There’s already a 30 page thread in the Pit about the Duke case, so I’m just going to ask this as an aside.
Assuming that Nifong has enough common sense and experience to know that this case was headed to the crapper after the initial DNA results came back, and the accusers stor(ies) started unravelling, why did he continue to pursue this stinker of a case, and withhold evidence? He’s been re-elected, so his pandering to the black vote gamble worked. Why does he continue to march forward with this utterly (at this point) discredited case? What’s the upside for him?
Is there some diabolically clever plan in this somewhere?
It wouldn’t have looked real swift for him to have dropped the case just after the election. And there’s been plenty of rhetoric along the lines of “The accuser deserves her day in court” (!). There’s some speculation that if the case somehow does go to trial in Durham, public sentiment there (to which Nifong’s comments have certainly contributed) means convictions are not entirely out of the question. So he may feel that he owes it to his constituents to flog this horse until it drops.
I don’t follow the case, so this is a general comment on prosecutors & controversial or high-profile cases …
A decision by the DA to drop the case makes the result the DA’s fault. Right, wrong, popular or unpopular, the DA will take the heat for the outcome.
If the case goes to trial the judge will decide. Right, wrong, popular or unpopular, the judge will take the heat for the outcome.
If I’m a typical county-level politician / civil servant with a tar baby in my lap, I’m gonna prefer the outcome where I can blame somebody else if it comes out badly, yet claim a share of the credit if it comes out well.
Heck, I can give speeches to groups happy with the outcome where I take credit for the good result & other speeches to groups that are unhappy where I blame the judge for failing to see the obvious and the “system” for tying my hands.
Continuing to take the tar baby to trial is far better cover than deciding to kill it.
Cases with zero actual merit & no popular support DO tend to die out quickly. I’m thinking Tawana Brawley (sp?). That was a cause celebre’ for about 3 days. And then everybody, including the DA, dropped it like the trash it was. IIRC, even Al Sharpton backpedalled as fast as he could.
My impression is Sharpton is still milking this one as his golden hour, apologizing for nothing.
I am local to the area so will contribute a few things that seem to get overlooked or distorted when this case is discussed from a national, “trial of the century” perspective. Nifong was not in any kind of heavily contested election, as supported by the fact that even after things got controversial, he still won. IMHO, electoral politics were actually not a huge factor in his initial decision to take the case to trial. There was the accuser bringing the charge, abundant evidence that something unpleasant happened that night, and there was a finding by the sexual assault nurse (at Duke hospital) that was consistent with sexual assault.
For Nifong not to have brought the charges with that sexual assault nurse finding would have been very difficult, election or no. (Note, it was only later made public that the sexual assault nurse was still in training. I have no idea when Nifong learned that.)
On the electoral politics note, Duke is also practically a constituency in Durham. The faculty, administrators and local alumni are the type of people who have money and vote. Angering the Duke community is not exactly a smooth move for a Durham politician up for reelection. This is another reason I don’t attribute a lot of Nifong’s actions being desperate for reelection. He’s also not considered a particularly ambitious politician, and if he didn’t get reelected he wouldn’t have a whole lot to lose. He’d get a political appointment or go into private practice and not be much worse off, if at all.
Another local aspect is that the “town & gown” hostilities between Duke and Durham locals have really been reaching a head in the past couple years. To the extent that Duke purchased many houses near campus in an attempt to better control their occupancy and keep down rowdiness. I think this was to the tune of a couple million dollars of real estate, it was no small measure. The local neighborhoods have rental houses interspersed with local homeowners who are really sick of partying and arrogance. From this perspective I can understand why he called the lacrosse players “hooligans” while he had the chance. I realize this seems a bit contradictory with the point above about not alienating Duke, and all I can say is that in politics there can be contradictory pressures that both have an influence.
So, not attempting to explain it all, but these are a few things clearer from a local perspective than from the national coverage.
You might also be interested to noted that Mr. Nifong is now also subject to a NC State Bar ethics complaint for his media statements made in conjunction with the case. The Smoking Gun link, which includes a copy of the complaint, is here.