After long ignoring the grossly unfair treatment of a resident of its state, Reade Seligmann, the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger weighed in this morning with a blistering editorial about Mike Nifong, whose behavior, the editors contend, can only be explained as “the product of incompetence, overzealousness or outright misconduct.”
The Star-Ledger contends that Nifong apparently forgot that “prosecutors are supposed to put justice first—not winning re-election.” The editorial runs through a list of Nifong’s misconduct, culminating with his entering into an agreement with Dr. Brian Meehan to intentionally withhold exculpatory DNA evidence from the defense.
As for now, the Star-Ledger demands that Nifong “be removed from the case,” and it concludes with an even stronger recommendation:
law allows the trial judge to drop charges, remove lawyers from a case and, in the extreme, remove a district attorney from office for “willful misconduct.” Serious consideration should be given to the latter. North Carolina
Three thousand miles away, the editorial board of the San Diego Union-Tribune reached a similar conclusion. The paper welcomed recent developments, wherein “the spotlight finally can shift to the most troubling behavior in this matter: the DA’s repellent assault on the civil rights of the Duke trio.”
The Union-Tribune editors understand the magnitude of Nifong’s misconduct, and what distinguishes his behavior from normal prosecutorial wrongdoing: “Among a stunning list of ethical transgressions, Nifong can be accused not just of withholding exculpatory evidence but of manufacturing damning evidence.”
The editors correctly recognize the key procedural flaw of the case: the April 4 lineup, and Nifong’s order to police that it be confined to lacrosse players. And as for Seligmann’s “airtight alibi”? Nifong “simply didn’t care.” The admirable conclusion:
This isn’t just bad judgment. It’s a shocking abuse of power. Given his plain motive – Nifong won re-election by depicting himself as the crusader who wouldn’t let privileged white kids get away with brutalizing a young black woman – it is also despicable in its raw demagoguery. All this is why we look forward to the Durham DA having his own day in court.