hunt and media frenzy, Dancer gives details of ordeal , was based on an anonymous source interview?

The N&O’s Duke lacrosse reporting relied on so many anonymous and/or unnamed sources ( Is there a difference?) that three weeks after the “Dancer … ordeal” story appeared, the N&O published a story, Mother, dancer, accuser , identifying its sources as “former classmates and neighbors, friends and family members.”

The N&O even published on April 2, 2006 a photo of a “Vigilante” poster which it obtained from an anonymous source.

I felt sure you’d call Neff’s statements to his attention and invite him to correct or clarify them.

But you said nothing?

Why not?

The current issue of the American Journalism Review contains your managing editor, Rachel Smolkin’s, 8,000 word critique of media coverage of the Duke lacrosse case. It includes the following:
[N&O executive editor for news Melanie] Sill's reporters also watched in frustration as national media vied for their sources. "It was a messy story, and the outside media coverage, especially the cable television shows, the presence of every national media outlet here, made it much harder to report," she says. "People we would normally just go interview were having press conferences, or wouldn't talk, or would only talk in a leaking situation." But top editors told the staff that quoting unnamed sources was unacceptable.
Why, Editor Rieder, did AJR tell its readers “top [N&O] editors told the staff that quoting unnamed sources was unacceptable” without also telling them the N&O repeatedly used such sources?

Will you issue a prominent correction?

Press club staffers told me there was “very good attendance” at the forum and that almost everyone there had press credentials.

Yet during the Q&A no one asked Neff about his statements, which just about everyone had to know were false.

I’d have thought the last place someone could make a series of false statements and not be called on them was the National Press Club.

Am I naïve?

Lest you tell me to contact Neff and ask him to correct or clarify, I’ve done that repeatedly (See here, here and here ). He's responded by saying I’d have to disclose who I am before he’d even talk to me.

Thank you for your attention to this letter. I look forward to your response.


John in Carolina


Dear Editor Rieder:

This is a follow-up to the email I sent you August 22. You’ll find it in this link:

I understand my email concerns matters that must be painful to you both as an editor and as someone who frequently lecturers on journalism ethicists.

But I believe you’ll agree your professional position and concern with journalism ethics enables you to respond to the contents of the email in a way that illustrates for readers how a journalist can strengthen democracy by correcting errors.

I renew my offer to publish your response in full at my blog.

I look forward to your response.


John in Carolina

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Churchill Series – Sept. 4, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Readers Note: Over the weekends I received emails from a few people who learned about this series when they “found” old series posts. I’d be curious to know if those folks are looking in today. All they need do is leave a brief comment at the end of this post.



In Martin Gilbert’s Churchill and America (Free Press, 2005) we read:

In the summer of 1938, when [ American financier and unofficial presidential advisor] Barnard Baruch visited Chartwell, he brought encouraging news with regard to the European crisis.

Churchill passed this on to Clementine. “The President is breast-high on our side and will do everything in his power to help, “ he wrote. In addition, “Baruch admitted opinion in the States had never yet been so friendly to us.”

There was, however, a limit to what the United States would do. “It is a great pity matters cannot be carried further now.”

Churchill added: “Apparently, you always have to have a disaster before anything sensible can be done which would prevent it.”(p. 166)
The European crisis Gilbert mentions was, of course, Hitler’s demand that a portion of Czechoslovakia, the Sudetenland, be handed over to Germany. On September 29, 1938, Britain agreed at the Munich Conference to Hitler’s demand.

In the months and years before Munich very little that Churchill then and history now would recognize as sensible was done to stop Hitler.

Churchill’s letter to Clemetine was written July 5, 1938.

The excerpts you’re just read begin Chapter 17 of Churchill and America. Gilbert titled the chapter: Road to War.

Taylor/KC on GMA Today

I missed Stuart Taylor & KC Johnson’s appearance on Good Morning America today but thanks to a lead from Macd at Liestoppers forum I viewed the interview tape here (it’s in the upper right hand corner).

If you missed the interview live, I hope you view the tape.

Here are three interview quotes followed by my comments in italics.

KC on why he got interested in the case:

“I had no connection to Duke. I didn’t even know Duke had a lacrosse team. But even before there were indictments – well before there were indictments – 88 professors at Duke came out with a public statement saying unequivocally something happened to the accuser; and thanking protestors who had carried a “CASTRATE” banner.

