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DA's Handling of Duke Rape Case Attracts More Criticism

Posted December 18, 2006

— A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill law professor said Monday he also believes there should be an investigation of Mike Nifong's management of the Duke lacrosse rape investigation.

"I think the best course of action, at this moment, is for Mike Nifong to remove himself from this case or for him to be removed," said University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill law professor Joe Kennedy.

The statement comes after Rep. Walter Jones, R-North Carolina, last week, sent a letter to the Department of Justice asking for a federal investigation into possible prosecutorial misconduct and to determine whether the defendants' civil rights were violated.

Kennedy said that Jones' request seemed overblown to him until allegations later arose that Nifong and a lab director purposely withheld DNA results showing none of the charged players' DNA was found on or in the accuser's body.

He said the allegations create a serious conflict of interest.

"I think his actions with respect to nondisclosure of this DNA information needs to be investigated," Kennedy said.

Nifong denied that he tried to hide anything and told WRAL Monday that he is not concerned about the mounting criticism of him. He said he thinks he can fairly prosecute the case.

According to Garry Frank, president of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, however, other district attorneys have also expressed concerns about Nifong's conduct.

"It's premature to comment while the court is still contemplating," Frank said. "I think the conference will address this at some point."

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Sunday that a Nifong probe is possible but declined to comment any further on the matter.

On Monday, Duke University President Richard Brodhead said that the case "will be on trial just as much" as the defendants.

In a statement released by the university, Brodhead said the defendants should be presumed innocent as the case pushes toward a possible spring trial date.

It was the latest blow to Nifong's case against Reade Seligmann, 20, Collin Finnerty, 20, and David Evans, 23 -- whose lawyers have maintained their innocence since they were indicted in the spring on charges of rape, sexual assault and kidnapping.

"As I told Ed Bradley during a '60 Minutes' interview last summer, given the concerns that have been raised, when it goes before a judge and jury the DA's case will be on trial just as much as our students will be," Brodhead said. "In the meanwhile, as I have said before, our students must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise."

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  • caffeine4starters Dec 22, 2006

    It seems the only way to get the other two charges dropped is for Nifong to be removed from the case and a special prosecutor brought in -- something which the State should have done months ago. When the North Carolina General Assembly enacts legislation where a person can receive a 25-year prison sentence based on just the accuser's words, I don't care how "credible" the accuser might be, "rape shield" or not, or any other offense, if the accuser's word is all the State has to rely on, that case should never go to trial. When such laws are passed and prosecutorial misconduct like Nifong's (which continues to exist) never results in disbarment or prison time for the prosecutor, North Carolinians deserve ever "red neck" and "hick" name sent their way for their failure to remedy such situations so that justice exists for rich and poor which does not occur now.

  • rpmcii Dec 21, 2006

    Nifong is worse than an idiot, he is a criminal. He rushed prosectute three respectable and innocent young men without a schred of evidence, let alone beyond a reasonable doubt He has damaged them financaily, thier reputations, and deprived them of their education at Duke. BUT- it is the Governor, the State Attorney Genenal and the State Bar of NORTH CAROLINA that are most culpable because they refused to intervening. The citizens of NC better not forget this neglect during the next elections. I hope their is a civil suit that costs the citizens of NC millions of dollars to serve as a reminder.

  • Chill Will Dec 19, 2006

    I think that Nifong is an idiot. He has a track record of prosecuting cases with "NO" real evidence. The real question should be "How did he get appointed as the Durham DA?" Governor Easley needs to way in on this because he got us into this mess by apponting Nifong in the first place. Sounds like "good ole boy" Democrats taking care of business as usual. Easley, why did you pick Nifong and divide the city of Durham down racial lines? Nifong could not have been elected unless he got a "constituency", because he was not a very good prosecutor, just a long time employee. This rape case came along and unfortunately, he decided to ride it to get elected. (Remember, he hasn't received a majority vote count yet, in either the democrat primary or the general election; less than 50% both times). Easley needs to come clean and "splain himself"!!!

  • eptoth Dec 19, 2006

    Now that Nifong has been re-elected, he could care less about the diligent prosecution of this rape case. He will bumble along hoping it will just fade away.

  • bosoxbaby Dec 19, 2006

    It doesn't matter if the trial goes forward or is dismissed. Those that believe these guys are guilty will continue to think they're guilty regardless of what a jury says. Everyone remembers OJ right?? There are still naive people that think he really is innocent. I know that if I were the accuser and this really did happen, I would be insisting on his removal from the case. It's hard enough for rape victims in court and the three ring circus surrounding this case isn't fair to those that have to go through this, those that have been through this in the past, and those that will go through this in the future. If the DA is really about the accuser's best interest he will remove himself from all the drama and let someone else prosecute the case.

  • mikeoliver Dec 18, 2006

    In my opinion, DA Nifong's approach has gone from political grand-standing, to negligence, to professional incompetence to legal violations. He should be recalled and disbarred, at the least. But it is Durham Couny, who just re-elected him, so go figure.

  • early exit Roy Dec 18, 2006

    I think Brodhead is backtracking at a rapid pace. Now that some of the REAL evidence is coming out, he knows he made a major mistake. There will probably be lawsuits filed against him and Duke University. Do you think Brodhead would have dismissed Coach K and 3 of his players? I think you know the answer to that.

  • FloydRTurbo Dec 18, 2006

    Pres Broadhead's most recent words are hollow and designed to hopefully spare him when the civil suits are all filed.

    When "his students" needed his support he cowardly sided with his faculty lynch mob.

    Shame on you Richard Broadhead. We won't forget.

  • Crystal Dec 18, 2006

    I beleive that this trial must go forward and should not be dismissed so there are no remaining questions as to the defendants innocence. I believe that for their sakes and reputations that this case must go to trial. I think that if allowed to be dismissed that the people that truely believe that they are guilty will still believe that and won't have been proven wrong in their beliefs.