Saturday, April 07, 2012

Even for Durham...

Every so often, we see an event that raises eyebrows even by the upside-down standards of Durham legal culture. Take, for instance, the three legal motions filed late last week on behalf of false accuser and accused murderer Crystal Mangum. The motions weren’t filed by Mangum’s court-appointed attorney—who told the H-S that he knew nothing about them. Instead, they were ostensibly written on the accused murderer’s behalf by none other than “lay advocate” Sydney Harr, who has spent the past few years in a quixotic crusade to restore Mike Nifong’s law license. Even more strangely, Mangum’s court-appointed lawyer said that Mangum hadn’t authorized the motions’ filings—but each motion has a signature that appears to match Mangum’s.

In his motions, Harr, speaking of himself in the third person, admits that “he has not received formal legal training.” (But, perhaps, he once stayed at a Holiday Inn Express.) The three motions combine character assassination, bizarre interpretations of the law, and revisionist history of the lacrosse case to call for dismissal of the murder charges against Mangum; the recusal of Judge Smith from Mangum’s case; and a change of venue in the event the first two requests aren’t granted.

The motion to dismiss the murder charges is almost comically bad. Harr contends that Mangum shouldn’t face charges for murdering her late boyfriend, Reginald Daye, either because Daye’s doctors initially gave him a “prognosis for a full recovery” and thus are guilty of “medical malpractice” or because Daye’s family took him off life support after doctors said he had no chance of survival and thus engaged in a “hospital homicide.” (Harr, who identifies himself as a retired physician, also offers his medical opinion on Daye’s cause of death, even though he never treated Daye; indeed, he claims that Daye “might have even regained consciousness” had he remained on life support.) In perhaps the motions’ most bizarre line, Harr faults Duke Medical Center doctors for removing Daye from life support “without the consent or input from Defendant [Mangum].”

Why an accused murderer would have the right to make medical decisions for the person she allegedly murdered Harr does not reveal.

Applied nationally, the motion’s argument would free hundreds of convicted killers—anyone whose victim’s life wasn’t artificially sustained by life support. Harr doesn’t cite even one case to bolster his novel legal theory, but he does accuse the media of having “concealed” the fact that Daye had been on life support. Why the media would have engaged in this conspiracy of silence Harr does not explain.

Harr’s motions also devote considerable space to a claim of conspiracy on behalf of the Durham Police Department and the Durham DA’s office to invent and prosecute unsustainable charges against Mangum, because the “Defendant was the accuser in the Duke Lacrosse case.” Harr provides no explanation as to why the office of would-be lacrosse case second chair Tracey Cline or the Durham Police, which in 2006 spent months violating procedure after procedure in an attempt to prop up Mangum’s false charges, would have an incentive to invent criminal charges against Mangum. And, needless to say, he presents no evidence to sustain his . . . counterintuitive . . . theory.

His introduction of the lacrosse case does, however, provide Harr with an opportunity to relitigate the events of 2006. His motions, filled with gratuitous character assaults on the former Duke students, ooze with hatred for the falsely accused players (raising questions of whether the documents were prepared with some pro bono assistance from a certain disgraced ex-DA). Every so often, out of the blue, Harr throws in an attack on (of all people) Rae Evans.

Harr laments that Duke (who he himself has sued!) has faced “greed-driven lawsuits” because of what the motion alleges were $20 million settlements to the falsely accused players. (He provides no evidence for this figure, which he appears to have conjured from thin air.) And Harr, without citing any authority or case law, criticizes AG Roy Cooper for declaring the lacrosse players innocent, a move he attributes to the pernicious influence of Brad Bannon(!!). Cooper's actions, Harr suggests, were improper, since a declaration of innocence is “something that only a jury or a judge in lieu of a jury can do.” Of course, a jury delivers a verdict of “guilty” or “not guilty”; juries do not declare innocence. And what any of this revisionist history has to do with the motions’ ostensible topics Harr leaves for the reader to guess.

Perhaps temporarily forgetting the identity of his client, Harr veers from character assassination against the falsely accused lacrosse players to a claim that Nifong was wrongfully convicted of criminal contempt. Why? Because “as long as NIFONG believed what he was telling the court was true, even though it might not have been totally factually correct.”

This postmodern view of the truth might carry some way with the Group of 88 (did Harr seek to consult “law professor” Karla Holloway in his effort?) but has little bearing in the actual world of the law. As occurs throughout his motions, Harr cites no case law to sustain his novel legal theory. But he does employ it to suggest that Smith must recuse himself from Mangum’s trial.

The motions do reveal two new items: (1) that Nifong was “advised to drop prosecution of the Duke lacrosse defendants.” Harr doesn’t reveal who advised Nifong to take this course; and (2) that after her 2010 conviction for arson-related charges, Mangum was expelled from her graduate studies at North Carolina Central. Falsely accusing people of rape, apparently, doesn’t affect a student’s status at NCCU; conviction on misdemeanor arson charges does.

