Since this past spring, Duke and Durham have come to know Mike Nifong and
have seen how
he administers his office. Tuesday, Durham voters will get a chance to
pass judgment on that administration. We normally don't issue endorsements
in elections, but this time, we are making an exception, and endorse the Cheek
Our concern with how Nifong has handled this case isn't really about guilt or
innocence, although we have come to believe that the accused are
innocent. The more important issue is whether or not justice is being
fairly administered and whether they are being treated equally under the
law. In our judgment, Mike Nifong has miserably failed this basic test and
therefore does not deserve to retain his position.
We've been over the circumstances of the case repeatedly, whether it's the
unconstitutional DNA tests (moot point now since they were negative), the photo lineup
which violated every standard from the justice department on down to the Durham
Police Department, or the notes-from-memory by Mark Gottlieb, or the refusal to
consider exculpatory evidence, or the suggestions by Nifong that condoms might
have been used when the alleged victim (AV) explicitly said they were not, or
that the lacrosse team is a bunch of hooligans and that innocent people don't
There's so many problems with this case, so many contradictions and flawed
procedures that we can't remember them all. But what is critical to
remember is this: if Mike Nifong will run roughshod over three guys whose
families have the resources to fight back, what's to stop him from doing it to
people who can't? In fact, who would even know?
The lacrosse case has shown us this: rather than being committed to
justice, to following the truth wherever it leads, Nifong is forcing a
case to fit either his belief about the case or his political needs, or,
Aside from the well-documented problems of the case, Nifong's personal
behavior has been disgraceful. He has cursed attorneys, written ugly notes
to people who disagree with him, rolled his eyes in court, and, in general, has
revealed his nature: Mike Nifong is a bully. He's no more interested
in justice than the kid who used to take your lunch money.
There are a lot of qualities which can be useful or even desirable in a
district attorney: toughnosed, stubborn, relentless, even, conceviably,
humorless. But a district attorney is obliged to be fair and to not abuse
his power merely for a conviction.
As it comes down to the wire, the electorate seems very nearly split.
So as it turns out, the students and employees of Duke who registered to vote
recently may well be the swing vote - assuming that you guys actually do turn
We've grown accustomed to the cynical notion that our votes don't really
count. But in this case, your vote might be worth five or ten votes.
Given that Durham elections, like most municipal elections, tend to draw less
than a 30% turnout, your vote - your individual vote - can be incredibly
So strike a blow for due process, for fairness, and equal treatment under the
law, and vote for Lewis Cheek on Tuesday. And before you go, see if you
can offer anyone else a ride.