This was such an extraordinary betrayal of what professors are supposed to do. They’re supposed to stand up for due process. They’re supposed to stand up for the dispassionate evaluation of evidence.

And what we had here were professors who were exploiting their own students' difficulties for their own agenda.”

KC’s bang on. He could have added that to date Duke’s President, Richard H. Brodhead, has said nothing critical of the 88 professors.

For that matter, Brodhead’s never said anything critical of those who rallied under the “CASTRATE” banner or of others who a few days later circulated copies of the infamous “Vigilante” poster targeting white Duke students. That was done within sight of Brodhead’s office windows.

As a summary question, the interviewer asked: “What is the lesson here?"

KC responded:

“This was the highest profile case of prosecutorial misconduct to unfold before our eyes in American history.

Groups that we think of as defenders of due process and opponents of this kind of behavior – liberals in the media, leftists in the academy, civil rights organizations – especially in North Carolina – not only didn’t protest against Mike Nifong’s behavior, they gleefully embraced it."

I reacted to KC's statement with a “yes” and a “no.”

Yes, it’s depressing that so many of the people who identify with such groups and most of the groups which fall within those categories embraced Nifong and what he was doing. It’s also a wake-up call for any of us wishing to preserve democracy in America.

But no, I don’t think of the groups KC mentions as defenders of due process and opponents of the kind of prosecutorial conduct Nifong manifested; at least not when such prosecutorial conduct fits their agendas. And an awful lot of American’s don’t, either.

Who really expected the liberal media to give the Duke lacrosse players fair treatment?

The thing that really surprised fair-minded people when they began to learn the truth was not that the players hadn't gotten fair treatment from most of the media, but just how far almost all the liberal media had gone in distorting the truth, attacking the players and encouraging Nifong and the DPD investigative travesty. That's another wake-up call.

As for what we call “civil rights organizations” - the NAACP, Jesse Jackson’s PUSH and the like – they're really special interest advocacy groups. Did anyone expect them to look out for the civil rights of white males?

Stuart Taylor at the very end of the interview referring to David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, said:

We got to know these kids and their families very well. They are wonderful kids.

I doubt Brodhead, Nifong and the Group of 88 know that even now.


Again, in you missed Taylor and Johnson this morning you can catch them here (upper right hand corner).

Also, on the same page you can read the first chapter of Until Proven Innocent.

Pick the Duke Prof

Below are excerpts from two quite different statements which two African American scholars made last Spring in response to what was then called the “Duke lacrosse rape scandal.”

Your job is to pick which of the two scholars was a Duke Prof at the time the statements were made.

Once you’re read the excerpts and made your selection, I’ll identify the then Duke Prof and tell you a little about each scholar.

Scholar 1 excerpt:

Prosecutors are not just supposed to prosecute. They are supposed to prosecute the right people in the right way. In this case, prosecutor Michael Nifong has proceeded in the wrong way. ….

A lineup should include not only people suspected of a crime but also other people, so that it tests whether the accuser or witness can tell the difference, and is therefore credible.

But the stripper who claimed to have been raped by members of the Duke lacrosse team was presented with a lineup consisting exclusively of photographs of members of the lacrosse team.

In other words, whoever she picked out had to be a lacrosse player and would be targeted, with no test whatever of her credibility, because there was no chance for her to pick out somebody who had no connection with the team or the university. …

When a prosecutor acts like he has made up his mind and doesn't want to be confused by the facts, that is when the spirit of the lynch mob has entered the legal system.

When this happens on the eve of an election for the prosecutor, it looks even uglier.
Thank you, Scholar 1.

Now, are you ready for the Scholar 2 excerpt? OK, here’s goes:
[In] a forthrightly ethical setting with an avowed commitment to life-enhancing citizenship, such a violent and irresponsible group [as the lacrosse team] would scarcely be spirited away, or sheltered under the protection of pious sentiments such as "deplorable" - a judgment that reminds us of Miss Ophelia in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, saying that slavery was "perfectly horrible." …

The lacrosse team - 15 of whom have faced misdemeanor charges for drunken misbehavior in the past three years - may well feel they can claim innocence and sport their disgraced jerseys on campus, safe under the cover of silent whiteness.

But where is the black woman who their violence and raucous witness injured for life? Will she ever sleep well again? …

The shame of this is unconscionable. ...
Ready to pick the Duke Prof? Scholar 1 or Scholar 2?

Before you make your pick, here are a few facts which may help you.