It’s hard to imagine that these motions will do Mangum any good. If, in fact, the false accuser didn’t authorize their filing, they could allow Harr to spend some time in jail for contempt. And WRAL reports that the State Bar is looking into Harr’s behavior.


guiowen said...

My own interpretation of J4N is that Harr is merely acting as a mouthpiece for Nifong. I can just imagine Mike sitting in his kitchen, complaining about how he is the only DA ever disbarred in NC. Harr then talks about the PAPEN group (protect all prosecutors except Nifong) that seems to control the entire Durham county justice system. Why does this happen? No doubt, says Nifong, because Rae Evans, who once worked at CBS (for all of ten years!) is the most powerful woman in the world. Now Rae has trained her sights on poor Crystal. What can we do about all this? Clearly, we have to get Crystal a change of venue, preferably all the way to Canada. So Sidney Harr does Mike's bidding and writes these briefs, even if it's likely to get him in hot water with the law.

skwilli said...

It's refreshing to return to the very, very bizarre world of Durham and get out of the tinderbox that is Sanford FL.

kcjohnson9 said...

To the 12.59:

I believe that's a plausible theory.

Anonymous said...

Durham delivers again.

Anonymous said...

I think we've found our next Durham County District Attorney! Nifong to Cline to Harr seems like a natural progression, like the numbers 2, 4, 6, 10, 16 and 26.

I'm glad the state bar is looking into the matter of Harr's assistance, as there appears to be some legal issues. For instance, in North Carolina, it seems that barratry has been codified as follows:

"N.C.G.S. § 84-38 remains in effect, and reads in pertinent part:

It shall be unlawful for any person . . . to solicit or procure through solicitation either directly or indirectly, any legal business whether to be performed in this State or elsewhere ...."

Daimler Chrysler Corp. v. Kirkhart, No. COA00-1370, N.C. Appeals (2002). Mangum's attorney claims that Mangum did not direct the filing of the motions. There are phone logs and visitor's logs that are kept regarding a prisoner in Mangum's situation. These might tell a different story. If not "direction" on the part of Mangum, then perhaps "solicitation" on the part of Harr. The actual barratry statute provides this additional, relevant bit:

"Any person, firm, corporation or association of persons violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

The council of the North Carolina State Bar is hereby authorized and empowered to investigate and bring action against persons charged with violations of this section and the provisions as set forth in G.S. 84‑37 shall apply."

In addition, North Carolina has an "unlawful practice of law" statute, codified at N.C.G.S. Secs 84-4 et seq., which provides, in relevant part:

"[I]t shall be unlawful for any person ... except active members of the Bar of the State of North Carolina admitted and licensed to practice as attorneys‑at‑law, to appear as attorney or counselor at law in any action or proceeding before any judicial body ... to maintain, conduct, or defend the same, except in his own behalf as a party thereto; ... or to prepare legal documents, or as being engaged in advising or counseling in law or acting as attorney or counselor‑at‑law, or in furnishing the services of a lawyer or lawyers; and it shall be unlawful for any person ... except active members of the Bar, for or without a fee or consideration,..."

Looks like our next Durham County District Attorney is already in some hot water. MOO! Gregory

Anonymous said...

I need to add that a violation of the "unlawful practice" statute also provides a second pretty significant penalty:

"Any person, corporation, or association of persons violating the provisions of G.S. 84‑4 to G.S. 84‑7 shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor."

It seems to me that Harr might be facing a count of barratry and three counts of unlawful practice of law -- all of which would be brought by his nemesis -- the North Carolina State Bar Association!

On another note, for the barratry or "solicitation" claim to stick, Mangum will have to say that Harr solicited her, which is a nice change of pace, indeed. That seems very intuitive since it would be unreasonable for a person to ask a second person -- who they knew not to be a lawyer -- to act as a lawyer.

Moreover, Mangum's court-appointed lawyer is already drawing the noose around Harr's neck with the statements that he knew nothing of the motions and that Mangum didn't authorize them. MOO! Gregory

Scot Foley said...

The only real takeaway from these "motions" and Sydney Harr's blog is that there are crackpots out there who have, to paraphrase Lane Williamson, convinced themselves of one version of the facts of the Duke Lacrosse case (and Crystal Mangum's subsequent actions)while the rest of the world knows that is not what really happened. Harr's rantings bear no relation to reality and are not to be taken seriously.

Anonymous said...

Just how far into libel land can wingnut Harr wander? Medical homicide by duke physicians?
My new favorite bumper sticker seen around town....
"Mangum for DA, at least she knows where the jail is....."

Anonymous said...

I noticed that Harr managed to intentionally defame the innocent Duke students again in his filings. This will go to the continuing damages that Duke and Durham will have to pay. My guess -- this is only speculation -- is that the justice4nifong site got 4 hits in December (all Mike Nifong), 1 in January (again, Mike Nifong), and 0 in February and March. To get the attention he craves for his ravings, Harr now is forced to commit the crimes of barratry and the unlicensed practice of law.


