Wednesday was an awful day for Mike Nifong. Friday the 13th wasn't much better, as the state bar ethics committee pretty thoroughly shot down his attempt to get a charge dismissed. And on top of his impending professional doom, a number of people think the lacrosse players have grounds for a civil suit, and at least one writer makes the argument that Nifong has committed a felony.
And in a very interesting sidebar, defense attorneys Jim Cooney and Brad Bannon posted some brief comments on the Liestoppers bulletin board about that amazing "Perry Mason moment," as KC Johnson called it, when Bannon ripped Dr. Brian Meehan to pieces. Turns out Nifong, in a typically arrogant move, offered him up assuming that no one would be prepared to dig into highly technical issues. Bad gamble, obviously. Here's what the attorneys had to say:
This is my first post (for obvious reasons). I now feel free to post and discuss certain aspects since this case has now come to an end and cannot think of a better thread on which to reply (other than one thanking the blog hooligans on this Board for their posts, ideas and debates over the past many months; all of which I have followed on a daily basis).
Brad Bannon is one of the great heroes of this case. The defense was not tipped off to the DNA and we were not tipped off to Brian Meehan being offered up for examination on December 15th. The DNA information was discovered for one reason only: Brad Bannon literally locked himself in a room with 2,000 pages of laboratory data and reviewed every single page until he understood it. On December 15th, when Nifong offered up Meehan, I think that he never believed that we would take him up on it because he knew that we had not prepared for it. We went forward on the fly with no preparation and led with Brad. In my opinion, his performance was one of the most remarkable things that I have witnessed in a courtroom in my 25 years as a trial lawyer. His performance broke Meehan, exposed Nifong's actions to the world, led to the Bar intervening with ethics charges and, ultimately Nifong's recusal.
In short, he won the case that day.
First, thanks to all of you people out here on the internet who have monitored and pushed this quest for truth & justice. Second, I have to figure out a way to get my Mom to the Liestoppers board. After seeing Joe Cheshire's comments about her son on national television at the Wednesday press conference, I am not sure she could survive reading Jim Cooney's comments and the comments of all of you blog hooligans about me.
Jim's right: I didn't know that Dr. Meehan was going to be there for testimony that day, and I was unprepared to question him. But I had spent a good bit of time analyzing the materials, and I'd had the recent fortune of studying how Jim used scientific evidence & expert testimony to free Alan Gell from death row with Joe Cheshire & Mary Pollard. So while much has been made of my work in uncovering the exculpatory DNA, and then doing the contemporaneous cross-examination of Dr. Meehan that confirmed that existence of that evidence & revealed the agreement with Mike Nifong to withhold it, Jim is to blame for it in a derivative sense, in much the same way that Joe is. They are great trial lawyers (that should not be a bad word), and I have learned a lot from both of them. And no one should forget what happened at the end of my questioning of Dr. Meehan: Jim engaged in a rapid fire series of precision hits that crystallized all of the issues and literally elicited applause from the people in the courtroom.
That was a great day for all of us: the Evans & Seligmann & Finnerty families, the 2006 Duke University Men's lacrosse team, and the team of lawyers--none more important than the other--who had worked tirelessly for 9 months to get to the truth.
But man, it was nothing compared to Wednesday.
A lot of people have asked the simple question: why? Why would Nifong behave so foolishly - not just in the Meehan testimony but in general? The answer, we think, is two-fold. First, as noted several times recently, the man is thoroughly arrogant, and his arrogance cost him mightily. And secondly, our suspicion is that he did it because he was sure he could get away with it. And why would he think that? Perhaps it wasn't the first time.
If you think about it, does it make sense that a prosecutor would take the highest profile case of not just his career but probably the highest profile case in Durham's history (we'd have to have more of a legal background to know how it stands in the history of the state, but it surely is as big a case as Joan Little and possibly Jeffrey McDonald) and decide that that was the point to start manipulating a case? Possibly, but it's also possible that he had done it before, understood how the game was played, and did it again.
We're not arguing that he did this, but we wouldn't be surprised if it turned out that he did.
And by the way, speaking of MacDonald, some enterprising reporter should try and contact him to ask his opinion about the Duke case. We don't know his case well enough to have a strong opinion, but his experience might offer some interesting insights.
On another note, as Roy Cooper said, this never should have happened and should never happen again. And obviously, this case will make it harder for true victims of sexual assault to feel confident in the system. But we think there is something constructive which might be done here.
We'd like to propose that law students from Duke and N.C.C.U. form a permanent organization which has two primary functions: first, that it monitor the legal system in Durham to prevent any future prosecutor from behaving in such a disgraceful way. And secondly, that it provide support and resources for victims of sexual assault.
This would also have the secondary effect of bringing down a barrier between the schools, which would be all to the good.
And as the lacrosse players themselves noted, they were fortunate enough to have the resources to fight these charges. Not everyone does. Duke folk were understandably outraged by the case, but we'd like to think that that sense of outrage would live past this case and extend to people who most of us will never hear of.
And one other note: one of the most despicable people in this travesty has been TV commentator Nancy Grace, who said some truly outrageous things. Jon Stewart skewered her pretty thoroughly. Richly deserved.
- Bar won't drop key Nifong charge
- CHARGES STAND AGAINST NIFONG
- Cooper: Nifong's behavior 'offensive'
- A 'MY BAD' SO BAD, IT'S APPALLING
- Now, media owe Duke players due coverage of innocence
- Nobles and Knaves
- Editorial: Lessons from the Duke lacrosse case
- Duke lacrosse players left themselves open to trouble
- For Duke DA, it's not business as usual
- In Duke case, press shares guilt in rush to judgment
- Those who rushed
- Victims on both sides
- Our own enemy
- The system's flaws
- Nifong should feel the same pain as players felt
- The look of innocence
- Brodhead must resign
- Paper should apologize