Ex-judge's new book touches on many issues
Posted October 28, 2009 5:29 p.m. EDT
Durham, N.C. — The former Durham District Court judge who called on lawmakers for anti-gang legislation during a hearing for one of two men charged in the slayings of two college students is speaking out again.
Retired District Judge Craig Brown has penned a new book, "Blind Justice," which touches on a wide range of topics from living with a disability – he suffers from a chronic illness that cause him to lose his sight – to reforms needed in the justice system.
On March 14, 2008, Brown was setting bond for Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., who is charged with murder in the Jan. 18 slaying of Duke graduate student Abhijit Mahato and March 5, 2008, killing Eve Carson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's student body president.
Brown called for state legislators to immediately pass laws to curb gang activity.
"It was a tough night in a sense that I was well aware he would be appearing in front of me in the morning," Brown said of the night before Lovette's arraignment. "I suppose, in a way, I had to balance the rules of being a judge, on the one hand, and being a leader, on the other, and the conflict between the two."
Despite advice not to say anything and to do his job as a judge, Brown asked the governor for a special session of the General Assembly to take up anti-gang legislation.
"It was my sense that the public needed to be reassured, that leaders in the state were moving forward in terms of the anti-gang legislation after a number of years in consideration, and simply to calm the public," Brown said. "That was the essential goal of what I had to say after the arraignment was completed."
At the time he made the comments, he said, he had been planning to retire.
"In a way, I suppose, it freed me to make the comments that I did," Brown said. "The First Amendment does not necessarily apply to judges at all times. You are constrained by the requirements of the code of judicial conduct, in terms of what you can or cannot say in a particular situation. The comments I made in respect to the anti-gang legislation were across the line."
Brown also writes about former Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, who won indictments for first-degree rape, sexual assault and kidnapping against three Duke University lacrosse players after a stripper reported being raped.
The case unraveled, however, and North Carolina's attorney general eventually dropped all charges and declared the players innocent victims of Nifong's "tragic rush to accuse."
Brown wants people to look at Nifong's entire career and judging him by that, not just the lacrosse case.
"His career is more than the Duke men's lacrosse case," Brown said. "Sometimes, I think, when the media focuses on a particular controversy, it's difficult for them to be able to place that controversy or issue in complete context."
"Blind Justice," which is available at Amazon.com and in select bookstores, is the first of four books Brown plans to write.
"I'm not asking people to agree with me," he said. "What I am asking the reading public to do is to read the book with an eye toward stimulating discussion about the various topics and circumstances that are covered in the book itself. That is the real goal of the book. To make people think."