The Duke Prof was heavily recruited by Duke with, among other inducements, a promise of tenure and an endowed professorship. His wife was also “recruited” by Duke and given a position on its faculty.

Now, whom did you pick?

Scholar 1? Sorry, you’re wrong.

Scholar I is Thomas Sowell, Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. One of America’s most respected free market economic theorists, Sowell is the author of over thirty books. In 2002 he was awarded the National Humanities Medal. Previous recipients include author John Updike, oceanographer Robert Ballard and historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

The correct answer is Scholar 2: Houston Baker.

At the time Baker expressed his concern as to whether Crystal Mangum would “ever sleep well again,” she was pole dancing at the Platinum Club and he was George D. and Susan Fox Beischer Professor of English at Duke.

Baker has since moved on to Vanderbilt University, which recruited him from Duke. I don't know whether Mangum still works at the Platinum or has been recruited away by another club.

You can read more about Baker in this article in which the distinguished arts critic and biographer Terry Teachout says [excerpt]:
To be sure, Houston Baker, Jr., is no worse than the rest of his fellow literary-theory racketeers. He commits no literary offenses that cannot be found in a hundred other equally stupid books published by a hundred other professors of other colors. …

[But if] the author of Black Studies, Rap, and the Academy is truly representative of the best black studies has to offer, then it necessarily follows that black studies is a joke, a pitiful and preposterous burlesque of scholarship foisted on the academy in the holy name of diversity. …
Read the whole thing as they say.

And if you’re a Dukie, don’t forget to drop Vandy a thank you note.

Monday, September 03, 2007

“Durham's Silence Is Sickening”

Remember Raleigh N&O new columnist Ruth Sheehan’s “Team’s Silence Is Sickening” column which began:

Members of the Duke men's lacrosse team: You know.

We know you know
Well, a JinC Regular, Locomotive Breath, has parodied Sheehan’s column after reading the "Attorney Alex Charns Interview" post in which Charns noted Durham City’s more than year-long “silence” in the face of investigative travesties by DPD officers and their supervisors has put the city in the worst possible position as it faces legal action by Duke students who are victims of those travesties.

If you haven't read Sheehan's column recently, you may want to. It will add to the fun of reading LB's parody.

Here’s LB’s parody: “Durham’s Silence Is Sickening.”

Employees of the Durham City Government: You know.

We know you know.

Whatever happened in the Courthouse and City Hall gone terribly bad, you know who was involved. Every one of you does.

And one of you needs to come forward and tell the public.

Do not be afraid of retribution from the insurance company. Do not be persuaded that somehow this "happened" to one or more "good guys."

Since what the lax team says is true -- that civil rights were denied, trampled on, hidden and buried -- the employees responsible are not "good."

This seems an elementary statement, I know.

But I can see loyal government employees sitting around convincing themselves that it would be disloyal to turn on their fellow employees -- why, the employees who were involved were just a little "over the top." In real life, they're funny. They ignore their work for months to be with their mothers. They share investigation notes with co-workers. They sing gospel.

On this case, they were just a little too power mad, a little too "worked up." It was a scene straight out of "L.A. Confidential" by James Ellroy. Indicative of the times.

The courtroom death threats slung at the defendants, who were lacrosse players? Those were just ... jokes. Ditto for the ugly remarks overheard in the DA's office: "We're f**ked." Har, har.

After all, these people are not just employees, but trusted professionals. The municipal dream.

And the police? They were... just doing their job, for Pete's sake.

I can see the city going down this path, justifying its silence. And it makes me sick.

Because, of all the occupational hazards that must come with government service, one of them should be personal responsibility. And no, trolling on the internet for MILF doesn't make it better.

Unfortunately, because the people are employees at such a fine municipality, there is a tendency to presume that this was an aberration. That these employees are "good guys."

I see it in the references to the "Serpico" atmosphere allowed to flourish at the police station.

I sense it in the "dismay" expressed by Mayor Bell over the "situation" -- the hiring of C. Destine Couch and the (shocking!) serving of NTOs to an entire lacrosse team.

But NTOs are one thing. The implication that this event, is somehow just a normal case that "got out of hand" is just plain wrong.

Railroading is not part of a spectrum of professional duty, the regrettable end game when publicity and votes are ignited by a larger pension and fanned into flames with the activists’ permission.

No. Railroading is a crime. A very serious one.

Those who commit it are criminals, not "good guys."

I don't know what happened in that Courthouse, and in that DA's office, over in Durham. Ultimately, that will be a matter for the Federal courts to decide. But who was in that cabal is something the public needs to know. Now.

