Well beyond his odd arguments, William D. Cohan has distinguished
himself through a highly unusual editorial strategy. In many cases relying
solely on the word of a convicted liar (often presented second- or even
third-hand), Cohan allowed Mike Nifong to launch unsubstantiated attacks
against virtually anyone who challenged the rogue district attorney at any
point during the lacrosse case.
It’s difficult to infer a benevolent motive to Cohan’s
strategy. It’s also hard to determine how Scribner’s editorial and legal
staff allowed Cohan to get away with this approach. The first article to appear
on the book—by Joe Neff—exposed the problem: relying solely on Nifong’s word,
Cohan claimed that Attorney General Roy Cooper “blindsided” his senior
prosecutors when he declared the falsely accused students innocent. Unlike Cohan,
actually spoke to Jim Coman
, who dismissed the presentation of events as a “figments
of [Nifong’s] imagination.”
Another key figure in the case targeted by Nifong and Cohan
has now refuted the Cohan presentation. Lane Williamson
who presided over the Disciplinary Hearing Commission in Nifong’s case, was a powerhouse,
handling the case with unchallenged intellectual and moral authority. (UPI
a majestic quote from Williamson.) Williamson also produced the most dramatic moment of the
entire proceeding, when he asked Nifong about his then-current view of the
(In the clip above, Nifong made no mention of his bizarre
Japanese-rape-club example that Cohan floats as his current theory of the case in
the book. Cohan did not seem to ask him when, after his testimony above, he embraced
this novel interpretation of the facts of the case.)
It would seem as if the outcome of the Bar hearing placed
Williamson on Nifong’s enemies list. And given Cohan’s uncritical acceptance of
virtually anything Nifong told him, Williamson became a target of Cohan as
well. On p. 559, Nifong-through-Cohan challenged Williamson’s integrity and
impartiality, claiming that “at least part of Lane Williamson’s sentencing memo
was done the night before I testified. At least part of that had been written. I
could’ve said anything. I could’ve called Jesus Christ as a witness, and [h]e
could have testified and ascended into heaven, and they would’ve said, ‘Well, obviously
you can’t make anything of that testimony. That doesn’t mean anything. You’re
For reasons that he has never explained regarding multiple
figures in the book, Cohan produced this passage without attempting to contact
Williamson. Unsurprisingly, given its reliance on the word of a convicted liar,
the book’s portrayal of Williamson is untrue. In a comment (verified by me), Williamson
I have never commented on
this or any other blog about the Nifong case, but feel compelled to do so now.
I did not prejudge Mike Nifong: rather, I evaluated the evidence presented at
the hearing to reach my conclusions. I wrote no part of my concluding remarks
prior to the end of the hearing: those were extemporaneous except for a few notes
that I made during the panel’s deliberation following closing arguments on the
punishment phase of the hearing.
Mr. Cohan has never contacted me. [emphasis added]
As with Jim Coman, then, so too with Lane Williamson: (1) Cohan
uncritically accepted a less-than-plausible assertion from Nifong; and (2)
despite Nifong’s credibility problems, didn’t even try to check his protagonist’s
veracity with the person that Nifong had targeted.
That said, the wild Cohan/Nifong claim should give everyone
an opportunity to return to one of the high points of the case. I have embedded
Williamson’s remarks below, or, you can watch the entire Williamson closing in
a single file, in higher quality, at the WRAL site
Thank you K.C. for embedding the videos, I'd forgotten just how powerful and clear these statements were and remain.
After again watching Lane Williamson it becomes increasingly clear that William Cohan has been cheated out of an education. Where did Cohan attend college?
A devastating rebuttal to the apologist screed written by Cohan. (And the criminal actions of his hero, Mike Nifong.) Thanks KC. Cohan should have to give all his proceeds from the book to the innocent "boys" to distribute however they wish.
In "The prosecution's case against DNA" the New York Times' Andrew Martin wrote, "The issues raised by DNA exonerations have led to an overhaul of the criminal-justice system. Some states now require that evidence be preserved; others require mandatory videotaping of interrogations. Several states, including Illinois, New Jersey and New York, abolished the death penalty largely because of concerns about executing an innocent person. North Carolina, meanwhile, has created an independent commission to review innocence claims. And some prosecutors’ offices, including those in New York and Dallas, have created conviction-integrity units."
Yes, we should all understand that there are limitations and caveats to DNA evidence, but I don't want to go back to the pre-DNA era. Even credible witnesses such as Jennifer Thompson-Cannino make mistakes, as told in the book, "Picking Cotton." I am glad that Mr. Martin noted the innocence inquiry commission in North Carolina.
I went to Amazon to see what the comments look like. I now get it. The people giving 5 stars are people who never paid attention to the case. Now, enough time has passed to make Cohan's book a winner. Of course, the book only plays to the uninformed if it promotes Nifong as a martyr. Oh, well.
The last I checked, Wiliam Cohan's book has racked up seven 5 star reviews, two 4 star reviews and THIRTY one star reviews,
Not even Crystal's (for want of a better word)book racked up so much negative publicity.
Should we be surprised that Cohan thanks Eliot "Client Number Nine" Spitzer in the Acknowledgements section? This man has no integrity whatsoever, and I believe that if one does some hard checking of his other works, the result will be the discovery of lies and innuendos.
Bill, he also thanks Houston Baker for his "generosity in granting permission to reprint" his 'farm animal' email to Patricia Dowd.
William Cohan during his media tour speaks and sounds just like you would expect a 17 year stockbroker from Wall Street would sound when asked to expound on complex medical or legal issues.
That is to say, he speaks with the same authority as would a doctor recommending stocks for investment, or an attorney recommending you buy the most recent internet stock.
This is very consistent with someone who would write the definitive, magisterial history of a complex but well-reported and well-documented subject of any kind without a bibliography, or footnotes, or attributions to many of his quotes.
This production could not possibly be acknowledged as scholarship at any level.
Shame on William Cohan. Shame on Scribners.
Can one “infer' a motive to a strategy?
I can't tell you how disgusted and depressed I am over the last 10 or so posts on DiW. When is this issue going to pass away? It's like Cohan and Company are part of parallel universe where night is day, dark is light, etc. How many times do you have to refute plainly stated facts? Then, people like Mr. Cohan proceed on their merry way, totally ignoring the voluminous body of evidence, testimony, proof, disproof, you name it. Are editors employed at publishing companies anymore. Sick!
Chairman Williamson deserves great credit to this day for the professional manner with which he conducted that hearing. Nifong clearly resents it, as he resents everyone who holds him to account for his unethical, criminal acts, but that doesn't change the facts. And as Chairman Williamson himself said, it's the facts that count.
If Nifong had any integrity, he might consider that Chairman Williamson showed him some compassion when he commented that the Duke case appeared to be an aberration in Nifong's life and career. But that would force him to come to grips with himself and apparently that just can't happen.
As someone who's followed the case closely, I greatly appreciated hearing from Mr. Williamson.
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