(Well, anyone except the defense attorneys, I suppose.)
In the event, Cohan’s deep admiration for Nifong colors the entire book. The author gives his hero every benefit of the doubt, and then some, in a desperate effort to rehabilitate the disgraced ex-prosecutor’s reputation.
- On the wording of the NTO, and its (correct, given the facts of the case) promise that the DNA tests would reveal guilt or innocence, Nifong blames ADA David Saacks, saying that Saacks had “never dealt with a rape case,” and he shouldn’t have “allowed” such language “to remain in a nontestimonial.” Needless to say, Nifong never gave any hint of such sentiments before the DNA tests came back negative. (p. 78) Cohan gives no indication that he contacted Saacks for comment.
- On his statement to then-campaign manager Jackie Brown, that he was receiving a “million dollars” worth of publicity from the case, Nifong implies that Brown (p. 135) lied: “I’m pretty sure that I never made any comment like that to her.” Cohan gives no indication that he contacted Brown for comment.
- Nifong faults Linwood Wilson(!)—supposedly an “experienced investigator” (p. 446)—for mishandling the December 20, 2006 solo interview with Mangum. The widespread backlash to that interview, of course, accelerated the process by which Nifong was removed. Cohan gives no indication that he contacted Wilson for comment.
- Nifong accuses Lane Williamson (p. 559) of having pre-judged his ethics case, and having written part of Nifong’s sentencing memo even before Nifong testified at the Bar hearing. Cohan gives no indication that he contacted Williamson for comment.
- Nifong charges (p. 579) that the State Bar “exists for the purpose of protecting the rich lawyers from the people,” and that “it was a situation where they [it’s not clear who ‘they’ are] really sold out to the monied interest of the state bar.” Cohan gives no indication that he contacted anyone from the State Bar for comment.
- Nifong claims that Osmond Smith pre-judged his criminal contempt trial, and told people at a cookout that he was planning to sentence Nifong to 30 days in jail. Cohan gives no indication that he contacted Smith for comment.
- Nifong scoffs (p. 573) that Charles Davis, in prosecuting his criminal contempt trial, was incompetent and “the most inept that I had ever seen.” (Nifong was found guilty in this trial.) Cohan gives no indication that he contacted Davis for comment.
- Nifong accuses the defense attorneys (p. 578) for having engaged in behavior that “was not really appropriate and it was not really permissible.” Nifong doesn’t say what this improper behavior was, nor does Cohan appear to have asked him. Cohan gives no indication that he contacted any of the defense attorneys for comment.
- Nifong blames the lacrosse players(!) for all his problems, since they started the affair by refusing Gottlieb’s March 2006 demand (p. 576) to meet with him without attorneys present.
Who told Nifong this? Who knows? The “definitive, magisterial” book on the case has little interest in how Nifong gained access to the Bar prosecutors’ internal strategy. Nor does Cohan explain why he simply didn’t ask the Bar’s own attorneys if he wanted a behind-the-scenes take on their strategy. As with Jim Coman in the AG’s office, Cohan’s preferred approach appears to have been refraining from asking questions of people who might discredit Nifong’s latest ruminations.
A final note, from page 83: “It was from being forced to stand his ground that Nifong developed a lifelong disdain for bullies.” Cohan passes along this observation—about Durham’s biggest bully, circa 2006—without comment. Indeed, it appears as if he didn’t even notice the irony.