Saturday, February 28, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
I largely have avoided commenting on the strange “Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong” organization, put together by a self-described “lay person,” Sidney Harr. The group, which demands restoration of Mike Nifong’s law license, portrays the disgraced ex-DA as a victim of a conspiracy involving Attorney General Roy Cooper, the North Carolina Bar, various defense attorneys, Judge Osmond Smith, Moezeldin Elmostafa, the North Carolina legislature (for enacting the law, which Nifong ignored, requiring prosecutors to turn over all test results from NTO’s), and (perhaps) other, unnamed co-conspirators in Durham, in North Carolina, in other states, and in other countries as well. Given the vastness of the conspiracy against him, it’s remarkable that Nifong was able to sustain his groundless prosecution for as long as he did.
The blog and accompanying website nonetheless make for an enlightening read, if only for a glimpse at the ill-concealed rage against the lacrosse players that fueled Nifong’s political base in Durham (and, for that matter, the Group of 88 at Duke). In recent weeks, Harr has put together a “comic strip”—all in “good, clean fun,” and “not malicious,” he claimed—that, among other things, purports to find humor in the experiences of the players’ parents. He also penned a post wildly alleging the bribery of Elmostafa, a theory so bizarre even Nifong never made it.
Harr’s blog and website are an appropriate tribute to Nifong, in terms of both tone and intellectual quality. And, to the extent that Harr sustains the character assault against the lacrosse players, he is, ironically, helping the players’ civil suits, by showing the continued damage to their reputations from the improper actions of Nifong and the Durham Police Department.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
1.) The Supreme Court has agreed to hear District Attorney's Office v. Osborne. The issue: should people convicted before modern DNA standards were developed have the right to DNA tests now, which could prove their innocence?
2.) The lacrosse case wasn't the only one in which modern-day electronic evidence could be used to prove innocence, as this case involving records from a New York City metrocard revealed.
Monday, February 16, 2009
A variety of figures whose performance in the lacrosse case drew widespread condemnation surfaced in the news over the past week—with scant, if any, suggestions that they had learned any lessons from their misbehavior.
In a race to the bottom for lack of integrity, it’s hard to choose between Selena Roberts and Alex Rodriguez. Now working for Sports Illustrated, Roberts broke the story that Rodriguez had tested positive for steroids in 2003. In an interview about her story with the MLB Network’s Bob Costas, Roberts affirmed that her obligation as a journalist was to “find the truth.” She expanded on this in an interview with ESPN Radio, where, according to Harry Stein, she opined, “What we tried to do is be very specific about what we heard and make sure that we found credible information and reliable people, and that we buttoned up every single hole to make sure to be absolutely right . . . It’s like being in court—once you say something, you can’t just strike it.”
It’s not clear when Roberts adopted this definition of her profession’s aim: her writing on the Duke case demonstrated an aversion to, rather than a quest for, the truth.
Perhaps Roberts’ focus on Rodriguez is fitting justice. Just as Rodriguez’s career will be forever tarnished by his admission that he broke the law over a several-year period, so too will Roberts be forever tarnished by her decision to set aside the standards of her profession to advance a preconceived ideological agenda, use her Times column to spew falsehoods, and then refuse to own up to her errors.
Selena Roberts looks like a beacon of truth and righteousness, however, when compared to Wendy Murphy. In the lacrosse case, the adjunct law professor compiled a record for untruths second only to that of Mike Nifong. (New England School of Law’s dean did not respond to repeated e-mails asking how he could continue to employ—as a professor of law—a figure who publicly and repeatedly stated outright falsehoods.)
The adjunct law professor was back in the news last week, in an article on “sexting” (teenagers sending nude pictures of themselves or their boyfriends/girlfriends as text messages). The Boston Herald, identifying Murphy as someone “who lectures on sex crimes at the New England School of Law,” reported the adjunct professor as saying that “sexting” almost has become an “epidemic.” Murphy added, “I know it seems heavy-handed to bring child porn charges. Law enforcement is using the only tool it has for what has become a huge problem nationwide.”
The evidence Murphy cited to show that “sexting” has almost become an “epidemic,” and that it “has become a huge problem nationwide”? None. But why let evidence get in the way of a preferred storyline, even if it involves support for charging 13-year-olds with child porn?
The other “expert” quoted in the Herald story was Sari Locker, a self-described “sex educator and TV personality,” whose official website photo is a bit on the . . . revealing . . . side. It’s good to see that Murphy is continuing to keep good company.
By the end of the lacrosse case, virtually the only publication that treated Murphy seriously was the Wilmington Journal, where Cash Michaels would regularly quote, without skepticism, from Murphy and either NAACP “case monitor” Irving Joyner or North Carolina NAACP head William Barber.
