“The very same facts that made this case attractive to a prosecutor up for election and a huge publicity magnet — race, sex, class, lacrosse stars, a prominent university — also led to his undoing when the case collapsed and his conduct was scrutinized in and beyond North Carolina,” said Stephen M. Gillers, a law professor at New York University and the author of “Regulation of Lawyers: Problems of Law and Ethics.”...So did Nifong's case get out attention because his behavior was that much worse that the usual cases of prosecutorial misconduct or because of the "publicity magnet" factors? The best way to find out the answer to that question is to continue to pay attention to the abuses of prosecutors. If we can't maintain our attention long enough to see the extent of the problem, then we will know we cared because of the sports and the sex and the race and the elite university.
Prosecutors say they seldom face discipline because conduct like Mr. Nifong’s in this sexual-assault case is exceptional.
“Nifong’s case is rarer than human rabies, which is one reason it is such huge news,” said Joshua Marquis, the district attorney in Clatsop County, Ore., and a vice president of the National District Attorneys Association. “The defense bar is piling on and trying to claim this is typical behavior.”...
“A prosecutor’s violation of the obligation to disclose favorable evidence accounts for more miscarriages of justice than any other type of malpractice, but is rarely sanctioned by the courts, and almost never by disciplinary bodies,” Bennett L. Gershman wrote in his treatise, “Prosecutorial Misconduct.”
Mr. Gershman, a former prosecutor in Manhattan who teaches law at Pace University, said the Nifong case was handled differently because of the publicity. “The fact that it resulted in national exposure,” he said, “had to have put the disciplinary body and the entire system of justice under the spotlight.”
“You have rogue prosecutors all over the country who have engaged in far, far more egregious misconduct, and in a pattern of cases,” he added. “And nothing happens.”
June 24, 2007
"What makes Michael B. Nifong different" from all the many prosecutors who don't pay a harsh price for their abuses?
Asks Adam Liptak: