Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Case Narrative, II

With a blatantly unconstitutional lineup and an accuser who won’t cooperate, it’s hard to imagine how things could move forward for much longer in the criminal case. In mid-October, I did a narrative post that looked at events in the case up to that time. I thought it might be useful to continue the narrative, to include events since October 16.

The October Hearing and Nifong’s Election Triumph

The October 27 hearing was the final event of the case before the November election. Its defining moment came when Nifong admitted—under repeated questioning from Brad Bannon—that he had never spoken to the accuser about the facts of the case. How did he test her reliability, then? By chatting about unrelated topics, such as her children. Bannon, quite correctly, said this assertion “stretched credulity.”

Those who followed the case closely already knew this was Nifong’s party line—the N&O’s Ben Niolet had revealed it in a devastating profile of the district attorney. (The item was one of dozens of facts N&O broke about the case. The total number of accurate Herald-Sun scoops? One, coming in mid-November and regarding the accuser's one-time supervisor at the strip club, Yolanda Haynes. Editor Bob Ashley complained, mysteriously, that the paper lacked good sources on the case.) But few in the national media, it appeared, read the N&O, and Nifong’s admission was major news.

The admission placed Nifong on the defensive, part of a broader pattern of highly erratic pre-election behavior by Durham County’s “minister of justice,” in which the DA played the part of a race-baiting demagogue with increasing frequency.

This record appeared not to disturb Nifong’s faculty enablers among the Group of 88. In a novel interpretation of the statement’s meaning, Group member Alex Rosenberg told the New York Sun that he had abandoned the presumption of innocence to protest the role of alcohol on campus and “affluent kids violating the law to get exploited women to take their clothes off when they could get as much hookup as they wanted from rich and attractive Duke coeds.” (The statement, in fact, mentioned neither item.) Two days later, Grant Farred penned an op-ed that ranks as the single worst publication by a Duke faculty member regarding the case. The Literature professor stunningly contended that those Duke students who registered to vote in Durham were motivated by a “secret racism.”

The anti-Nifong coalition combined Beth Brewer with veteran political operative Jackie Brown; Chronicle columnists Kristin Butler and Stephen Miller with N&O columnist Ruth Sheehan; longtime Durham residents with Duke Students for an Ethical Durham, the umbrella organization that coordinated the voter registration drive. All advocated a vote for the Lewis Cheek line, although Cheek said he wouldn’t serve if elected. Perceptive—and prophetic—observers urged Durham voters to look beyond this problem. Friends of Duke spokesperson Jason Trumpbour commented just before the election,

Because it is almost certain that Nifong will be suspended or disbarred, he will not be able to continue in office. And as the governor may be choosing the next district attorney in Durham County, the best option is to start looking to the future now and save the community the disruption and pathetic spectacle of Nifong’s protracted death throws.
On Election Night, Nifong prevailed, but short of a majority. (He tallied 49 percent of the vote.) In the end, the DA owed his victory to two factors. First, he received near-monolithic support (around 95 percent) from Durham black voters, who found his race-baiting message appealing. Second, he benefited from the write-in campaign of “Spoiler Steve” Monks, who took 11 percent of the vote. By March, Monks would be removed as chairman of the Durham County Republican Party, and—according to a recent Newsday article—most black voters would regret their decision to back Nifong.

The December Hearing

Nifong’s victory turned attention to the next hearing in the case, scheduled for December 15. Defense motions dealing with the apparent withholding of exculpatory DNA evidence, the April 4 lineup, and a change of venue were released in consecutive days before the hearing. The lineup motion demonstrated in extraordinary detail the extent of the accuser’s flawed performance—the only evidence that Nifong had to link anyone to any “crime.” Beyond her many errors (she was 100 percent sure that she saw chatting with Kim Roberts outside the house someone who actually was in Raleigh that night), the motion pointed out that the “attacker” the accuser had claimed went by the name “Adam” did many other things that night, according to her story. “Adam” helped her get dressed, just after 12.30. Then he helped her to Kim Roberts’ car, around 12.40. The only problem? Reade Seligmann (“Adam” in the accuser’s then-current tale) could prove he was nowhere even near the lacrosse house when the accuser claimed he was helping her dress and escorting her off the premises.

The December 14 motion could be used as a case study in the dangers of flawed procedures. Nifong had ordered the police to orchestrate a lineup confined only to suspects (the 46 white lacrosse players). Is it any wonder that the results he received were worthless?

