As Jason Whitlock noticed months ago, the Duke lacrosse case is a real-life version of To Kill a Mockingbird. How, then, to explain Nifong's attraction to the story? It would seem, unlike most who read the Harper Lee novel, Nifong saw little of himself in Atticus Finch, the defense attorney who holds sacred the law and legal procedures. Instead, the Durham D.A. seems to have been attracted to Mr. Gilmer, the prosecutor who played to the basest prejudices of his community and who sought not justice but a conviction at all costs.
Nifong has some other "jaw-dropping" comments in the voter guide. He lists four basic qualifications for a district attorney:
- First, the District Attorney's Office must be, and must be perceived as, a place of unquestioned integrity.
- Second, that office must be, and must be perceived as, a place of absolute fairness.
- Third, that office must be, and must be perceived as, a place of demonstrated competence.
- The mission of the District Attorney's Office is not simply to obtain convictions: it is to achieve justice, and to prevent injustice.
Indeed, yesterday featured another searing critique of Nifong on all four of these grounds, penned by Wendy McElroy. Her viewing of Nifong's actions prompted the question, "Do the principles of justice still operate in American courtrooms?" The answer, she has discovered, is no, and as a result the case "has become a litmus test for the American justice system," with Nifong "acting with willful disregard for both the evidence in the case and the Constitutional rights of the accused. In this case, I believe the legal system is the enemy of justice...and nakedly so." McElroy then pointedly details the prosecutor's myriad procedurally dubious actions over recent months. In describing Nifong's refusal to consider Reade Seligmann's airtight alibi, she notes,
The assumption that a defendant is 'innocent until proven guilty' has been reversed. Seligmann is assumed to be guilty. But more than this. It is as though Seligmann is not allowed to prove his innocence no matter how much evidence he produces.McElroy provides a useful history lesson that appears to have been lost by most of Nifong's enablers. "The purpose of spelling out due process," she notes, "was not primarily to protect a defendant against his or her accuser. Their inclusion in the Constitution was meant to protect defendants against the power of an abusive court — that is, against an abuse of government."
"As long as Nifong is the face of government," McElroy concludes, "I find no reason for public confidence." I suspect that Harper Lee would share the sentiment.