They shouldn't have to wait for the Whichard Committee to be restarted.

Every employee of the Durham Courthouse and City Hall knows who was involved.

Until the city employees come forward with that information, forfeiting a false rape prosecution isn't enough.

Shut down the city.

Thank you, Locomotive Breath

I was wrong about Judge Stephens

Last May I posted “Why I admire the Duke lacrosse judge.”

I told readers I’d testified a number times as an expert witness in Judge Ron Stephens’ court and knew him slightly outside of court from chance meetings at social and youth sports events. I said why I thought he was a fine judge.

He had, of course, by that time made some decisions many of you believed then as now were wrong. Signing the request for the NTO, setting bail at $400,000 per individual, and refusing Kirk Osborn’s request that the then impending trial of Reade Seligmann by moved up are some that come to mind.

I was aware of them. I was also aware that attorneys I respect said each of Stephens’ decisions could be argued to be reasonable and consistent with customary judicial practice.

That said, I’m responsible for what I thought then and think now.

I’ve come to realize I was wrong about Judge Stephens’ ability to be an impartial judge in the Hoax case. Even allowing for some pro-prosecutor bias that’s common among judges, Stephens over time revealed himself to be so biased in Nifong’s favor that he should have recused himself from the case early on. And I should have realized that.

If I could call that May 2006 post back, I would. The best I can do now is put an “UPDATE” following the title and a few sentences at the head, linking to this post.

In the next few weeks I may post in more detail abut how I got it wrong on Stephens, but this is not the time for that.

This is the time to say I apologize to any of you I misled.

It’s also the time to say “thank you” to many of you whose informed comments here and at other forums last May and since have helped me realize my error.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Attorney Alex Charns Interview

Because of Durham Police misconduct during the Duke lacrosse investigation, Durham City faces the likelihood Duke students wronged by the police will bring legal actions against the city for damages inflicted on them.

Last Friday, I interviewed (emails) Alex Charns, a Durham attorney and one of North Carolina’s leading litigators in the areas of civil rights violations and police misconduct.

Charns has successfully represented a number of clients in cases involving misconduct by Durham police. He currently represents one of the lacrosse players who was not indicted.

My questions are in italics; Charns’ answers are in plain.

JinC – Everyone I talk to says the city’s in a very tough spot as regards possible suits which may be brought against it. Since last May, you’ve urged the city to investigate certain police conduct and apologize for it. The city didn’t do any of that. If it had, would it have lessened its current liability?

Charns – Yes, definitely.

J – Why?

C – If DPD , for instance, had launched an Internal Affairs investigation of violations of its own procedures during the Apr 4 “no wrong choices” photo lineup with the accuser; and taken some steps to punish the officers involved, that would be evidence DPD and the city didn’t just stand by and do nothing when policies and procedures were violated.

The same would hold if city manager Patrick Baker had investigated, and there had been consequences for those who violated policies and procedures, as well as apologies to the students.

Instead of any of that, the city’s denied wrongdoing. By refusing to admit misconduct by some Durham officers and their supervisors, it’s put itself in just about the worst possible position it could be in today.

J – If the city had done what you’ve been asking it to do, what would we be looking at now?

C – The students would still have grounds for a suit against the city. But the city would be in a position to argue that it wasn’t indifferent to what happened; and that it had acted to stop it. That could significantly reduce the city’s liability.

J – How would any steps taken by the city affect the individual officers who conducted the lineup?

C – They would bear responsibility as individuals for what they did, as they do now. But they couldn't argue, “No one told us we shouldn't have done it. No one reprimanded us,” which they can argue now, and therefore shift responsibility to DPD and the city.

J – Are there other things the city could have done to both “do the right thing” by the Duke students and to limit the extensive liability it now appears to bear?

C – Yes, the city could have admitted that their employees violated city policy by using a fish-in-the-barrel identification procedure, by refusing to consider the possibility that the players were innocent, by refusing to look at documentary evidence that countered their belief in the players' guilt, and by e-mailing and distributing posters stating that the lacrosse team members were either gang-rapists or co-conspirators.

As it stands, it's no secret what the investigators did and didn't do and the city - at the highest level - approved of the wrongdoing in an official report.