The lineup motion almost certainly would have ended the case at the next scheduled hearing (Feb. 7). But it got overshadowed by the DNA controversy. Under extemporaneous questioning first from Bannon and then from Seligmann attorney Jim Cooney, Dr. Brain Meehan eventually admitted that he and the DA had entered into an agreement to intentionally withhold results showing that the DNA of several unidentified males in the accuser’s rape kit. Before the hearing, Nifong said he didn’t know about Meehan’s findings; directly afterwards, he said he did—but felt it important not to turn over this information, so as to protect the privacy of the unindicted lacrosse players. How such a course would, in any way, benefit the unindicted players Nifong explained neither then nor since.

The Meehan Revelations

The Meehan revelations marked the beginning of the end for Nifong. On December 20, he received a letter from the State Bar informing him of possible ethics charges on the DNA issue. With his career going up in smoke, the district attorney panicked. He sent his chief investigator, Linwood Wilson, to meet with the accuser. At this meeting, Wilson claimed the accuser came up with a wholly new version of the “crime”—she now was asserting that the attack might have occurred with an object. This new version of events also had the accuser—for the first time in nine months—a precise time for the “attack,” 11.40pm. (The new timeline suggested that the accuser was chatting with her father on the phone during her dance.) The new version also featured the accuser recalling, again, for the first time, a “white” towel had been used to clean her up after the “crime.” This “magic towel” cleaned up the scene of the crime—but left the DNA of an unindicted resident of the house on the bathroom floor. And it cleaned up the accuser—but retained none of her DNA. How such a towel could be reconciled with the tenets of forensic science Nifong explained neither then nor since.

In short, the December 21 story was not only a frame—it was a stunningly blatant frame. But Nifong treated it as legitimate, dropping the rape charges the next day, while leaving in place the sexual assault and kidnapping charges.

Nifong and his advisors (the “Troika” of Wilson, wife Cy Gurney, and citizens’ committee co-chair Victoria Peterson) apparently thought the new version represented a clever way of minimizing the significance of the withheld DNA evidence. Instead, the DA presented to the Bar and the national media the image of a rogue prosecutor who would stop at nothing to bring the case to trial.

Within a week:

  • Duke president Richard Brodhead—who heretofore had avoided all public criticism of Nifong—publicly urged the DA’s recusal from the case.
  • The State Bar filed ethics charges against Nifong, citing the “dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation” in his pre-primary public statements about the case.
  • The North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys publicly called for Nifong’s recusal.

Though Nifong would remain on the case for another two weeks, he implicitly recognized his isolation in one of the case’s many “Only in Durham” moments—the DA’s decision to bar the public and the media from his early January swearing-in ceremony.

Tomorrow: 2007 events.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Professor Johnson likely is tired of the compliments, but this an excellent analysis of the latter stages of the Nifong-Durham police frame-up. But where is the N&O and the rest of the lethargic North Carolina press? Must Professor Johnson carry the ball alone?

Anonymous said...

All this stuff cannot go down the memory hole.

You know, I always thought that Nifong would let this matter drop--i.e., I gave him the benefit of the doubt. When you look back on it, you wonder. Would this guy really have tried to send people away for crimes that they did not commit? I think so. What a scary thought. It's not that he hated them or anything like that--just he wanted a skin. My God, this guy is a pig.

Why would someone do such a thing--is being DA really that important? Is $30K really worth it?

I really hope that the Lax boys just ask him why he would do such a thing.

Anonymous said...

Nifong had lots of help. Where would he have been without the News & Observer's late March coverage fanning the flames? Recall the Khanna-Blythe "interview" with the unidentified "victim." The Raleigh newspaper has much to answer for in its early coverage. Joe Neff and occasionally Niolet did excellent work later in the case, but where has Neff been lately?

Anonymous said...

$400,000 is a lot of bail and by Durham standards must be huge. I think Nifong never expected for the families to make bail. he would have been happy to put these guys in jail for the last thirteen months while he dilly dallied around. He knew full well there was a good chance these boys would have been beaten, raped and possibly murdered by the other inmates if they were put in general population. Or they would spent twenty three hours a day alone in segregated cells for their own protection. Yeah, he would have sent them away if he could. it looks like he just hated these guys.

rrhamilton said...

Re. 12:52 AM's post:

I had forgotten about the astronomical bail -- was it $400,000? My question: who gets the interest on these funds? If the interest escheats to the government (most likely the county government, if this is a county prosecution), then we may have another answer as to why the new prosecutors are dragging their feet.

