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Former judge pens book about gangs, probation

Former District Court Judge Craig Brown has almost finished "Forks in the Road." The first chapter is about the slayings of UNC student Eve Carson and Duke University student Abhijit Mahato. The suspects in the case were on probation at the time of their arrest.

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DURHAM, N.C. — He sent an SOS to lawmakers after the court appearance of a suspect charged with killing two university students in the Triangle. Now Former District Court Judge Craig Brown is writing a book.

With the help of an assistant, Brown has almost finished "Forks in the Road." The first chapter is about the slayings of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student body president Eve Carson and Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato.

Demario James Atwater and Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., both suspects in Carson's death (Lovette is also charged in Mahato's death) were on probation at the time they were arrested.

"They were killed in their prime and they had so much to offer,” Brown said.

That is one reason Brown said he felt compelled to speak out in court about the need for anti-gang laws after a hearing for Lovette. Prosecutors have not said the cases are gang related, and Brown wouldn't elaborate.

"I don't think it would be appropriate for me to get to much into the details,” Brown said.

Brown's book also has a chapter about former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong, who was disbarred after the Duke lacrosse case. When Brown was an attorney he defended two capital cases Nifong prosecuted.

“The media it seems to me missed the good points. He had quite a lengthy career in Durham County prior to being appointed district attorney,” Brown said.

Nifong won indictments for first-degree rape, sexual assault and kidnapping against lacrosse players' David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann after a stripper named Crystal Mangum, hired to perform at a March 2006 team party, reported being raped.

The case unraveled, however, in the face of Mangum's constantly changing her story and a lack of evidence. State prosecutors eventually took over the case, dropped all charges and declared the players innocent victims of Nifong's "tragic rush to accuse."

Brown said he believes Nifong should have been punished, but thinks people overlook his achievements.

"Certainly I can't say that I've spoken much with Mike. He's not talking with anybody,” he added.

Brown remains critical of the justice system. He said it needs more judges and staff.

"I think the criminal justice system is being held together by scotch tapes and thumb tacks,” Brown said.

However, Brown said he is pleased to see changes in probation and new gang laws. He hopes his book will continue the push for reform.

Brown also writes about dealing with the rare disorder Behcet's Syndrome and what it was like to lose his sight.

Brown said he is in negotiations with a publisher. He hopes the book will be available in late summer or early fall.


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