Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Mike Nifong should be disbarred

The nation has by now become completely inundated with news reports about Durham DA Mike Nifong winning the primary election; an election that many consider to be the reason he came after the Duke Lacrosse team so hard and fast in the media in the first place. I think, honestly, that he should be disbarred for violation of the rights of the accused. Regardless of what one thinks of the case itself, it is hard to ignore the manner in which he so blatantly violated the rights of the players, trying the case in the national media before physical evidence of any sort had been gathered. Now, the city of Durham has seen itself dragged through the mud in newspapers and national television outlets of all kinds, partly as a result of his disgusting pandering to the worst voyeuristic desires in all of us.

When the national media visits Durham, it goes to the worst parts of town: this so that they can fit the story to Nifong's vision of an elite institution whose rich students run rampant over the poor local citizenry. The national news photographs show perhaps 5% of the city: I lived there for four years, in three different apartments all over the town: central Durham (3-5 min from downtown), southwest Durham (near Chapel Hill), and North Durham, near I-85 ... and Duke University. I delivered pizzas (love the graduate school life, don't you) to people living in subsidized housing (what many call "the ghetto"). On the same route, I wound my way through some of the wealthiest suburbs in North Carolina - million dollar mansions on PGA golf courses. I also visited every type of home in-between. Durham was, and remains, a typical mid-sized city in the urban south, the northern corner of the Triangle metropolitan area.

What you don't see is the other 80% of Durham: the arts, the mecca of small specialty shops, the majority of the citizens who don't realize that they live in a hellhole dominated by northeastern college elites - because they don't. The Research Triangle Park - huge for pharmaceuticals and computer technology - is entirely within the city limits of Durham: billions of dollars of research and development that share a zip code (277##) with the disgusting hole portrayed in the media. Think about that.

Back to the topic. Mike Nifong should be disbarred, not re-elected. Why? He tried his case in the media: we had a classic case of the first amendment (free press) clashing with the fourth, fifth, and sixth amendments (rights of the accused: include impartial jury and speedy trial, as well as due process). The media had help: it was hard to turn on the damn news or open a paper without seeing his face. He manipulated a photo lineup: for traditional lineups, you're supposed to have five "fillers" for every shot of a suspect; instead, he had the police show her only photos of lacrosse players who were at the party. He ignored photographs and phone records placing one of the two arrested players far away from the house at the time of the alleged rape.

Regardless of what one thinks of the case, this is negligence. Prosecutorial misconduct - call it what you will. The man should be the night manager at a bowling alley, not trying cases in a court of law.
currently on miPod - "Come Back" - Pearl Jam