I'm also glad 12:52 raised the issue of Nifong possibly knowing that boys would be raped in jail. It is one of the sweet ironies of this case that if Nifong is ever imprisoned, he may get a new perspective on interracial rape. (Most of the online information on this is on racist sites but Google "Human Rights Watch" and "prison rape".) If so, I think that's what Duke's Senior Vice-President John Burness might call "a teachable moment" for Nifong.

Anonymous said...

"Before the hearing, Nifong said he didn’t know about Meehan’s findings; directly afterwards, he said he did—but felt it important not to turn over this information, so as to protect the privacy of the unindicted lacrosse players".

Nothing short of a prison term would be appropriate for this alone.

Was the judge in the case on drugs?

Anonymous said...

Are you sure of your statement that “Nifong’s advisors” are “the 'Troika' of Wilson, wife Cy Gurney, and citizens’ committee co-chair Victoria Peterson”? Peterson has been repeatedly admonished by Durham’s City Council and as indicated in her claims that the Duke Medical Center tampered with the DNA results and her incitement to the mob to burn down 610 Buchanan, is clearly sick. I have a low opinion of Nifong but I find it hard to believe that anyone would be so stupid as to rely on Peterson as a source of advice.

But I’ve been wrong before about this case!


Diesel

Anonymous said...

"I really hope that the Lax boys just ask him why he would do such a thing".

You flatter him to think that he would ever answer such a question honestly. So what would be the point of asking him?

Anonymous said...

Who can deny the pure pleasure of seeing Nifong on the hot seat now and the walls closing in on him? I just hope that they don't despatch him too quickly; make it slow and painful, one strip of flesh at a time (metaphorically speaking).

Anonymous said...

12:53:

why would he hate them? If he did, he's a sick disgusting freak. If he did not, he's just a sociopath. Either way, I wish nothing bull ill for this POS.

Anonymous said...

12:53
Not only would the boys have been
brutalized, but they would have
been placed in the company of
people who'd be "invested" in
telling false stories about
the boys - (what they said about
the night in question etc.)

That's an old tactic, and I'm sure
it surprised Nifong that they
made bail.

"Made BAIL! WHAT?!"


I'm sure the Defense attorneys have
some people on the run, likewise,
offering all kinds of information
in order to avoid civil liability -
and perhaps jail, in the case of
evidence suppression etc.
Won't guess who might be on the
Defense Teams' lists, but you can
be sure they have a deep bench.
A very deep bench.

Count on some of the 88s to break
rank, too, on some of the
skullduggery they were involved in.
Don't expect to see that
made public, though - (some of
them have real jobs.)

Mac

bill anderson said...

$400,000 is a lot of bail and by Durham standards must be huge. I think Nifong never expected for the families to make bail. he would have been happy to put these guys in jail for the last thirteen months while he dilly dallied around. He knew full well there was a good chance these boys would have been beaten, raped and possibly murdered by the other inmates if they were put in general population.

I believe that this is exactly what Nifong hoped. Also, he would have played the "jumping on the bus" game in which the accused would have been put in cells with people who later would tell the police that the young men had "confessed" to all of the charges. Prosecutors do this all the time, in which they feed details of the case and then the lying inmate gives his account in the courtroom.

I think Nifong had some plans along that line, or at least the police would have done something like this. All he needed was for just one person to have remained in jail.

Harvey Silverglate, the noted defense attorney from Boston (and a person who despises Wendy Murphy), told me that he tries to get his arrested clients bailed out immediately because of the prevalence of "jumping on the bus."

There has been one consistent narrative throughout this case: Everything said by police and representatives of the State of North Carolina has been untrue. There have been plenty of crimes committed in this affair; it is just that police and prosecutors have been the ones committing them.

P. Rich said...

And still no final resolution. The Democratic Party machine grinds on; Nifong and his cast of enablers continue to receive paychecks and rewards; the "accused" continue to suffer and accumulate unaffordable legal charges.

This situation is so rotten, in so many ways, it truly deserves to become a legal, academic, media and political landmark. I'd say that bodes well for the book, KC.

Anonymous said...

The original case narrative was incredibly helpful to me when I first started looking into this travesty. I had looked for updates before and am glad to see it being brought up-to-date.

This should be a prominent part of the book. BTW, I'm hoping for a tour, with a chance to get a signed copy!

Anonymous said...

I was visiting Duke over this past weekend and am catching up.

