Local News

Lawmaker Wants State Power to Check on District Attorneys

Posted December 26, 2006
Updated December 27, 2006

— Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong’s decisions in the Duke lacrosse case have prompted a state representative from Kinston to call for the state attorney general to be given authority to investigate how DAs handle cases.

State Rep. Stephen LaRoque, a Republican who has been representing Greene, Lenoir and Wayne counties, said Tuesday that he thinks the state attorney general needs to be given authority to investigate actions by the state’s 39 district attorneys. LaRoque appeared Tuesday night on Fox TV’s legal affairs show with Greta Van Susteren to push his argument.

LaRoque says the attorney general's office, not the state bar, should be the one to investigate misconduct charges against a district attorney. Currently, district attorneys can ask the state for help from the attorney general, but the attorney general cannot enter a case on his own. LaRoque, who was not reelected last month, said he plans to lobby for his proposal after he leaves office when the new Legislature convenes.

"I'm not focusing this on when there's a mistake or something slips through the cracks," LaRoque said. "This for intentional misconduct on the part of the prosecutor."

LaRoque isn't the first to ask for an outside investigation of the case that began in March when a woman hired as an exotic dancer for a lacrosse team party near the Duke campus told police she had been gang-raped.

U.S. Rep Walter Jones has written twice to U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales asking for a federal investigation to determine of the rights of three indicted lacrosse players—Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann—were violated.

Nifong dropped rape charges against the trio on Friday. They still face charges of sexual assault and kidnapping.

Margaret Dorer, director of the state Conference of District Attorneys, said she does not support LaRoque's proposal.

"I think something else would probably be another layer of bureaucracy," Dorer said.

Kieran Shanahan, a former federal prosecutor, said, “Well I think if you're going to give that authority, the attorney general's office is the place to do it.”

Shanahan and Dorer agreed that it is too soon to decide if Nifong's prosecution should be investigated.

While there are several questions to ask about Nifong's decisions in the case, any investigation should come after the case is through, Shanahan said.

“I think it's important we let him do his job and judge him after the fact," the former prosecutor said.

Dorer cautioned against making judgments while the case is still in the legal process.

"I would caution everyone to wait until this case is heard in court because that's the appropriate place for it to be heard, not in the media," she said. "They've not seen the DA's file. The only part they've seen is coming from the defense."

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  • geowilrlst Dec 29, 2006

    I hope the investigation of the charges of him is a public as the case he is charged in !

  • tbblanton Dec 27, 2006

    People Please! If we're to point fingers at the "guilty" parties then lets assign blame where
    it should be placed. First, lets assign some of the blame on the news media(this one included). From the veru first day that the news broke the portayal of the three young men has been nothing but damming from every news source available. Now that the Durham DA has dropped the rape charges the news media is reporting the story like it should have been done long ago. I think the news media should bare some of the responsibility for the railroading of the Duke Lacross team.
    Second, I'd certianly like to know where all the liberal pot bangers, the parade of students and leaders at NCCU, and Jesse Jackson and the "black community" are now? Complete silence!
    Third, Nifong should be repremanded by the elected official that put him in office in the first place. I think his name is Mike Easley.It's past time for everyone to step up and make this right.

  • jackleg Dec 27, 2006

    you know, while i am pleased to see people FINALLY standing up for their rights, i am sickened that it took this whole nifong scandal to make it happen. maybe now that the new hanover deputy got a headshot in on the wilmington kid, we can get more people to stick up for our rights there too!!1

  • gpwills Dec 27, 2006

    It isn’t fair to allow a misguided prosecutor to drag these young men through the mud to cover for his mistakes or incompetence. Unbridled power is unacceptable and it’s obvious that it should not and must not be tolerated.

  • readyrider2000 Dec 27, 2006

    It appears everyone is in CYA mode, Nifon should have spent more time on the case before trying to make it a media circus event.

  • S-O-L Dec 27, 2006

    All of this is for a vote. Nothing is done for the good of the people anymore it is how many votes will I get. All professional politicians are crooks, all of them!!

  • Tax Man Dec 27, 2006

    I am surprised this power does not already exist. The State Bar can only take Nifon's Law License away, they cannot put him in prison or require him to pay all the defendant's legal fees for the wrongful prosecution in the Duke case. Any citizen should be able to make a formal, written complaint to the State Attorney General, asking for a review of matters that appear to be an abuse of the office of any local DA. In the Duke case, it would appear that an independent review might just end the case. Also, it would seem that Nifong has spent a lot of Durham's money on this and any taxpayer should have the right to question that spending. It would be different if there was a victim who could at least have the same story. It will really be embarassing if Nifong does not have some clear, positive, persuading evidence that he has yet to provide to the defense or court to justify his continuing prosecution of the Duke case.

  • builder276 Dec 27, 2006

    P.S. Nyfong is an absolute IDIOT

  • builder276 Dec 27, 2006

    Most definately, the power is needed. If the state had it now, that idiot and the "victim" would not be trying to destoy those innocent kids lives in Durham. Hope she ends up if whatever they would have been sentenced too