Saturday, June 16, 2007

Disbarred Over Duke Case

It is utterly shocking to me that Mike Nifong has been forced out of his job and disbarred for his conduct in the Duke lacrosse case. For all of Nifong’s incompetence, by the standards of prosecutorial misconduct what he did was pretty mild. There are innocent people sitting in prison who can’t even get a new trial over worse examples of prosecutorial misconduct.

I’ve never heard of a case where a prosecutor has ever been disbarred for similar actions in a case that never went to trial. Some of the accusations are just comical, such as the charge that he made public comments about the case. Of course he did; all prosecutors say they think a crime happened and the people they arrested are guilty.

Race and class have a lot to do with this case. Simply put, many poor black men in America are tossed in prison because of misconduct, and they never see the light of day, let alone justice for the false accusation.

Nifong was guilty of a lot of stupid behavior: using an inadequate lineup, believing a dubious witness, refusing to examine exculpatory evidence, and failing to provide full information about DNA tests to the defense. None of these things would probably have gotten someone a new trial if they were convicted (although they should), let alone a disbarred attorney. Most prosecutors who did what Nifong did would have never suffered any punishment, or even criticism in the press from anyone except a defense attorney. Nifong suffered his penalty because he went after rich, privileged white guys.

Yes, these three guys were unfairly accused, whether a rape occurred or not. Welcome to the American justice system.

And yes, Duke acted too quickly to cancel the team’s season for no good reason.

But there were plenty of reasons to worry about the racism and sexism of the Duke lacrosse team. One Duke lacrosse player wrote an email planning a stripper encore to that night’s party: "i plan on killing the bitches as soon as the walk in and proceeding to cut their skin off while cumming in my duke issue spandex." The fact that a player felt comfortable writing something this sick to his teammates should raise an alarm bell about this team, and it helped make the rape charges more believable.

Let’s hope that the result of this case will be a lot more unethical prosecutors suffering harsh penalties for railroading innocent people into prison. However, I doubt will ever happen.

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