To the list of people who have been rewarded for their roles in enabling the lie, you can add the rapper who condemed the lads, only to be invited to visit campus (as a paid performer, of course).

Anonymous said...

Regarding the amount of the bond, even though it was extremely high, had that amount been negotiated before the players turned themselves in? Does anyone know anything about that?

Durham Lawyer

RRHAMILTON said...

Has anyone else read this?

http://www.jhfc.duke.edu/icuss/pdfs/LubianoPresentation.pdf

This is, apparently, Lubiano's notes for an "AAAS Townhall Meeting", Feb. 12th 2007. And no, she didn't mention Abe Lincoln, even tho it was his birthday. She does mention the "Affaire Dreyfus" however, without a hint of irony.

There is a "Note" at the top that says, "This is an unfinished and unedited draft posted without bibliographic apparatus." I guess the bibliographic apparatus, a/k/a "bibliography", will be forthcoming.

And there is a 97-word sentence beginning at the bottom of page 2 in which she "explains Black Studies". Worth reading and contemplating whether it better explains why such programs should be eliminated.

RRHAMILTON said...

And look what else is out there:

This is from a (note the date!) March 9th, 2006 posting at www.dangerousprofessors.com: "DukePresident Richard Brodhead met with Miller and Horowitz, saying his university had no need to adopt an Academic Bill of Rights to protect students from faculty misbehavior." (Emphasis added)

http://dangerousprofessors.net/2006_03_09_archive.html

Most of this posting consists of a discussion of the many things that Duke professors do. Very much worth reading.

jamil hussein said...

I think this sentence tells it all..

Brodhead..saying his university had no need to adopt an Academic Bill of Rights to protect students from faculty misbehavior.

I really hope KC has changed his mind and supports now Horowitz's
work. It's impossible to find a better argument for it. After 2008 it may be too late: Then we may have various "reform", "speech code" and "equality" laws in place cementing the power of left-wing professional racists. Maybe left-wing non-racists do not care yet, but one day they will come after you, too.

Anonymous said...

to RRHAMILTON

re Lubiano and eliminating black studies

It doesn't take a genius to know that "black studies" is a joke. But have you ever analyzed what "black studies" really constitutes at a so-called elite institution like Duke?

Think about it. As far as I can tell, there is not 1 black person who is a Tier 1 genius in any art or science. Students and their families go to expensive universities like Duke to study the work of Tier 1 geniuses--Kant, Beethoven, Gauss, Confucius.

So why does Duke spend a fortune placating non-Tier 1 cultures?

Answer: The concept of "integration" has become so ingrained in America's soul that universities like Duke feel compelled to "include" the culture of the untalented, and there is no culture on earth less talented than that which derives from sub-Saharan Africa.

Black studies is reparations to blacks--most of it has no reason for existing at high-IQ institutions.

Lubiano, et al are parasites, and they like steak and lobster.

They deserve rice and beans.

C'est la guerre.

Anonymous said...

Whoa - Polanski you have snuck back in here. IQ-baiting - have we missed that or what? Well, no we haven't, but give it a go, eh?

scott said...

With the recounting of the 12/21 interview between "Investigator" Wilson and Mangum and the Magic Towel incident, it becomes impossible to defend the continuing travesty of delaying the dismissal of charges that has been orchestrated by the State of North Carolina, most recently by Roy Cooper and the Special Prosecutors, who are now entering their 4th month as the baton-wavers in this discordant symphony.

No longer should they be given the benefit of the doubt that they are simply trying to put all the pieces together so that justice is done and that to do so takes time.

It is obvious that they are either
1) trying to figure out a way to join Nifong in jumping off a cliff by planning to take the case to trial OR
2) waiting for some time in the future that will attempt to minimize the damage politically
to announce that charges have been dropped.

Since I believe Cooper, et. al., to be merely sleazy, not stupid like Nifong, I'm leaning to the latter. Come on, Cooper, why not do the honorable thing and call a news conference today to announce that the charges will be dropped on March 13, 2010 because the results of the poll you have had taken indicate by keeping the charges open until then that Durham racists will 1) agree not to riot and 2) remain completely loyal to your political party.

Anonymous said...

It truly is scary how much this one case indicts the entire NC Justice system. Every single prisoner tried by Nifong deserves a new trial. Same for every case he plea-bargained. Nothing less would be appropriate.

Anonymous said...

