Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Math Lessons from William D. Cohan

In author William D. Cohan’s publicity tour, by far the most disturbing false statements he’s made have related to former SANE-nurse-in-training Tara Levicy. Cohan’s assertion that he was the first person to reveal the contents of the Levicy report is demonstrably false, and his recent assertion about what the report contains is similarly false.

But if the Levicy material is Cohan’s most malicious fabrication, his recent comments about the book’s treatment of Mike Nifong are the most amusing. Here’s what he told NewYork: “It’s a 600-page book; 580 pages of it are a condemnation of [Nifong’s] behavior and his decisions and his judgements along the way.

The Nifong apologist, the impassioned defender of Nifong who proclaimed how he “certainly” felt “sorry” for the rogue prosecutor, actually published a book that overwhelmingly condemned Nifong’s actions?

Cohan’s book actually contains 614 pages of text, many of which don’t deal with Nifong at all; for the sake of argument, translate his New York comment to a claim that 95 percent of the book’s discussion of Nifong represents “a condemnation of [Nifong’s] behavior and his decisions and his judgements along the way.

Nifong references in the index (presumably prepared by Cohan or under Cohan’s direction) do not substantiate Cohan’s claim. I should note that the index is less-than-perfect; it’s almost as if six or seven paragraphs, scattered throughout the text, were removed after the index was prepared, so page numbers in the index are often one page (or very late in the book two pages) off. But here’s a sampling—not much evidence of the 95 percent total, or anything close to that.
  • pp. 82-97: fawning, wholly noncritical introduction of Nifong, portraying him as civil rights champion and effective prosecutor. No mention of Darryl Howard case.
  • p. 111: Nifong speaking uncritically about his early thoughts on case
  • pp. 113-4: neutral narrative of early Nifong statements
  • pp. 122-126: uncritical summary of Nifong strategy in case; alleged conversation between Nifong and “Joe,” evidently included to rationalize Nifong’s ethically improper statement. No indication Cohan ever tried to contact “Joe” to verify.
  • pp. 133-135: Nifong denying he ever told Jackie Brown about the case as free advertising; Cohan never asked Brown for comment.
  • p. 194 Nifong confidence in Mangum story; neutral narrative
  • p. 195: neutral narrative of state of DNA in case
  • p. 239: neutral narrative of Nifong meeting with Meehan
  • p. 240: defense attorneys criticize Nifong; no comment of any type from Cohan
  • pp. 277-278: neutral narrative of Nifong/Himan meeting with Meehan
  • p. 280: “legal commentators” expressing concern about Nifong’s (unethical) statements; no comment of any type from Cohan
  • p. 282: neutral narrative of Nifong relationship with Mark Simeon
  • pp. 314-5: narrative about runup to primary; in Cohan’s own voice: “Durham attorneys
  • p. 323: Uncritical presentation of Nifong, “glowing” from primary victory, denying ulterior motive in arrest of Elmostafa.
  • p. 340: summary of Stuart Taylor column critical of Nifong; no comment of any type from Cohan.
  • pp. 353-355: neutral (research-ass’t) summary of critical articles about Nifong; only analysis from Cohan is that Nick Kristof article might have turned editorial tide against Nifong.
  • p. 413: Cohan, in his own words, criticizes Nifong! Notes “apparent contradiction” in Nifong explanation of why he didn’t speak with Mangum. Two-sentence passage all in parenthesis.
  • p. 428: political criticism of Nifong; no comment of any type from Cohan
  • p. 430-1: defense motions against Nifong, Cohan claiming the motions presented “so-called facts” of the case.
  • p. 434: Cohan description of revelation of Meehan/Nifong conspiracy to intentionally not report all test results as a “setback” for Nifong.
  • p. 438: uncritical presentation of Nifong claim of selective prosecution by Bar; Cohan never contacted Bar representatives for comment.
  • p. 439: recapitulation of alleged discussion between Nifong and Kirk Osborn
  • p. 446: uncritical acceptance of Nifong attack on Linwood Wilson for Dec. 2006 interview.
  • pp. 450-455: commentators criticizing Nifong after dropping of rape charges; no comment of any type from Cohan
  • pp. 470-2: Nifong, wholly without pushback from Cohan, expressing his “something happened” belief and discussing the Japanese-rape-club theory. An obvious section for a “serious investigative journalist” to have expressed skepticism about his protagonist.
  • pp. 510-512: Nifong speaking, unrebutted, about his feelings on the Roy Cooper exoneration announcement, with Nifong making critical comments about Cooper.
  • pp. 524-527: narrative of preliminary hearing in Nifong ethics case. Bar prosecutors say negative things about Nifong; Cohan doesn’t. Section concludes with sympathetic Nifong being heckled.
  • pp. 545-580: Nifong State Bar proceedings and criminal contempt trial [Nothing in these 36 pages features Cohan saying anything negative about Nifong. Indeed, just the reverse: Cohan hails Nifong for his “cogent” argument about why he didn’t turn over the exculpatory DNA tests, and frames the contempt case as a victory for Nifong since the rogue prosecutor only got a day in jail. These pages also contain several passages in which Nifong (unrebutted, and with Cohan not even attempting to interview the rogue ex-prosecutor’s targets) attacks the integrity of those who disciplined him, Lane Williamson and Osmond Smith, or bizarrely accuses Reade Seligmann of perjury. The section does contain people saying negative things about Nifong, but often with snide remarks from Cohan, such as defense attorneys crowing or David Evans not testifying publicly about his son’s alleged DNA match.]
  • pp. 591-592: sympathetic portrayal of Nifong declaring bankruptcy with Nifong unrebutted fretting about the state not paying his legal expenses.
  • p. 614: gushing tribute to Nifong as of 2013.