The local newspapers are finally doing a better job of describing the Crystal Mangum/Mike Nifong Hoax. Here is the Herald-Sun reporting on Harr's latest crazy:

"Nifong was the prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse case, in which Mangum accused three players of raping her after they hired her as a stripper for their party. The N.C. attorney general eventually declared the players innocent; Nifong was forced to resign his post as district attorney and he later was disbarred."

And here is

"In March 2006, Mangum claimed three white players on the lacrosse team trapped her inside a bathroom at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd., where she was performing as a stripper at a team party, and raped and sexually assaulted her.

Her story about the incident was so inconsistent that Attorney General Roy Cooper later declared the players innocent, saying there was no credible evidence against them."

Both publications use the term "innocent," which is a nice surprise, and WRAL goes on to note that there was zero credible evidence against the boys.

The problem I have with their reporting is that the Herald Sun gives the driest reading of what happened -- without placing any blame on Mangum or Nifong -- even though they were the major malefactors and are the reason Harr couldn't contain his crazy in this instance.

Additionally, WRAL implies that the case against the innocent students was thrown out because of a lack of credible evidence and inconsistent stories from Mangum. While that is true, it is not the real reason the North Carolina Attorney General found the boys innocent. It was the reason he found the boys innocent ONCE HE GOT THE CASE.

We have to remember that without Nifong being caught red-handed hiding exculpatory evidence, the boys would've faced trial even though there was zero credible evidence of their guilt and even though Mangum came up with 10 to 15 different stories. MOO! Gregory

silent_l said...

Here's an interesting turn of phrase in the motion to dismiss. Referring to Mangum, and back to the Duke Lacrosse case, it says "Defendant admitted to being sexually assaulted by three of the partygoers." Admitted???

Mark Orgel said...

The most amazing thing about this is how Harr is complaining about media distortions regarding the case against Mangum, and is decrying the presence of 2 contradictory autopsy reports, claiming that at least one was deliberately falsified. Preparing falsified documents seems to have been Mike Nifong's chief pastime when he was DA, so the irony is huge.

Anonymous said...

Is Ken Edwards a Communist?

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is Ken Edwards a Communist?

4/12/12 9:06 PM"

I do not know if Ken Edwards, aka Kenhyderal, is a Communist. He has come up with a really far fetched hypothesis as to what happened on the night of 13/14 March, 2006, namely:

There were unidentified, non LAX players at the party. They were the ones who raped Crystal. LAX players knew who they were but covered up for them even after Mike Nifong wrongfully indicted and prosecuted three of their teammates.

Kenhyderal offers as evidence to back up this hypothesis 1) Crystal alleged she was raped and 2)Kilgo told him that an anonymous Lacrosse player told him Crystal had been raped.

Kilgo, who once posted on J4N but who has since disappeared, insisted he had more knowledge about the Lacrosse party than any living person. Whenever challenged to back up his claims, he always backed down.

Anonymous said...

Harr claims, now, that Mangum gave him the documents he posted on his web site...including HIPPA PHI. First, I wonder whether the accused "owns" discovery/evidence and can give it away, without any need for consent/release in the use of PHI. Second, I wonder why Mangum is now denying that she authorized Harr to do anything, yet he claims to have her signature on the motion documents. (who is lying here???) Third, I wonder what resource, if any, the Daye family and Duke have in terms of action(s) against Harr. Fourth, will action taken against Harr by the NC Barr be public record?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 4/16/12 11:31 AM:

"...will action taken against Harr by the NC Barr be public record?"

I certainly hope so.

Mark Orgel said...

The latest...

With Sid Harr and the rest of the seriously deluded J4N crew seriously undermining his ability to defend CGM, her attorney, Chris Shella, has had himself removed from her case. His explanation? That the CGM and the J4N'ers disclosed priveleged attorney-client communications that tipped off prosecuters to her potential defense strategy. At a news conference yesterday, Harr stated that "the truth shall set [CGM] free". He also publically stated that CGM's victim, Reginald Daye, was murdered by Duke Medical Center, and that Daye's autopsy report was fabricated.

Seriously, I don't know what these people are smoking, but their actions seem like they could be interpreted as obstruction of justice. Publishing Daye's medical records in a public forum is certainly against federal law (HIPPA), and I have to think that stating that DMC and the ME's office are guilty of murder, conspiracy, and falsification of legal documents amounts to defamation.

The ironic thing is that these so-called "supporters" have actually set back CGM's case by months at least, and guaranteed that she will stay in jail longer. Who is going to draw the short straw and get appointed as her attorney now? Will she be able to obtain any kind of effective counsel with Harr and et al up the posterior of whoever is defending her?

With friends like Harr, who needs enemies?