June 16, 2007

Nifong: Gimme Three Steps

Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong resigned suddenly yesterday, in a tearful press conference. He had just completed his testimony to the North Carolina State Bar, where he faces almost certain disbarment for his reckless actions in the Duke rape case that wasn't:

Michael B. Nifong, the Durham County district attorney, announced Friday that he would resign, as he faces disciplinary charges for his handling of a sexual assault prosecution against three former Duke University lacrosse players who were later declared innocent.

Speaking in a barely audible voice in testimony before a disciplinary hearing panel, Mr. Nifong apologized to the players, their families and the North Carolina justice system.

His resignation came as a surprise on the fourth day of a hearing by the North Carolina State Bar, which has charged him with “systematic abuse of prosecutorial discretion” for withholding evidence and making improper pretrial statements.

Undoubtedly, Nifong spent the previous four days testing the winds at his hearing -- and he knows they are not inclined towards mercy. Resigning now gives the state Bar the option to declare the matter closed, which would allow Nifong to practice law. Otherwise, the disciplinary panel could have, and most likely would have, stripped him of both his job and his license.

Will that strategy work? It seems like a long shot. This case has generated national attention, due mainly to the machinations of Nifong himself to smear the defendants in the press. The state Bar has to act in some fashion to punish Nifong beyond whatever punishment he inflicts on himself. Quite clearly, Nifong kept exculpatory evidence from the defense attorneys, an act that transformed Nifong from prosecutor to persecutor -- and calls into question all of the cases which Nifong has tried in Durham. After all, what makes anyone think he only did this once, in a case involving rich kids who could afford to defend themselves?

That's why the Bar has to act in some emphatic manner. Nifong didn't just railroad innocent college students on a trumped-up rape charge. Nifong, through his actions, undermined the trust and confidence in the justice system for the community of Durham and the state of North Carolina. The Bar has to restore some sense of trust and confidence in their action, and they cannot do that by simply allowing Nifong to game them by giving a dramatic resignation at the height of the publicity on his hearing.

I expect a disbarment by Monday afternoon. If they do not do so, North Carolinians have every right to demand investigations into the state Bar itself, and whether it acts for justice or for lawyers.


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Background from the AP: Mike Nifong made “multiple, egregious mistakes” as he pursued charges against three Duke University lacrosse players falsely accused of rape, but not intentionally, his attorney said Saturday in closing statements at... [Read More]

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Comments (17)

Posted by Keemo | June 16, 2007 10:47 AM

Exactly right CE; and let's not forget the Duke faculty who also judged and convicted these kids of being guilty prior to due process, adding to the horrible treatment these kids faced each day on campus.

Nifong is staring "judgement day" right in the eyes; all others should either come clean and apoligize, or face their own judgement day.

Posted by Carol Herman | June 16, 2007 10:55 AM

Let me guess. Like Chuck Colson, Nifong gets religion. And, enters "stage pulpit." His name recognition follows him wherever he goes.

Now, what's been uncovered is much more telling.

Because putting people in jails is what prosecutors do. Fair trials. Or one where defendents get off ... Are career busters.

So I don't expect the real changes that are necessary, here.

Just as I do expect the 88 proressional and credentialed assholes to have tenure. Do you know why? Because you don't vote. It's an internal combustion engine.

Change in the academic community is exceedingly slow. And, as long as incoming students line up to join the parade; the system, such as it is, continues.

But heck, even the institution of marriage has taken on hits. So why not assume, up ahead, we won't have these juvenile behavior centers; and the word "teenager" will also hit the skids.

What makes a teenager? Laws against giving our driver's licenses? Beer? It's artificial.

What can replace the current system in education? One that works.

If Nifong was truly remorseful this charade would have ended before the slow moving State Bar got ahold of him and began to shake.

Ya think there's a publisher who will give Nifong money for his "tell-all?" You think he goes to the poor house. Not me. I don't.

Posted by Henry | June 16, 2007 11:43 AM

In resigning, Nifong gave up nothing, because he was going to lose the job anyway. Even a mere reprimand would make his position untentable. He deserves no mitigation for his long career, any more than a solid citizen who kills his wife, just because it's his only crime.

Posted by NahnCee [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 16, 2007 12:34 PM

I would love to see the NY Times equally skewered in the upcoming lawsuits for their part in the travesty. Duke's administration is hunkered down, being quiet and breathing heavily but you just *know* there are panicky meetings behind closed doors where Brodhead and the school's attorneys are looking for an exit strategy. If I was one of the three ex-defendents, I'd be inclined to let Duke the school off the hook if they can find a way to fire the 88 faculty members.

Posted by AnonymousDrivel | June 16, 2007 12:56 PM

The debate ought not be whether or not he is disbarred. The debate ought to be whether or not he should go to jail. As prosecutor and actor for the state, he has considerable leeway to not suffer prosecution for performing his duties. However, in a most egregious way, he almost assuredly stepped beyond those bounds in this case. That's about the only place where justice is yet to be determined.

A rogue prosecutor must be prosecutable, not just get by with a mulligan or banishment from the club on terms of his own choosing.