Black studies programs at universities are frequently the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that students who have been duped into majoring in "Black Studies" get since the degree is otherwise totally worthless.

These people need to be mainstreamed into the normal university....not given a worhtless degree and be told it has value, and to prove it we'll hire you to teach the same drivel to others....

jamil hussein said...

Black studies programs at universities are

It's hardly a secret why they exist. For various reasons, enough african-americans do not qualify for real academic programs so in order to fulfill the federally mandated "diversity" requirements, universities must invent new programs for not-so-qualified applicants. Woman's studies, AA studies are probably the best examples. Race quotas for real sciences are another sad example.

Mike Lee said...

I think it may get very interesting once these charges are dropped and the players start speaking publicly. I think they are going to come off as very sympathetic and there will be some hard questions posed to the University and the AG's office.

If it's proven that the decision was made to drop these charges (and it's hard to believe it hasn't been) and Cooper allowed any foot dragging on making an announcement, I would hope that there would be serious political consequences.

But from what we have all seen it's clear that in North Carolina and Durham, people in positions of authority seem to be able to act outrageously without fear of reprisal.

It seems clear to me that if you're a cop, Duke University Professor, or elected official in North Carolina, you can pretty much do whatever the hell you want no matter how outrageous without consequence.

I'm really hoping that attorneys for those falsely accused will change that fact.

Anonymous said...

11:50

How can there be consequences - this is a democrat run state, and Durham is close to 50% black. The pols know their base, and are playing to it.

I am startin' to feel a bit oppressed here!

Anonymous said...

I believe that this is exactly what Nifong hoped. Also, he would have played the "jumping on the bus" game in which the accused would have been put in cells with people who later would tell the police that the young men had "confessed" to all of the charges.

Consider that Nifong proceeded to intimidate Seligmann's alibi witness and offer plea deals to Kim Porter for her cooperation.

Anonymous said...

Nifong is one evil man, and he's the DA of Durham. LOL

A Duke Dad said...

Why ? Why ? Why did Imus get special treatment?

Group-88'er Alex Rosenberg advocated “affluent kids" not hire strippers, but "get as much hookup as they wanted from rich and attractive Duke coeds”. (New York Sun, October 27, 2006)

Don Imus was suspended for two weeks for characterizing members of the Rutgers Women's Basketball team as licentious and possessing stereotyped characteristics.

Will Philosophy Professor Rosenberg escape punishment for his unwarranted and insulting remarks ? Remarks which make the University a hostile environment, by advocating sexual exploitation ?

Can anyone see a distinction between the two comments ?

neil said...

Kudos again to Professor Johnson for drawing attention to the Durham Herald-Sun's continuing bias in its reporting on the Duke lacrosse case. Once again today (April 16) in its original on-line lead article concerning North Carolina Attorney General Cooper's decision in declaring the Duke students innocent, the newspaper stated as fact that Durham's "racial strains" had been a chief consideration and motive in that decision. Later in the day, no doubt after being called on this point, the Herald-Sun revised that grossly misleading story and now correctly reports on its web edition that "racial strains" were a point of discussion only when the AG's office was considering state charges against the "troubled" Ms. Mangum for filing false reports and repeatedly lying and altering her multitude of ever-more-bizarre stories. Attorney General Cooper himself clearly stated last week and in last night's CBS "60 Minutes" interview that "racial strains" had nothing at all to do with his decision regarding the students' innocence. The Herald-Sun, it seems, wanted to taint that unequivocal legal decision by having its readers believe otherwise, at least for a bit longer....

neil said...

Kudos again to Professor Johnson for drawing attention to the Durham Herald-Sun's continuing bias in its reporting on the Duke lacrosse case. Once again today (April 16) in its original on-line lead article concerning North Carolina Attorney General Cooper's decision in declaring the Duke students innocent, the newspaper stated as fact that Durham's "racial strains" had been a chief consideration and motive in that decision. Later in the day, no doubt after being called on this point, the Herald-Sun revised that grossly misleading story and now correctly reports on its web edition that "racial strains" were a point of discussion only when the AG's office was considering state charges against the "troubled" Ms. Mangum for filing false reports and repeatedly lying and altering her multitude of ever-more-bizarre stories. Attorney General Cooper himself clearly stated last week and in last night's CBS "60 Minutes" interview that "racial strains" had nothing at all to do with his decision regarding the students' innocence. The Herald-Sun, it seems, wanted to taint that unequivocal legal decision by having its readers believe otherwise, at least for a bit longer....