I believe the culpability of "rogue" prosecutor and bully-extraordinaire Mike Nifong in the Duke LaCross "fiasco" has been grossly understated. His premeditated actions and apparently unrepentant heart merit a special ranking on the outrage meter and it should be a very long time before we apply to this case the adage that time heals all wounds.
Even in his mostly condemnatory statement explaining the North Carolina Disciplinary Commission's decision to disbar Nifong, commission chairman F. Lane Williamson seemed to bend over backward to give Nifong the benefit of the doubt -- a benefit the wrongfully accused Duke Lacrosse defendants never received.
Williamson said that Nifong's action appeared to the commission "to be out of self-interest and self deception, not necessarily out of an evil motive, but that his judgment was so clouded by his own self-interest that he lost sight of it and wandered off the path of justice and had to be put back on course again by extraordinary means."
I respectfully disagree with the evil motive part. It's as if the commission is suggesting that Nifong's consuming quest for selfish political benefit somehow lessens his culpability, when it clearly aggravates it.
This is a bit like saying that a bank robber's criminal act is less criminal because he possessed a dizzying desire to enrich himself. Perhaps if the robber had committed the crime sacrificially to save starving people in Ethiopia, his actions could be viewed in a more favorable light, but that's hardly the situation here.
Nifong was running for office in a heavily black jurisdiction and deliberately pursued apparently well-to-do white defendants for the express purpose of exploiting racial tensions to improve his prospects for re-election.
Nifong didn't just press forward with a marginal case. Based on no credible incriminating evidence, and plenty of exculpatory evidence, Nifong brought the charges before even interviewing the accuser, Crystal Mangum, whose story repeatedly changed. He intentionally tainted the jury pool by making improper, misleading and damning public statements against the accused, withheld DNA evidence exonerating the defendants, refused to meet with defense counsel, scoffed at defendant Seligmann's powerful alibi, and flagrantly lied to the court.
Williamson said, "We had a prosecutor who was faced with a very unusual situation in which the confluence of his self-interest collided with a volatile mix of race, sex and class."
Sorry to differ again, but Nifong's self-interest didn't just fortuitously "collide" with race, sex and class. He was the active agent who caused the collision and who exploited these factors just as an arsonist pours accelerant on his deliberately sparked flame.
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