Sunday, June 17, 2007

Mike Nifong Ethics Trial & Disbarment Reaction

I'm finding it interesting to see what those who are gloating about the turnabout in the Duke case from last year are saying. What they are focusing on in their writing and what they are ignoring reveals more about them than it does about Mike Nifong.

An attitude I've seen holds that when defense attorneys use tactics far beyond anything Mike Nifong is accused of doing, those actions not only shouldn't put the attorney at risk of disbarment those actions are praised as effective representation.

Public statements about alleged victims which are inflammatory and which go far beyond claiming their client's innocence. Participating in fraud to gain access to information about an alleged victim. Using the media to intimidate witnesses. Hiding evidence. All good.

Prosecutors are painted as Goliaths crushing innocent men (never women) under their feet while defense attorneys are painted as Davids protecting all who are innocent. This depiction of might vs. right is a deliberate distortion of reality especially in rape cases.

"By hook or by crook" is just fine when you are an attorney -- unless you are a prosecutor then you are a “minister of injustice” who wove “a web of deception,” as a state bar prosecutor said in closing statements of Nifong's ethics trial Saturday.

Those who put forth the David v. Goliath model and who are willing to acknowledge the unethical behavior of defense attorneys who are "ministers of injustice" and who weave "a web of deception" basically justify defense attorneys stepping over the line because everybody's doing it -- even the prosecutors who never get caught.

This mindset echoes what they say about men who are charged with raping a girl or woman too drunk to defend herself or to say yea or nay. According to them nearly every man has taken advantage of this situation at some time in his life so it's a grave injustice to punish any boy or man for typical behavior. It's noteworthy that those who say this also deny the statistics about the number of rapes which actually support their rationalization for not convicting certain men of rape.

Most rapists get away with rape so it's grossly unfair that some rapists who commit the types of rapes which are most common get charged with rape, are found guilty and go to prison. Not surprisingly, these people don't say that it's unfair when a woman who lied about rape is charged with making a false police report. Rather than the "women lie about rape" being a reason for leniency it is given as a reason for giving a harsher punishment than to those who file non-rape related false reports. Got to teach those lying women a lesson for the public good.

I'm sure those charged with a DUI would love to use the "everyone does it at one time or another" defense. Ditto for those caught at tax fraud.

Another common theme is that free speech should cover the most despicable statements made by lawyers and law students -- unless a prosecutor says outside of the courtroom that the defendants are criminals. However, if a prosecutor makes similar statements or implications about an alleged victim who hasn't been charged with any crime then that is a job well done and should never be considered an ethical breach.

Many of those who scream that prosecutors have too much leverage and therefore must be held to a higher standard deny the existence of leverage and the need for a higher standard when it comes to sex crimes. If an alleged rapist didn't put a gun to his victim's head or a knife to her throat, it was consensual. Period. The more power the alleged rapist has the less they are willing to look at any of the evidence. Powerful people don't need to rape so the case would be summed up by most of these people on day one as, "She's a gold digging, man-hating ho."

Sometimes powerful people step over the line simply because they believe they can. These people believe prosecutors can do it but deny that anyone charged with rape can do it too.

Many of these people who are appalled that a prosecutor could press forward on a criminal case despite a lack of supporting evidence will vigorously defend men accused of pressing forward to get sex despite a lack of supporting evidence that the sex was welcome. These people seem willing to acknowledge the harm prosecutors can do while "just trying to do their jobs" yet will actively deny the harm that can done by those "just trying to get laid."

They have seen the enemy and he is them.

I don't want to live in a police state, but neither do I want to live in a land where serious accusations are simply ignored or sluffed off because the case could be hazardous to the prosecutor's law license. A legal system which runs only to the benefit of the accused is an unjust system and helps create more crime.

We need to hold true to a familiar motto: justice for all.

What I have seen none of these people acknowledge is the harm Nifong did to this alleged victim and the harm he did to all rape victims. They either refuse to see the harm or they simply don't care about it or too often they celebrate the harm to alleged victims as long as no defendants are harmed in the process.

This from a post written by a man who has said from the beginning (long before all the evidence was collected and analyzed of course) "... nailing this lying stripper from the very beginning as opportunistic race baiting whore...":

3 Innocent Men, one overly ambitious and crooked prosecutor, and a bunch of inept bumbling cops in the end are all screwed, some for life, by an accuser who for some odd reason has come through this whole episode completely unscathed and unharmed. The whole world now knows for a fact she is nothing but a filthy, dirty, lying slut that should be ruined for life and in cage or a casket for what she's gotten away with.

This wish to harm this alleged victim, likely from the day the story broke, is nothing new and if a few alleged victims get murdered, hey too bad so sad. The fact that it has not been proven that she ever said anything she didn't believe doesn't matter. She still deserves to die.


I found a thread on the Lie Stoppers bulletin board De Anza College Rape Allegation when I backtracked from a referral to my blog which illustrates that this motto is often ignored.

This response from the administrator to someone who objected to statements being made about the alleged victim:

I'd like to think that we'd champion a sytem of justice that is equal for both the people considered rightly by the community to be monsters and for the people considered wrongly by the community to be monsters.

Notice who isn't included in those being championed? The alleged victims.

When Wade Smith spoke on behalf of the family of the Va Tech mass murderer did he suddenly become an advocate for school massacres? When Bannon, Cheshire, or Cooney represent guilty men do they become advocates for the crimes their clients committed? If not, then why would anyone here arguing for prudent prosecutorial discretion or championing the rights of the accused suddenly become advocates for the crimes they are accused of?

Why indeed. Someone earlier in this thread wrote:

...I suspect that the sexual history and activities of the young lady have a strong bearing on this case...
[response to that statement:] And what makes you suspect this about this particular 17 year old girl?
[response to the question:]
(1. The corset.
(2. The lack of ruckus.
(3. Other party goers were aware of the situation presumably from the start of the
assignation. No one intervened?

There was no scolding of this person by the administrator for not championing the system of justice, but those who had a problem with this stereotyping of alleged rape victims as sluts were scolded and basically told to fall back into line or leave.

Where would anyone get even a hint that members of this group advocate for the crimes the men at the De Anza were accused of or the crimes that the Duke lacrosse players were accused of? And why would anyone view these people's opinions on rape cases as so biased in favor of rapists that they lose all credibility?

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:27 AM   1 comments links to this post


At June 17, 2007 8:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, any lawyer (prosecution or defense) is supposed to be a zealous advocate for one side of two opposing viewpoints. Then the jury or judge decides the truth from this clash of polar arguments. People have expected Nifong to decide guilt or lack of guilt when that is clearly not his job. That is why I am amazed that the state official would declare the defendants "innocent," which even a judge or jury is not equipped to decide (in the sense that they can only find a lack of clear guilt). The real story here is that Nifong offended some very powerful interests in his state; he was not sensitive enough to the political ramifications of this case for those powerful interests. So in that sense he failed for "political" reasons: not so much in the sense of worrying about his own election but NOT worrying enough about the powers-that-be in the state of North Carolina. It is sad that political savvy (protecting the powers-that-be) is often a more important qualification for a successful DA than vigorously trying to demonstrate the guilt of the defendants in such high-profile cases and letting the judge or jury decide the merits of the case.


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