Saturday, November 25, 2006

Best of the Case, IV

As a follow-up on three earlier posts, below are links to the best material to appear on the case since in the past month.



Some of these items are worth particular comment. Kristin Butler's two columns represent a model of newspaper commentary. Compare her work to the reflexive, sloppily argued pieces on the case turned out by Selena Roberts and Harvey Araton from the New York Times.

The two Liestoppers posts, meanwhile, should be required reading. A few weeks back, Herald-Sun editor Bob Ashley rationalized his paper's atrocious coverage by claiming a lack of resources. Blogs have no financial resources at all, but have done the work that Ashley's pro-Nifong propaganda organ has ignored. "From the Wall of Silence," an extraordinary investigative piece, revealed behind-the-scenes doings between March 24 and March 27—testimony that even at this late stage, new facts about the initial days continue to come to light.

Meanwhile, the Liestoppers analysis of the NAACP should win an award for timeliness. In recent weeks, Nifong enablers have attempted to argue that the NAACP has taken a "neutral" course on the case, chiefly by citing a 10-point statement by state director Barber. (That an organization with a long history of defending due process in criminal justice cases could assume a position of "neutrality" in a case with massive prosecutorial misconduct suggests a new approach in and of itself.)

Yet the Liestoppers post showed that the NAACP has, essentially, spoken with a forked tongue on the case, maintaining the Barber statement but taking action after action that contradicted it--to the point where the organization is now all but operating as an arm of the prosecution.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the terrific information, KC, What is frustrating to those who see this hoax case as a serious miscarriage of justice is that Nifong continues to string this out and continues to be in the catbird seat. Is there no legal angle that would shake up the status quo?

Anonymous said...

Right now, Nifong is able to treat Durham as a personal fiefdom. Since the governor and attorney general of North Carolina have decided to take a powder, there literally is no one else who legally can do anything at the current time.

Furthermore, Nifong knows that if he can keep the trial in Durham, most likely he either will win a guilty verdict or have a hung jury, and with a hung jury, he can keep the charges around for years to come. Because so many elements of Durham have decided to support this prosecution, he has the political support to continue it indefinitely.

Sooner or later, an appellate court or other outside entity will weigh in on this case, but that takes time, and there are certain procedures that must take place. Because North Carolina is controlled politically by Democrats, and because Democrats there need the votes of blacks and white liberals -- the two groups most supportive of the prosecution -- to win, I doubt that anything will happen on the political end, at least in the short run.

Obviously, not all Democrats in North Carolina or elsewhere support this injustice, K.C. being a most eloquent personal example. (I am a libertarian, so I look at this as an observer, not as a political participant.) Democrats elsewhere have attacked this injustice, and Prof. James Coleman, a Democrat and outstanding member of the Duke faculty, also has weighed in against the prosecution. But still, Nifong is able to take advantage of the local political situation and is taking every advantage.

Anonymous said...

Bill...scarey thought...where is the conscience in North Carolina?

Anonymous said...

Good question. Right now, those with a conscience are bound by the law, and those who are not can do what they wish.

AMac said...

It is also worth noting that many of the hoax's participants and enablers have personal stakes in seeing it continue to trial. For these purposes, acquittal, a hung jury, or conviction reversed on appeal are all acceptable outcomes.

In these scenarios, Nifong, Gottlieb, Holloway, Wood, and the rest of the gang can grant interviews and pose in front of cameras to say,

"Who knew? It was a complex, multifaceted situation. Even on Law & Order, good-faith efforts don't always lead to punishment for the guilty. Now that the system has worked, we can focus on healing the divisions in our community."

The likes of the Herald-Sun, the NYT, and CNN will have no trouble fitting this story line to their preconceptions. Case closed.

Contrast this to a prosecution that collapses in the next few weeks as the import of due process violations, equal protection denials, police incompetence, prosecutorial abuses, Duke Administration complicity, faculty schadenfreude, and newspaper distortions come to light. Instead of "who knew?," there would be shock, shock at the clear record of abuses of power and dereliction of duty. There would be casting calls for Bad Guys--and a short list of auditioners. D.A. Nifong, to take the clearest example, risks losing his job, the non-fully-vested portion of his pension, his health insurance, his reputation, and his license to practice law. Multimillion dollar civil suits against him would be strengthened by a prosecution that was widely acknowledged to be corrupt.

So there is no shortage of rational actors working to Keep Hoax Hope Alive. In the D.A.'s office, at the DPD, at the H-S, and among Duke faculty, administrators, and students.

Anonymous said...

Interesting analysis. But isn't there some way to shake up the legal status quo. This may seem minor, but what about the libel and defamation in the distribution and publishing of the so-called vigilante poster, with the numerous unindicted players' pictures. Couldn't the unindicted bring a class-action suit immediately against those who created, distributed and published the vigilante poster? On the face of it, wasn't this libel and defamation?

Anonymous said...

At the present time, the law treats the charges as THOUGH THEY WERE TRUE. From the irresponsible statements by Duke faculty members to the "wanted" poster, there is nothing that those who have been charged -- and those who have NOT been charged -- can do about what has been said.

One reason is that the lacrosse players who have not been charged still have threats from Nifong hanging over their heads. The one exception might be Brian Ross, who clearly was NOT THERE that night, but who was identified by the AV as her being "100% sure" he was there. However, if the other lacrosse players say too much, including Ross, no doubt Nifong would indict them, too.

Now, let us say that the charges are dropped. Perhaps those who have been accused can file civil charges against Duke University, but it would make sense only in federal court, as a Durham civil jury also would be no more apt to rule in favor of the wrongfully accused than a Durham criminal jury.

Anonymous said...

As a Durham resident, I'm afraid all we can hope for now is that Nifong's prostate cancer remission ends soon, and with protracted consequences for him.

It's somewhat amusing (albeit in a sick sense) that Nifong used this incident to position himself as a supposed "friend of blacks." Durham's famous for being plagued with crime, and over 95% of that is perpetrated on blacks by other blacks. Day-to-day crime in Durham, however, goes largely unpunished; see today's Herald-Sun story wherein a murder participant bargained down to drug possession and received two years' probation. If Nifong truly had an interest in Durham's black community, he would make some effort at locking up the scumbags that prowl their neighborhoods. Instead, he cynically thumps the tub of "Get Whitey" to gain votes while the living conditions of his constituents continue to deteriorate.

The Gang of 88 (and anyone else blinded by envy and impotent rage) should remember during their fervor for a Stalinist show trial: If a sociopath like Nifong decides it is politically expedient to destroy someone for his own ends, who's to say you won't be his next victim?

I have long contended that 27 years in the same government job should should be grounds for disqualification from any position of significant responsibility.

And thanks for creating this blog, KC. This will likely stand as the only true record of what went on in Durham during this bizarre period. The Herald-Sun coverage sure as hell won't be worth anything.