Local News

Panelists: Lacrosse Case an Example of What Not to Do

Posted June 27, 2007 7:44 p.m. EDT

— Most of the coverage surrounding disbarred former Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong is over. But he is still in the spotlight as the subject of a course for attorneys and lawyers in training on what not to do as a prosecutor.

"One of the things I learned, and I think we all need to learn is this case re-emphasizes the importance of communication and professionalism between lawyers," Nifong's former attorney, David Freedman, said Wednesday during a panel discussion on prosecutor misconduct at the North Carolina State University McKimmon Center Wednesday.

But panel members went beyond problems with prosecutors and pointed out what they call a "culture of indifference" in the justice system as a whole.

"I think what happened in the lacrosse case -- that is the intervention of public officials and Bar officials -- is extraordinary, not what ordinarily happens," Duke University Law Professor James Coleman said. "And I think that is unfortunate."

Some panelists offered solutions.

"We're asking the criminal justice system to, maybe, do more than it should," Duke law Professor Michael Tigar said. "And if we looked into alternatives, like community policing, like diversion programs, then we could spend more time on every case."

"Prosecutors, judges -- the whole system needs close public scrutiny," Wake County District Attorney Colon Willioughby said. "The public is well served when we scrutinize closely what we do and we make sure we do it in the right way."