"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Nifong Drops Rape Charges Against Falsely Accused Duke Students

As you may have heard in the news, District Attorney Michael Nifong has dropped the rape charges against the Duke University lacrosse players falsely charged last March. As Thomas Sowell notes in National Review Online, Nifong decided to drop the charges when the head of the lab that looked at the DNA evidence in the case testified under oath that the accuser had DNA from other men on her, but none from any Duke player.

However, as Sowell astutely notes, Nifong has left some relatively minor charges hanging over the three young men identified by the stripper in a rigged photo lineup. Nifong's blatant misconduct led to this author's call for his impeachment last May, along with prosecution of the accuser and the firing of Duke University President Richard Brodhead, who sided with the accuser and castigated the Duke lacrosse team, the Duke student body, all non-poor caucasians, and all males. The man is an utter disgrace.

From the start of this sordid affair, I have consistently referred to the players as falsely accused, the accuser as phony, Nifong as guilty of gross prosecutorial misconduct, and Brodhead as a race panderer and a disloyal, smarmy class warrior. Nifong's latest action confirms all of those characterizations.

Sowell notes that Nofong's strategy in leaving some charges remaining against the falsely accused men is designed to save not only his political life but indeed to keep himself out of prison. His blatant misconduct in this case merits disbarment and criminal prosecution for obstruction of justice, as I have argued before on this site. Sowell points out that the remaining charges are Nifong's only hope of evading disbarment and possible criminal prosecution against himself:

It is an old ploy to keep some charges hanging over the heads of accused individuals, even if you don't have enough of a case to convict them, just so that they can be persuaded to plea bargain down to something with minor penalties, in order to get the hassle over with.

That would also get the heat off Nifong, who could then claim that in fact he had some basis to prosecute in this case, when in fact he had nothing from day one.

If bad gets to worse, Nifong can take the case to a jury, hoping to find at least one juror so biased by racial resentments as to refuse to declare the Duke students not guilty. A hung jury can save Nifong from being hung for a groundless prosecution.

As I argued months ago and regularly since, this case is not just about three college boys, a stripper, and a prosecutor. It is about whether ambitious prosecutors are to be allowed to use the power of the law as a tool of their own political ambitions. Sowell agrees, noting that if Nifong gets away with this outrageous misconduct,

. . . it would allow a nationally publicized gross misuse of prosecutorial powers to go unpunished, emboldening other prosecutors across the country to think that they can get away with anything.

What happens to Nifong matters far beyond Nifong, just as what happens to these Duke University students matters far beyond these students.

That is why we should care about this case, and why Nifong should be impeached forthwith. Once he's impeached, his replacement can drop the charges against the falsely accused Duke students, and the prosecutions of Nifong and the accuser can begin.

That will be a good day for all of us.

From Karnick on Culture.

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