[Welcome Instapundit readers. This blog is updated daily; among its recent items, this post on the severe weaknesses of the state's medical case, and this one on the bizarre ideas of Duke's anti-lacrosse faculty members.]
Over the past six months, Mike Nifong’s record has exposed the fragility of
- The fraudulent March 23 notion relied on a false claim (the players used first-name aliases) and withheld from the court that the accuser had failed to identify any suspects in a photo lineup already conducted by police.
- The late March p.r. blitz served the D.A.’s political interests at the expense of his obligations under the bar’s ethics code.
- Nifong ordered police to violate in multiple ways their own procedures for lineups in order to get someone to indict before the May 2 primary vote.
- He ignored ethics code requirements to consider exculpatory evidence by refusing to look at Reade Seligmann’s alibi evidence, which included, among other items, a video of Seligmann at an ATM machine more than a mile away at the time of the alleged crime.
All the while, however, Nifong has suffered no official retribution, as
Failure by public officials and the bar assocation to hold Nifong accountable for his improper legal and ethical conduct has enabled him to subvert groups that citizens count on to advocate for fairness and justice. An example of this pattern came in Nifong's conduct at an April 11 forum held on the campus of
Nifong has claimed a commitment that “the District Attorney’s Office must be, and must be perceived as, a place of unquestioned integrity.” By promising, at what amounted to a campaign appearance, to continue the case regardless of evidence or his earlier affirmation to the court about DNA, the D.A. violated his own written standards.
The NCCU forum also launched the peculiar relationship between Nifong and Victoria Peterson. Before spring 2006, Peterson was best known for her losing city council campaigns, her support for convicted murderer Michael (no relation) Peterson, and her extreme homophobia. In 2003, Peterson opposed “health benefits for sodomites” on the grounds that “many of them are infected with diseases, and their lifestyles are very, very dangerous,” and dismissed the need for statewide anti-discrimination protections for gays and lesbians on the grounds that they “come to work dressed one day looking like a female and two weeks later looking like a male.”
At the NCCU forum, Peterson explained away the DNA tests as the result of
What happens when political realities and ideological commitments appear to clash? The pairing of Nifong’s flagrant violations of civil liberties in the lacrosse case and Peterson’s outrageous homophobic statements struck me as irreconcilable with the principles laid down in the state party’s platform. So I e-mailed Schorr Johnson, the state party’s communications director, supplied links to Peterson’s comments, and asked:
Given its commitment to opposing discrimination in all forms, including discrimination based on sexual orientation:
1.) Does the party have a statement regarding Ms. Peterson’s positions?
2.) Is the party “very pleased” that she’s serving as citizens’ committee co-chair for the party’s candidate in what probably is the highest-profile race in the state this year?
Johnson’s response? “I have not paid enough attention to have any comment.”
I asked the same questions of the co-chair of the Duke Democrats, who responded: “Duke Democrats is not commenting on Nifong’s election campaign.”
It would seem there are two explanations for the “no-comment” response of both the state and Duke Democrats:
- The state and Duke Democratic parties don’t believe that Nifong has violated civil liberties in the lacrosse case, nor do they consider Peterson’s statements homophobic.
- The state and Duke Democratic parties are fully aware that the Nifong/Peterson axis contradicts the party’s basic principles, but don’t care enough about those principles to stand up for them in this instance, lest doing so risk alienating the party’s African-American base.
(In the case of the Duke Democrats, any Duke student might also have a legitimate fear of publicly criticizing Nifong, given the Durham P.D.’s official policy of targeting Duke students.)
Regional and campus GLBT organizations likewise proved unwilling to challenge Peterson. Gay rights groups have an (appropriate) reputation for sensitivity to anything resembling homophobic statements, especially by figures in power or those with access to figures in power. Equality NC didn’t reply to my questions; Triangle Community Works responded that because of its non-profit status, “We don’t have a statement regarding Ms. Peterson.”
From Duke GLBT groups, I received even more unusual feedback. The co-chair of the
Two explanations seem to exist for the “no-comment”/rationalization response of both regional and Duke GLBT groups:
- Regional and Duke GLBT groups don’t consider Peterson’s statements homophobic.
- Regional and Duke GLBT groups fully comprehend the homophobic nature of Peterson’s statements, but don’t care enough about condemning homophobia to do so in this instance, lest they be perceived as supporting a group, Duke lacrosse players, with whom they would not normally sympathize.
(In the case of the Duke groups, any Duke student might also have a legitimate fear of publicly criticizing Nifong, given the Durham P.D.’s official policy of targeting Duke students.)
Just like judges, the governor, and the attorney general in the legal realm, state, regional, and campus Democratic and GLBT organizations in the political realm appear unwilling or unable to confront Nifong. Neither N.C. Democrats nor the state's gay rights groups will be well-served by fair-weather fidelity to their basic principles. I suspect that these organizations will look back with shame at their silence regarding the Nifong/Peterson axis.