In its December filing against Mike Nifong, the state bar accused the D.A. of making improper commentary on the lacrosse players’ invocation of their constitutional rights; on the evidence to be presented in the case; about the guilt of the accused; and about the “character, credibility, and reputation of the accused.” It also accused Nifong of improperly using hypothetical comments to explain away the existence of exculpatory evidence and improperly making statements that heightened public condemnation of the accused. Finally, the bar alleged that “Nifong engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.”
In a May article, here’s how the newly elected chairwoman of the Duke Academic Council, Group of 88 member Paula McClain, described Nifong’s remarks:
Paula McClain, a professor of political science and co-director of Duke’s Center for Race, Ethnicity and Gender in the Social Sciences, says nothing Nifong could have done would have shielded him from criticism.
“No matter what you do, someone’s going to say you’re making this political. He’s probably done some things he should not have done, but whether what he’s done has made it more political?” McClain asked. “This would have been political, regardless.”
If that line of argument sounds familiar, it should: it is almost identical to excuses for his pre-primary publicity barrage offered by Nifong.
McClain also echoed Nifong’s line in her assertion that “the politically astute thing for whoever wins to do would be to let the justice system to run its course. Anything short would be detrimental. People want resolution.”
Of course, the justice system is supposed to be about a search for the truth, with the prosecutor adhering to city and state procedures, not using the process to achieve what the “people want.”
So not only did McClain, who also signed the “clarifying” letter, refuse to make a statement supporting Duke students’ due process rights, but she rationalized Nifong behavior that the bar (and most legal observers) deemed unethical.
McClain did not respond to an e-mail requesting comment.