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Pressure Builds on Nifong as Full DA Term Begins

Posted January 1, 2007
Updated January 2, 2007

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— Mike Nifong was sworn in Tuesday for a four-year term as Durham's district attorney. The intense scrutiny he has received from the Duke University lacrosse case leave some wondering whether he will be able to finish the term.

When Gov. Mike Easley appointed Nifong district attorney in 2005 to replace Superior Court Judge Jim Hardin, Easley noted Nifong's solid commitment to the office and to the people of Durham. However, nearly two years later—in the midst of one of the most high-profile cases in Durham history—many question Nifong's judgment and his integrity.

"He's probably under more pressure now than ever before," North Carolina Central University law professor Irving Joyner said. "You have three of the best defense attorneys in the state shooting after him, and you have the state bar that's filed a complaint about his conduct."

An N.C. Central student told police she was beaten and raped by three Duke lacrosse players while performing as a stripper at a March 13 team party. Juniors Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty and 2006 graduate David Evans face kidnapping and sexual offense charges.

All three players have denied any wrongdoing, and defense attorneys have repeatedly hammered the prosecution's case, calling into question the accuser's identification of the players and the lack of DNA evidence of an assault.

Nifong last month dismissed rape charges against the three players, saying the woman's uncertainty about the alleged attack meant he couldn't prove meet the state standard to prove rape.

Last week, the State Bar filed a complaint against Nifong, saying his statements to the media early in the investigation constituted fraud, deceit or dishonesty.

In recent years, the State Bar itself has been criticized for handing out what many equate to slaps on the wrists for prosecutorial misconduct. Because of that, some believe the group could use Nifong as an example and disbar him.

They question whether Nifong will still be DA when his four-year term is up.

Joyner said he doesn't see it that way.

"The State Bar is not the place you make an example of someone. The State Bar is there to protect the public and protect the profession and the protect the professionals within the bar," he said, adding that he would be surprised if the group moves for disbarment.

Joyner said he doesn't see the lacrosse case as one that will ultimately define Nifong's career. Once the Duke case is dealt with, he said, Nifong will be judged on how he handles the everyday duties of his office.

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  • ghwhitaker1_old Jan 2, 2007

    Professor Joyner, like most others I know, seems to have no confidence the State Bar will take the complaints against Nifong anywhere near as seriously as it should. Considering its handling of the Hoke/Graves matter in Bertie County and the Honeycutt/Parker matter in Union County, the Bar's track record dealing with instances of prosecutorial misconduct is, after all, about as pathetic as it gets. The common thread running through all three cases is that they are all high profile cases, which is the very reason the prosecutorial misconduct ever came to light. What about these prosecutors' handling of the run of the mill cases that are never subjected to the intense scrutiny these high profile cases have received? The one thing we know about people who lie and cheat is that they... lie and cheat. No one who is known to lie and cheat should ever be given the unbridled authority that is given to a prosecutor. If you can't trust the messenger, you certainly can't trust his message.

  • schoenbuchner Jan 2, 2007

    To me this case is just another case of a public offical using the media for personal gain. Mr Nifong has proven once again how corrupt the system is !!What he has done to the young men and their life in the future is going to be a living hell for them . If I were the parent of the players I would be in jail, but Mr Nifong's mouth would be wired shut !! BUT the smurk would be gone from his face for a few weeks .
    Richard H Smith

  • brentsykes Jan 2, 2007

    nifong is a complete joke and was only trying to get these innocent men put away so he could get all the black votes and keep his high-price salary....he and the whore should both be locked up ASAP !!!!

  • emtp2k Jan 2, 2007

    well at least joyner got two out of three right. The bar is there to protect the profession and the people in the profession. It certainly isn't in it to protect the public. If they were they would have disbarred many a lawyer before now. Nifong will get reprimanded but the bar probably hasn't got the guts to disbar him. Think about it, it's mostly lawyers looking after lawyers.

  • ifcdirector Jan 2, 2007

    Why doesn't the NAACP care that the civil rights and liberties of these young men are what's been violated? Perhaps if they spent more time building up greater moral fiber in the people they claim to solely represent there would be less need of wasting time on people who don't care about the NAACP or anyone else for that matter no matter what color their skin happens to be? Nah.............that would make too much sense.

  • jeezohpete Jan 1, 2007

    Why does WRAL keep using Joyner when he has a biased opinion from his connection with the NAACP. Have you read all the deliberately misleading information on the NAACP website regarding the Duke case? I guess not, but maybe a decent reporter might want to know why they are promoting false information??? It's been up there since August and no one from WRAL has even taken the time to notice.

  • FloydRTurbo Jan 1, 2007

    Each local media outlet has it partisan sources on this. They know the slant they will get if they go to A or B or C. They determine their desired slant they want on a story and find "experts" to substantiate it ... just like Trial Lawyers do.

  • dandd2plaync Jan 1, 2007

    This story is VERY slanted by WRAL and very Pro-Nifong. What it fails to mention is that Irving Joyner has been assigned to be a "case monitor" by the NAACP of NC.
    Read this:

  • ncsufamily24 Jan 1, 2007

    The Duke lacrosse case not ultimately defining Mike Nifong's career? Come on, Professor Joyner. Are you serious?

    The State Bar should disbar Mike Nifong. No wrist slaps for this guy!

  • kd4ell Jan 1, 2007

    Read Ruth Sheehan's column in today's News & Observers: "It's time to drop charges."