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:
“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.”...

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.”
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.

76 comments:

Kirby Olson said...

I can't tell how accurate Gershman's assessment of Nifong and prosecutorial misconduct would be. It's the equivalent of railroading, isn't it? Is Gershman saying that railroading should be ok, since it's so common?

Wouldn't this be like saying that rape is fine, since it's so commonly practiced?

Maybe you or Simon could discuss how common railroading really is. I think it should never be considered right, and anyone who practices it should have to surrender their license to practice.

After all, law should have some relationship to justice, shouldn't it? Isn't truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, at least as serious an axiom for the lawer as for the witness? And prosecutors should uphold the law, in order to uphold the concept of justice?

Otherwise, why do we even bother with law? If it's just a charade, then it's an expensive charade, and should be replaced by gladiator contests in which the prosecutor gets to chase the accused with an axe while the accused gets a toothpick to defend themselves and the sentence is determined by the public who put their thumbs up or down. If law is going to be just spectacle rather than a search for the truth, we might as well go back to Rome, and to Nero, and to the Circus Maximus.

joe said...

Most prosecutors handle cases in good faith. What is wrong with Nifong, aside from the fact that "publicity magnet" factors should play no place in any assessment of whether or not to prosecute a case, is that Nifong so obviously concealed exculpatory evidence for so long in order to boost his election chances. This was not a case of competing evidence that should have been put to a jury.

downtownlad said...

Let's assume the situation was reversed. A middle class, blond woman claimed she was raped by members of a black fraternity. And let's say it took place in a white neighborhood with a white prosecutor.

It's likely that the prosecutor would face extreme pressure from the town to push the case as long as he could, even if the evidence was lining up against him.

And if he finally dropped the case, before it even went to trial - can any really imagine that there would be calls from the general public (besides the black community) for the prosecutor to be punished.

Puleeze. 75 years earlier, the black youth would just have been lynched and that would be the end of it. And nobody would care.

litsskad said...

downtownlad, do you feel your characterization is accurate for the case referenced here,
here,
and here?

Bruce Hayden said...

DTL,

I disagree about the present. If it looked like a white prosecutor in a white community was trying to railroad the black, the press, Jesse Jackson, Sharpton, et al. would be all over the situation. Political correctness teaches that only white males can oppress, and they do so to minorities. Thus, since the defendants were white privileged males, they were fair game.

In other words, you don't take into account political correctness, nor the liberal leanings of the MSM, nor the fact that many whites have some residual racial guilt.

That said, I do agree that the situation would have been reversed back then. The WSJ, I believe, pointed this out, with a prosecution, conviction and incarceration for rape by blacks against a white woman - which turned out to be bogus. The defendants were railroaded into long prison terms, but, luckily not lynched.

Bruce Hayden said...

If we want to see a bit of prosecutorial misconduct, we have to look no further than a bunch of the alleged child abuse cases of the 190s and early 1990s - the type that got Janet Reno the AG position.

Yes, sexual abuse of children does happen, and it is worse by those in a position of trust. But there was a stretch when a bunch of people went to jail for alleged offenses that had no physical evidence, but were rather based on the repressed memories of a bunch of very impressionable and imaginative five or so year olds. Dorothy Rabinowitz at the WSJ has written innumerable times about a case in Mass. where it would take drugs to be able to reconcile the total lack of physical evidence with the alleged crimes. In other words, the alleged crimes were nearly impossible without leaving physical evidence, which didn't exist. Things like using knives, without anyone ever showing cuts.

Bruce Hayden said...

Realistically though, I don't see most prosecutors crossing the line. I personally have a much better experience with them than I do with cops, in the area of abusing the power of their offices. More than once, I have seen prosecutors dismiss overreaching charges filed by the cops, sui sponte.

That is not to say that they don't work with the cops to overcharge in order to plea bargain into what they consider a reasonable sentence. You see this all the time - where they have charged a dozen felonies, and plea bargain to one or two. Many times, the added charges are not all that strong, but the chance that the prosecution might win on one or two of them is all it takes to rationalize a plea bargain, even if you know yourself to be innocent.

Heir to the Throne said...

The difference is that Duke 3 have the resources to expose Nifong's and the Durham PD fraud and go after him.
This seems to be the newest defense of Nifong enablers (see the coverage in the New York Times by Duff Wilson and Selena Roberts ) that what he did was not as bad as what other prosecutors did.
I expect Dahlia Lithwick at Slate will soon be using it.

dick said...

