Local Politics

Law to Remove Overzealous Prosecutors Proposed

Posted April 11, 2007

— In dismissing all charges in the Duke lacrosse sexual assault case, Attorney General Roy Cooper said North Carolina needs a law that would allow prosecutors who have overstepped their authority to be removed.

Cooper said he would ask state lawmakers to consider a proposal to allow the Supreme Court to remove a district attorney who have overstepped his or her authority in prosecuting a case.

"This would give the courts a new tool to deal with a prosecutor who needs to step away from a case where justice demands," he said. "We have good district attorneys in North Carolina who are both tough and fair. We need these forceful, independent prosecutors to put criminals away and protect the public. But we also need checks and balances to protect the innocent."

Three Duke University lacrosse players -- Collin Finnerty, Reade Seligmann and David Evans -- were accused of attacking a Crystal Mangum, who was performing as a stripper at a lacrosse team party in March 2006.

Mangum's account of the incident varied wildly, and DNA and other evidence didn't back up her story, Cooper said. But Durham County District Attorney pressed forward with the case, vowing early on that Durham wouldn't become nationally known as the place where lacrosse players could gang-rape a woman.

"This case shows the enormous consequences of overreaching by a prosecutor," Cooper said. "Any state, even the federal government, can have a rogue prosecutor who goes out on his own and does things."

The North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, the organization for the state's 42 elected district attorneys, issued a statement after Cooper's announcement that addressed the pressure prosecutors face in high-profile cases.

"This creates an environment in which there is an incredible amount of pressure for the public, press and decision makers to rush to judgment. The responsibility and duty of a prosecutor is to deliberately assess the case presented, evaluate the evidence and witnesses and then make a determination as to how to proceed in the case so as to attempt to obtain justice for the public, alleged victims and the defendant," the statement said. "The prosecutors of this state grapple with thousands of decisions involving these issues on a daily basis."

Nifong is facing ethics complaints from the North Carolina State Bar, alleging that he made inflammatory statements in the media early in the investigation and withheld evidence from defense attorneys.

"I'm concerned that statements were made publicly about things that turned out not to be true," Cooper said, declining to comment further on the case against Nifong.

13 Comments

This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • Rob Apr 11, 9:37 p.m.

    The New Black Panthers are a racist hate group with no better morals than the KKK and no better intentions than Al Queda.

    Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are merely insignficant agitators with some occasional entertainment value like Rush Limbaugh.

    Hopefully we can forget about shades of skin pigmentation and move ahead as better people.

  • inkokomo Apr 11, 8:57 p.m.

    Now lets hope Crystal Mangum (the lying accuser), and Mike Nifong (the scumbag DA) are put through the same hell these three innocent young men were. And, where are Al (Racist) Sharpton; The Reverand Jackson; Victoria (Black Activist) Peterson; The NEW Black Panthers; The NAACP, etc? They are now attempting to ruin some other white person's life; that's where!

  • NCMOMof3 Apr 11, 7:57 p.m.

    I'm thrilled for the families that the truth has finally come to light and I admire the way they have handled themselves. This entire fiasco has made me seriously question the "innocent until proven guilty" motto. It seems to me that it is "guilty until proven innocent". One last thing I'd like to add. With the latest 2 "foot in mouth" instances by the Seinfeld comedian and Imus and all of the face to face apologies called for (and apologies are definetely called for) I wonder where the call for apologies are in this case? If memory serves me correctly, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and the Black Panthers were very vocal early on in calling for justice and crucifying these boys and the "white" community in general. Are they not owed a face to face apology?

  • bsmith17603 Apr 11, 7:54 p.m.

    Sounds like they need to prosecute the girlswho lied

  • al1793 Apr 11, 7:48 p.m.

    Well, well, well.......the truth is finally out. I hope these young men sue that idiot Nifong, the hooker who falsely accused them and might as throw the fake reverends Fat Al and Jesse the Jerk.

    The hooker should have charges brought against her for filing a false police report. He name should be published since she is no longer a victim of sexual asult, but a false accuser.

    Nifong should not only be disbarred, but driven from society. That smug smile he has had on his face around town should be wiped off. How convenient that he is away when the truth came out.

  • Always watching Apr 11, 6:59 p.m.

    As happy as I am that all charges have been dismissed, I am a realist and I know the damage done to the reputation of these 3 men, to the state and the school can never be undone. I also know that this woman has made it so much harder for every "legitimate" victim out there. Hope she and Nifong can live with that...

  • nerdlywehunt Apr 11, 6:57 p.m.

    Let the Civil lawsuits begin........and don't forget the actions of "Reverand" Jackson and Sharpton....go get em' payback is hell..................

  • Rebel Apr 11, 6:56 p.m.

    Mr. Nifong loved the TV lights until they focused on his activities. He and he alone is responsible for this travesity.

    I wondered at the time why the voters of Durham elected him rather than Freda Black. In this instance, the best man for the job was a woman, who had experience with high profile cases and knew when to keep her mouth shut.

  • ghwhitaker1_old Apr 11, 6:42 p.m.

    At the news conference following dismissal of the remaining charges, defense attorney Joe Cheshire stated that efforts are underway in the legislature to repeal the open file discovery law, which allowed the defense to discover Nifong's shenanigans. Will the news media please report on who is behind the effort? Who introduced the bills? At whose request? The public needs to know. The outcome of these cases dictates that efforts to eliminate open file discovery should be killed in their tracks.

  • GWALLY Apr 11, 6:25 p.m.

    Oh great...another law that can't be enforced!!!! Nifong and the accuser both already broke several laws.......enforce them, NOW!!!!!!

More...