District attorney Mike Nifong, the man who charged 3 Duke lacrosse players with raping a young woman working as a stripper at an off-campus party last spring, now faces ethics charges from the North Carolina bar for misleading and inflammatory comments.
This is a welcome development. Commonly, police and prosecutors manage to convict high-profile defendants with the active or passive compliance of the media. You've seen or heard the story that goes "Police said that Smith stalked and killed his victim before dismembering the body...." Indeed, today's NYT carries this quote from the DA in New Orleans on the indictment of seven police officers for the shooting of two men in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: "''We cannot allow our police officers to shoot and kill our citizens without justification like rabid dogs.'' So much for the presumption of innocence and assuring a fair trial.
And I must wonder, in the North Carolina case, whether the bar would have acted had the victim been a white college student and the accused a group of black athletes.
(A note: reviewing this post, I came the to the sentence that starts, "Indeed, today's NYT carries this quote...." At first, I edited out "the" between "police officers for" and "shooting" and then I took out the "of" after shooting. The sentence then went, "Indeed, today's NYT carries this quote from the DA in New Orleans on the indictment of seven police officers for shooting two men in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina." Read that sentence and then read the sentence as it appears in the post. See the subtle but real difference? A small example of how much care the media must show to avoid trying cases in the press.)