Seeing Seligman recount and relive his persecution on the stand yesterday was powerful stuff. I could almost feel myself in his shoes the whole time, yet I still cannot imagine the full force of the anguish he, his colleagues, and his family suffered for the miscarriage of justice imposed by Nifong. Adding insult to the injury, Nifong did it to get a powerful job and not for some profound search for justice.

There ought to be a very long line of people trying to make amends for creating the lynch mob that doesn't stop with Nifong. Maybe Nifong can find his comfort in knowing he wasn't alone and created a case precedent on how NOT to do a job and how the public should NOT rush to conclusions. I doubt he is really looking to comfort anyone but himself, but perhaps deep in his soul, he'll appreciate the depths of his transgression. To be fair, we cannot rush to judgment for Nifong's defense either, so here's hoping the case is well researched and thoughtfully, thoroughly combed with fine teeth.

Yes, Ed, you're spot on. The state Bar should be investigated too if it gives Nifong the mulligan.

Posted by NahnCee [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 16, 2007 1:08 PM

So then, is that the best we can hope for? If Nifong gets skewered, then everyone else involved gets a walk?

Posted by AnonymousDrivel | June 16, 2007 1:21 PM


I'm afraid so. Perhaps the Duke players can recoup some monies from the University for its actions, but I figure it's a longshot. The signing professors lack integrity, the race baiters never had it, and the meme-ing media (exemplified by the abysmal Nancy Grace) almost always escape with their smears. At least now we can turn the latter off and find online alternatives.

As to the real instigator, the rape "victim," I'm just not seeing too many with the stomach to prosecute her. I understand the sob stories about her circumstance in life, yet how she should escape any punishment at all is inherently wrong. No one seems to want to address this. Is it race-related?

Posted by patrick neid | June 16, 2007 1:34 PM

perhaps because i'm used to rogue prosecutors and the justice they ultimately receive i find the greater crime done by the faculty and other associated poseurs.

their crimes are more insidious because they are rarely rectified. each has contributed to destroying a person's life, for however long, without for any fear of retribution. i hope the students and family sue these people into their graves. not only for themselves but for the thousands that have gone before who never received their lives back.

Posted by Diane | June 16, 2007 2:16 PM

I don't hear anyone asking the question, "How many people are in prison now whom Nifong has successfully railroaded?" You know that man's character didn't just take a wrong turn overnight.

Posted by Larry J | June 16, 2007 2:28 PM

don't hear anyone asking the question, "How many people are in prison now whom Nifong has successfully railroaded?" You know that man's character didn't just take a wrong turn overnight.

I've been raising this point for months. If I were an attorney for someone convicted under Nifong, I'd be pressing for a new trial. I've heard of similar cases involving cops who've given testimony at trials and who later gets in trouble themselves leading to calls for new trials. Certainly a rogue prosecutor deserves the same. I have a hard time believing he went this wrong just this once. As important as smacking the Duke 88 around is, ensuring justice is far more important.

Posted by patrick neid | June 16, 2007 3:13 PM

i have a feeling with Nifong the trouble will be with the people he didn't put in jail. he was clearly pandering either as a mind set or for re-election purposes.

Posted by Dan S | June 16, 2007 5:06 PM

Nifong has accepted that disbarrment is an appropriate penalty.

And the findings and verdict are pretty decisive.

Bring on the civil suits.

And put Fitz in the queue for the same treatment. His public statements were as bad or worse before the indictments and trial.

Posted by Angry Dumbo | June 16, 2007 5:21 PM

Very cute captain, linking to the NY Times for the Nifong resignation.

Anyone interested in reading the real story of the Duke rape case has to read KC Johnson. He is doing great work reporting the story the MSM would just as soon go away.

If you are as confused as many about this case, read Johnson's blog and be confused no more.


The flat out misreporting of the NY Times and folks like CNN's Nancy Grace and the underreporting of the embarrassing truth by the MSM is something is the subtext of why true consumers of news now look to alternative media for straight news.

Posted by Clyde | June 16, 2007 5:57 PM

DISBARRED! And good riddance. The man brought disrepute on his office by trying to railroad innocent defendants. Thank God their families had the money to defend them against the false charges brought by the lyiing biatch. One wonders how many other innocents were railroaded because they didn't have deep pockets to defend themselves against false charges brought by politically motivated DAs.

Posted by Clyde | June 16, 2007 6:05 PM

And it's long past time for those 88 whited sepulchres at Duke to apologize for their falsely conflicting the innocent lacrosse players. I can't say how much contempt I have for them without using curse words, so we'll leave it at that. Let's just say they should be working with those Whale Feces Researchers if they want to find my level of regard for them.

Posted by Clyde | June 16, 2007 6:12 PM


Posted by daytrader | June 16, 2007 6:43 PM

As much as DanS and others would like, no matter what the level of malfeasance he is still able to hide behind the veil of absolution from tort by the generalized shield laws.

So folks rattle the cages of your local legislatures and reform those laws that allow such exceptions.

Have them put in that clause where wanton and willful abuse of office exposes the perp to tort endangerment.