Saturday, June 16, 2007

Duke lacrosse prosecutor plans to quit

The DA who so aggressively pursued the Duke lacrosse players he alleged raped a woman at a party has announced he is quitting. He is currently on trial himself for allegations of ethics violations in the case. He kept insisting the three young men were guilty and must be prosecuted even as the case fell apart. The accuser kept changing her story as new facts came to light, and there was a total lack of forensic evidence of wrongdoing.
RALEIGH, N.C. — Testifying in defense of his conduct in the sexual assault case against three Duke University lacrosse players, Durham County District Attorney Michael Nifong cried and conceded that he made mistakes, apologized to the accused and their families for the "pain" the prosecution had caused and announced his intention to resign.

"To the extent that my actions have caused pain to Finnertys, the Seligmanns, the Evans', I apologize," he said Friday during the emotional conclusion to his direct testimony at a bar hearing. "To the extent that my actions have brought disrespect or disrepute to the bar, to my community, I apologize."
A three-person panel of the North Carolina State Bar is considering charges that Nifong violated ethics rules while pursuing rape allegations, brought by a stripper hired to perform at a team party, against the three players. The state attorney general in April declared that the players were "innocent."

The bar complaint accuses Nifong of making prejudicial statements in the case's early stages, of lying to a judge and of withholding exculpatory DNA evidence. If he is found guilty, the panel could suspend his law license or disbar him.
Nifong denied that the months of withholding the DNA evidence — which showed other men's DNA present but not that of the accused players — was malicious. Instead, he said it was a result of an oversight caused in part by his lack of careful notes.

There are a lot of college students who read this blog. Can you imaging having this conversation with your parents? Parents, can you imaging having this conversation with your child?...
The ramifications of his pursuit of the allegations also became clearer Friday, as Reade Seligmann testified about the effect on his family.

Seligmann choked back tears and brought tears to the eyes of family members when he described how he learned that he had been picked out of a lineup by the accuser. He was in his lawyer's office, he said, when the secretary came in and said, "Mike Nifong is on the phone."

"He picks up the phone. You could see the color in his face just changing. ... The room was spinning," Seligmann said. "My dad just fell to the floor, and I just sat on the ground, and I said, 'My life is over.' " He then called his mother.

"I said, 'Mom are you alone right now?' She said, 'Yeah, what's going on?' " he testified. "I said, 'She picked me.' I could hear her on the other end of the phone. The life was just sucked right out of her."
As the parent of a college student, I cringe to think of it.

The outcome of the hearing may be a recommendation to disbar Nifong. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

But how are the three young men who have had their lives completely disrupted going to get the last year back? You may recall they were vilified in the press as being "spoiled rich kids" with no sense of responsibility. Although they were lacrosse players, when you read the coverage from back then it is easy to see how the DA, news media, and of course the blogosphere were simply substituting "lacrosse team" for "fraternity" in their rush to judgment.

Duke lacrosse prosecutor plans to quit | - Houston Chronicle
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