As the highest-profile case of prosecutorial misconduct in modern U.S. history was occurring in his midst, Barber did all he could to prop up the case offered by the perpetrator of that prosecutorial misconduct. Whether it was publishing an error-laden, guilt-presuming 82-point “memorandum of law” or going to the Duke Chapel to continue his organization’s character assault on Duke students, Barber spent more than a year strenuously advancing Mike Nifong’s efforts.
Last week, Barber was honored with the Paul Green Award by, of all, organizations, the North Carolina ACLU.
I share Barber’s opposition to the death penalty, and agree wholeheartedly with the NAACP’s efforts against the practice. That said: How can an organization committed to upholding civil liberties extend an award to a figure whose public conduct in such a high-profile case had exhibited an utter indifference to the importance of civil liberties?
Finally, Clark University has chosen to honor Karla Holloway. Next week, the Group of 88 extremist will give the keynote address at a Clark University conference entitled, “Evolutionary Momentum in African American Studies — Legacy and Future Direction.”
Holloway’s honor serves as a reminder of a principal academic lesson from the lacrosse case: in an academic environment dominated by peer review, terms like “excellence” or “quality” mean very different things than what non-academics might expect. That an Ivy League institution like Cornell could hire Grant Farred while hailing his scholarly credentials as excellent, or a top-tier liberal arts college like Clark could bring Holloway in to give a keynote address shows how such inherently subjective terms as “excellence” or “quality” are defined in the contemporary academy.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Saturday, February 07, 2009
Former Rhode Island congressman Ron Machtley, president of Bryant University, becomes (to my knowledge) the first college or university administrator to publicly criticize how Richard Brodhead and the Group of 88 responded to the lacrosse case.
For the full video, on Bryant's move to Division I, including some excellent footage of Mike Pressler, see Lax.com.
Friday, February 06, 2009
Bill Anderson calls for ending the practice of civil suit absolute immunity for prosecutorial behavior in light of Nifong's misconduct.
John in Carolina takes the Chronicle to task for a peculiar passage in a recent editorial baldly asserting, on the basis of neither actual evidence nor any original reporting, that the lacrosse case didn't affect Duke fundraising.
Monday, February 02, 2009
A summary from a quite busy January:
Duke's decision to sue one of its insurance carriers boomeranged; in an explosive filing, National Union revealed that the University has already spent more than $5 million on its defense--and that it notified its carrier of possible civil liability not when Crystal Mangum first made her allegations but instead the day after Nifong received DNA evidence almost certainly proving that Mangum's fanciful claims were wholly false. In other words: Duke appears to have recognized as early as March 30, 2006 that a civil suit likely would come not from Mangum but from its own students.
Durham inaugurated a new "minister of justice" who at best misled voters and at worst outright lied about her role in the lacrosse case. To make her priorities clear, new DA Tracey Cline invited as her special inauguration guest someone that the State Bar disbarred for prosecutorial misconduct. Cline also refused to endorse the findings of the Attorney General's investigation into the lacrosse case.
Cline also previewed a potential purge of her office--and didn't list ethics as among the top three criteria that she desired in potential assistant district attorneys.
Duke promoted to a deanship the third member of the Group of 88.
In 2008, the four leading Democratic presidential candidates were an African-American (Obama), a woman (Clinton), a Hispanic (Richardson) and a white male (Edwards). Yet, according to Huffington Post's campaign contributions database, the race- and gender-obsessed Bill Chafe and Tim Tyson donated money to . . . the white male. Will the equally race- and gender-obsessed Group of 88'er Grant Farred now label them "secret racists," as he did the Duke students who dared to register to vote in Durham?
Richard Brodhead's predecessor, Nan Koehane, offered excuses for Brodhead's performance in the lacrosse case, and fantastically suggested that, during her tenure as president, she had attempted to address the "root of the problem" exposed in the case. In fact, of course, problems such as faculty groupthink and the University's cavalier attitude toward the due process rights of students had grown much worse during Keohane's time in office, and no evidence exists that she had ever attempted to address them, either at their root or in any other form.
In legal developments, two discouraging developments for the civil suit team of Duke, Durham & Nifong. In Pearson, the Supreme Court gave lower courts more fleixibility in addressing claims of qualified immunity. In Van de Kamp, as Liestoppers noted, the Court reaffirmed that a prosecutor doesn't get absolute immunity for actions (as occurred with Nifong in the lacrosse case) undertaken in a police or investigatory capacity.
Not deterred, Nifong attorney Jim Craven filed an 11-line motion to dismiss the civil suit against his client. The falsely accused players' attorneys had little difficulty in responding. Perhaps, as one reader cleverly suggested, Craven would have had better luck (at least he would have received points for creativity) had he shortened his 11-line response to a haiku:
Fails to state a claim
No standing for injunction
D.A. is immune
The newest book on the case, Race to Injustice, combines impressive legal analysis with, unfortunately, essays that read as if caricatures of Group of 88 musings.
And the Wall Street Journal reported that Bob Steel's misleading remarks about Wachovia might cost him more than merely a spot on CNBC host Jim Cramer's "wall of shame."