Just Another Guy with Opinions

Duke Lacrosse Prosecutor Faces Charges

Posted by shadmia on April 16, 2007


Mike Nifong, the Durham County District Attorney, who was the prosecutor in the Duke Lacrosse rape case, faces serious charges arising from his conduct during the investigation. The charges against all three players were dropped by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper. In doing so, Cooper portrayed Nifong as a “rogue” prosecutor who rushed the case by failing to verify the accuser’s allegations.

Nifong is charged with withholding DNA evidence from defense lawyers, lying to investigators and making misleading and inflammatory comments about three former lacrosse players. If found guilty, he could be reprimanded, suspended or even disbarred. According to Thomas Metzloff, Duke law professor, he faces the possibility being hit with more charges.

On Friday April 13, a disciplinary committee rejected a request to dismiss ethics charges against Nifong. The decision by the three-member panel came shortly after an hourlong hearing, chaired by F. Lane Williamson. Mike Nifong is being represented by two lawyers, David Freedman and Dudley Witt. The rejection means that Nifong will face the charges in a trial, scheduled for June, that he withheld DNA evidence and then lied about it to the courts. David Freedman said resignation had not been discussed. “Here’s a man who’s devoted his whole life to public service. He still wants to serve people.” Nifong had little to say Friday. “I’ll do my talking inside the courtroom, he said.

Katherine Jean, counsel for the bar, the organization that oversees and disciplines lawyers, argued that Nifong knew that DNA from at least four men not on the lacrosse team had been found on evidence collected from the escort service dancer, Crystal Gail Mangum. That evidence was not turned over until December after numerous requests by the defense for all the DNA evidence. Jean said there were numerous opportunities to turn over that evidence before the players were indicted or at the hearings shortly after they were charged.

Nifong knew about the test results before he even won indictments against the three players. It’s possible, she said, that with less capable defense counsel they might have chosen to enter into a plea agreement, which is how the vast majority of criminal cases in North Carolina are resolved.

“It’s scary when you think about a case like this case,” Jean said. “These men might have pleaded guilty never knowing the DNA evidence was exculpatory. … It’s a scary concept.”

Mike Nifong had previously issued an apology to the three lacrosse players saying that the Attorney General Roy Cooper’s decision to drop all charges, was the correct decision.

“To the extent that I made judgments that ultimately proved to be incorrect, I apologize to the three students that were wrongly accused,” Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong said in a statement. “I also understand that whenever someone has been wrongly accused, the harm caused by the accusations might not be immediately undone merely by dismissing them,” Nifong added. “It is my sincere desire that the actions of Attorney General Cooper will serve to remedy any remaining injury that has resulted from these cases.”

It turns out that Mike Nifong knew the accuser Crystal Magnum and her family since 1992 when he was the prosecutor in a case in which one of her uncles was killed in a robbery. The case dragged on for three years, but finally the killer was tried and convicted.

“The whole family knew him and trusted him because of that case,” said Delois Burnette, a minister who has known the Mangums for decades. “People had confidence in him that he would do us right because he had prosecuted that case.”

Hopefully Mike Nifong’s judgement was not clouded by his familiarity with the family but it was obvious that the charges against the young men were at best very shaky, especially after the numerous times Crystal Magnum changed her story and the lack of DNA evidence to link any of them to her. It remains to be seen what will happen at Nifong’s trial. He at least will have the opportunity to defend himself in a court of law.

Regardless of the decision of the court, it seems likely that Mike Nifong will be sued by the young men, Dave Evans, Colin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann whose lives have been irrevocably changed because of the false accusations from a mentally disturbed female and an over zealous district attorney.


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