J – Final question: I know evidence used during a trial involving a civil suit can later be used in a criminal trial. But suppose attorneys for the three young men take depositions prior to a civil trial and there’s subsequently a pre-trial settlement with a stipulation the terms of the settlement are not to be disclosed. In that case, can evidence taken during the depositions still be used later in a criminal trial?

C – Yes. The way that would work is a judge could find that the sealed records were relevant to the administration of justice and unseal them.

J – Thank you

In May 2006 I first posted concerning Charns’ efforts to get DPD and the city to take some action: “Duke lacrosse: What about the posters?”

Since then I’ve posted more than 50 times concerning his efforts. This post from April 2007, “ATTORNEY: WHERE ARE THE APOLOGIES?”, concerns some of what Charns spoke about in the interview. It also contains links to related posts.

I’ll post again in a few days regarding DPD and the city’s actions and inactions in the Duke lacrosse case.

Newsweek’s Thomas Shouldn’t Cluck

Newsweek’s assistant managing editor, Evan Thomas, has written his take on the Stuart Taylor/KC Johnson book, Until Proven Innocent.

It includes this:

By and large, the press did not let the facts get in the way of a good race-class-sex- violence morality play. Thanks in part to the reporting and guidance of Taylor, a NEWSWEEK contributing editor, NEWSWEEK was the first major publication to pick apart the prosecution's case, in an article on June 29, 2006.
I won’t get into whether Newsweek was “the first major publication to pick apart” Nifong’s case.

But I will put a question to Thomas : Why did it take Newsweek so long to start picking apart Nifong’s case?

By June 29 many bloggers and journalists had been shredding Nifong's case for months, with Taylor and Johnson among the leading shredders.

Folks, read this excerpt from a Thomas Sowell column, after which I make a few comments:
Media irresponsibility is one thing. Irresponsibility by an agent of the law is something else -- and much more dangerous.

Prosecutors are not just supposed to prosecute. They are supposed to prosecute the right people in the right way. In this case, prosecutor Michael Nifong has proceeded in the wrong way.

Having an accuser or a witness pick out the accused from a lineup is standard procedure. That procedure not only serves to identify someone to be charged with a crime, it also tests the credibility of the accuser or witness -- or it should, if the lineup is not stacked.

A lineup should include not only people suspected of a crime but also other people, so that it tests whether the accuser or witness can tell the difference, and is therefore credible.

But the stripper who claimed to have been raped by members of the Duke lacrosse team was presented with a lineup consisting exclusively of photographs of members of the lacrosse team.

In other words, whoever she picked out had to be a lacrosse player and would be targeted, with no test whatever of her credibility, because there was no chance for her to pick out somebody who had no connection with the team or the university.

Apparently District Attorney Nifong was no more wiling to test the accuser's credibility than was the TV talk show hostess who went ballistic, though credibility is often crucial in rape cases.

Mr. Nifong went public with his having DNA evidence collected.

Then, after the DNA failed to match that of the accused, the students were arrested anyway and their bail was set at $400,000 -- in a community where a youth accused of murder had bail set at $50,000.

When a prosecutor acts like he has made up his mind and doesn't want to be confused by the facts, that is when the spirit of the lynch mob has entered the legal system.

When this happens on the eve of an election for the prosecutor, it looks even uglier.

If the young men accused of rape are in fact guilty, they need to be proved guilty because they are guilty, not because an election is coming up or there is racial hype in the media or a legally stacked deck.
Sowell’s column appeared on April 24, 2006, a week after two Duke students had been indicted and at a time when Nifong was still seeking to manufacture evidence to indict a third student.

Sowell’s column is an outstanding example of what many bloggers and journalists knew and were reporting and commenting on by the end of April 2006.

With due respect for them, it wasn’t hard to realize what Nifong was doing. It never is when a prosecutor makes claims that are contradicted by the evidence, and then goes against the evidence.

Instead of cluck-clucking about being “first,” Thomas should ask himself: Why did Newsweek only begin to “pick apart the prosecution case” three months after Sowell and others were exposing and shredding it? What were Sowell and the others doing that Newsweek didn’t do? What does Newsweek need to change?

When Thomas has his answers, he ought to share them with Newsweek’s faithful subscribers. They pay the bills; they deserve to know. The rest of us would like to know, too.

Sowell’s column is here. Seventeen months out from its publication, I can't see anything he got wrong.

I posted on Sowell’s April 24 column last Novermber: “Sowell: Right early and now.”

Last June I posted on Newsweek’s “pick apart” story: “Duke lacrosse: Newsweek abandons sinking Nifong.”