Highlights from Day Four of the Nifong trial:
1.) “An obvious cynical ploy”
Yesterday’s hearing featured a teary-eyed Nifong reading into the record a resignation statement. He was proud of his son, the disgraced DA stated, and hoped that his son was equally proud of him.
Asked for a reaction to Nifong’s statement, Joe Cheshire responded, “It was an obvious cynical ploy to save his law license, and his apology to these people is far too little and comes far too late.”
As so often occurred on this case,
Nifong was no longer teary-eyed or apologetic. He paused for several seconds and then asserted, “I think something happened in that bathroom, but it was not a sexual assault.” It could have been, he mused, a non-sexual assault or intimidation. But something happened to make everybody leave that scene very quickly.
“For him to apologize,” Jim Cooney said, “and then to continue to slander 46 innocent people about a crime that did not happen, is outrageous.”
No doubt the DHC panelists will take into account this “outrageous” behavior in deciding whether or not Nifong gets to keep his law license.
2.) The Bannon/Seligmann Team
The two most compelling witnesses were Bad Bannon and Reade Seligmann. Bannon provided the factual spine of the Bar’s case, walking people through, in meticulous detail, Nifong’s myriad procedurally improper actions.
Seligmann, meanwhile, provided gripping, emotional testimony about the human effect of Nifong’s behavior. The panelists were engrossed with his testimony.
3.) The Incompetence Defense
Before this week, Nifong had offered 13 different explanations as to his failure to turn over the exculpatory DNA material. Upon which of the 13 would he rely to the Bar? None.
Instead, Nifong eventually settled on a wholly new defense: the DA assumed, he said, that the exculpatory test findings were included in the May 12 Meehan report—but since he never bothered to read the report, he never learned otherwise.
How did this argument fit with Nifong reading into the record in September a Meehan letter explicitly saying that the report was limited; or with Nifong asserting on Dec. 15, after the hearing, that he knew the report was limited? Nifong never said.
Indeed, Nifong’s testimony suggested—in a best possible explanation—a stunningly lazy figure indifferent to justice. He sought indictments against Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty before even reading the transcript of the 4-4 lineup, which provided the only evidence against the duo. He launched his preprimary publicity barrage without reading any statements at all. And at no point in his career did he ever meet with defense attorneys who promised him exculpatory information.
4.) More from Wonderland
Little can surprise after all we’ve seen in this case, yet the sight of an Innocence Commission head defending Nifong more aggressively than Nifong had himself was nonetheless extraordinary.
Nifong “has as an excellent reputation for honesty and truthfulness in the community,” declared Montgomery-Blinn.
It was the duty of the DA to try high-profile cases, and there was nothing political about his activities.
Montgomery-Blinn praised the “no-drop” policy of the Nifong office, in which, in any domestic violence or sexual assault case, the office's policy was to go forward as long as the prosecutor believed in the accuser, even if no other evidence existed and the prosecutor believed a trial victory was impossible.
Then, in the most stunning comment, Montgomery-Blinn defended Nifong’s dismissal of the rape charge but the retention of the other two allegations.
It’s rather hard to have any confidence in Montgomery-Blinn’s work after this testimony: even Nifong admitted some errors.
Tomorrow, closing arguments begin the day, followed by deliberations of the panel. Nifong is almost certain to be found guilty. As for the punishment: the man who publicly asserted that “something happened” even as he admitted that he used his authority to obtain indictments without even the minimum effort to learn the truth deserves the strongest possible punishment.