Saturday, April 14, 2007

"I'm getting a million dollars of free advertisements."

Via Instapundit, we find that Nifong was prosecuting the Duke lacrosse case for the most craven of reasons -- to get elected DA and get a fat bonus when he retired.
Seeing the crowd, Brown retreated to a corner and called Nifong several times on his cell phone, she said. No answer.

When Nifong left his office to go to the men's room, Brown maneuvered him into a corner so her back was to the cameras.

"What are you doing? Why don't you answer my calls?"

The television reporters had asked that he turn off the cell phone so it wouldn't ring during interviews, Nifong said.

"I said, 'You don't have any idea what the impact is going to be on your campaign.' He said, 'I'm getting a million dollars of free advertisements.'

"I left and didn't say another word."

Now, others much smarter and more informed than I have commented on this case throughout (see Durham in Wonderland, for one). However, as a criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor, I reckon my opinion should count for a little something. Nifong should be in prison, without question. By the time he took over the case, just a couple weeks after the "event," he already knew that the "victim" had changed her story about six times. She could not identify anyone. The stripper that accompanied her said nothing like that happened.
A News & Observer examination of Nifong's handling of the case, based on documents and dozens of interviews, adds new insights about the investigation's focus on shoring up Mangum's claims. Nifong ignored contrary facts, withheld evidence favorable to the accused and refused to discuss the case with defense lawyers.

His lead investigator, Linwood Wilson, pressured witnesses and produced different timelines and accounts to support Mangum's shifting statements.

There is no evidence that Nifong or any investigator challenged Mangum to explain the contradictions in her versions of what happened at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. Nor did they speak with the doctor who conducted the pelvic examination hours after Mangum said she had been raped.

This whole episode has been astonishing. As a lawyer who defends indigent clients (as well as paying ones), I am utterly appalled that someone running for District Attorney, the position that requires, above all, exemplary ethics and judgment, could show so little of either. Had this accusation been made against indigent defendants, who knows what would have happened? Here in Virginia, the General Assembly has so handicapped appointed lawyers with fee caps (which is changing, thankfully, but we will have to wait and see how things unfold), there is no telling. Innocent people do get convicted, even when represented by the most conscientious counsel -- and by innocent, I mean actual innocence, and not just "not guilty." When a prosecutor knows that the defendants are innocent, and yet still seeks to prosecute, he or she destroys the foundation upon which the system operates.

Anyhow, Nifong deserves whatever he gets. He is almost certainly going to be disbarred for directing the DNA examiner to withhold exculpatory evidence, and for the outrageous statements he made early in the prosecution about the lacrosse players. Is he going to jail? We will have to see. He should. He has done more damage to the integrity of the modern criminal justice system than any single prosecutor could have, in my opinion.