A general note. Items with negative remarks about Nifong almost always come from other people, either without comment from Cohan or with Cohan casting aspersions on the figures (such as defense attorneys) making the remarks. And the two longest uninterrupted sections (the Nifong intro and the State Bar/contempt trial) feature (a) fawning praise and (b) Cohan serving as a member of the Nifong defense team.

I’m not a mathematician, but the above listing doesn’t look like 95 percent “condemnation of [Nifong’s] behavior and his decisions and his judgements along the way” to me. Maybe author Cohan is a practitioner of the new math?


MTM said...

Some have suggested that Cohan is hoping for a movie deal, which is certainly believable because he is in it for the movie with no regard for the truth. But how does a movie deal work when much of the Nifong-as-martyr story is told by Nifong to Cohan. If a movie producer hires an actor to say those things (e.g., Lane Williamson wrote his speech the night before) won't the producer be guilty of libel?

Anonymous said...

Kudos for yet another superb analysis. Thank you for all that you do. Reading your wonderful blog each AM lifts my spirits and brightens my day.

skwilli said...

Cohan is a practitioner of the new Common Core Mathematics, it seems. Whatever answer you give is correct as long as it enhances your self-esteem. Trophies for everyone.

Jim In San Diego said...

I have been trying to find an historical case where anyone had such a ferocious appetite and ability to take on injustice as has KC in this blog for eight years.

I cannot find any. Not even close.

Jim Peterson

Anonymous said...

Don't be surprised if the movie stars George Clooney as Nifong. They might make it "ambigous" as in the book.

Trial Junkie

Anonymous said...

"I have been trying to find an historical case where anyone had such a ferocious appetite and ability to take on injustice as has KC in this blog for eight years.


Jim In San Diego said...

Anonymous, 1:43 (Zola)

Wow, what a great reference.

As Zola said, "The truth is on the march, and nothing shall stop it"

Jim Peterson

William L. Anderson said...

Don't forget Cohan's fuzzy math when it comes to the phantom $60 million settlement. He really is digging in his heels on that one, and it is a position that is indefensible.

MTM said...

After checking with my lawyer friends, a movie producer could be held libelous if an actor were to say the things that Nifong told Cohan. Makes a movie deal less likely. Could get around the libel by watering down the comments, but then it waters down the punch of the story.

Mike Maloney

Anonymous said...

I'm reading the book right now. Nifong doesn't appear at all until almost page 80 and is not present for most or all of the 30-plus pages of the chapter on "The New Duke," so for over 100 pages of the book he is not involved in the narrative at all. That further shows how Cohan's "580 pages of condemnation" claim is really silly.