Interesting that the citations in the response to DTL are all in the same community and with the same university as the lacrosse team and with the same prosecutor. Look at how differently the cases were handled. Look at how differently the faculty members at Duke reacted to the cases. And in this one there actually was sexual assault and DNA found. Why was this not trumpeted to the max as the lacrosse case was.

J said...

"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?"

A combination of publicity magnet factor and, as the Heir points out, defendants with parents with the resources (like that Duke settlement) and will to fight back. I don't see them backing off until Nifong is in prison, and they'll certainly go after every asset he has too. Does NC permit them to get his home and retirement if criminal behavior is involved?

It's too bad the settlement with Duke didn't require the university to fire the gang of 88 and publicly denounce them as the bigoted assholes they are.

Doyle said...

There's no question that what Nifong did was wrong, but as an interminable media event, the Duke rape case got its legs from white male persecution syndrome. It's sort of a dog-whistle for people who think that government, education, and the scales of justice are all tilted against the white man.

mickey said...

I asked that question to myself. My mind told me that, "They all do it."

Generally.

GeorgeH said...

Nifong forgot the prime directive.

Never try to railroad somebody with enough resources to fight back.

If the students had been on scholarship and stuck with a public defender, they would have been told that pleading out to a lesser offense was their only hope of avoiding 30 years, and it would have been over by election time.

Kirby Olson said...

The NYT article link that opens this post says that the big difference is that Nifong confessed and that most cases of misconduct are not deliberate or at least that the prosecutor never confesses to deliberate railroading.

PArt of the railroading process seems to belong to the gang of 88, but they are apparently shielded in the settlement that the students reached with Duke.

http://www.newsobserver.com/news/story/610370.html

gg said...

"There's no question that what Nifong did was wrong, but as an interminable media event, the Duke rape case got its legs from white male persecution syndrome. It's sort of a dog-whistle for people who think that government, education, and the scales of justice are all tilted against the white man."

You've got it backward. The case got its publicity because of the appeal--to some people--of believing that white, wealthy males at a respected university had raped a black college student.

The case was publicized because it seemed to fit certain agendas--that of some radical feminists, the NAACP, etc. It's just ironic that it blew up in their faces, and that their publicity work has now contributed to a national incident that destroyed their credibility.

And downtownlad's hypothetical is entirely unsupported by facts. Seriously, does CNN come barging in when a black person is accused of rape? Did protesters at Duke carry "castrate" signs when a black man was recently accused of raping a white Duke student?

Yes, poor blacks and others are vulnerable to the kind of abuse that Nifong demonstrated. We should fight prosecutorial misconduct wherever we find it. But don't dare pretend

1) That the publicity was created by some gold-plated defense strategy to highlight Nifong's misconduct. Nifong and others created the publicity themselves to prop up an illegal prosecution.

Or

2) That the people who enabled or minimized Nifong's misconduct (various feminists, the NAACP, and liberal commentators) are somehow on the side of the poor defendants who are mistreated by our justice system.

burbly said...

One thing to remember is that the boys were thought to be guilty by much of the public. So it seems really myopic to see interest in the case as coming solely from the white-male pride faction; that would presuppose that the media reported the case knowing they were innocent.

If they had been guilty, then they would have represented a white male jock privilege--which I think is the key. The media likes this sort of fake representation: white lacrosse players at elite university assault black woman.

The mistake is always assuming that criminals (or the criminalized) are your sort of political statement.

Btw for DTL, arguing a case right now using evidence 75 years old is really weak, esp considering that public perception has gotten much better for blacks.

Steven said...

I can fully believe that other prosecutors do engage in them. But trying to railroad someone you can believe is guilty, while objectionable, is at least colorable as an effort to serve the higher value of justice by making sure the guilty are punished despite the law. It's not something most of us want prosecutors to do (the rules are there for a reason), but the motive of the prosecutor can be relatively pure.

On the other hand, trying to railroad someone who is clearly innocent cannot even be remotely pretended to be in the interest of justice; it is clear that the prosecutor is working from baser motives.

And that's what makes Michael B, Nifong different. Are we really supposed to believe that prosecutors regularly try to railroad people who have alibis objectively verified by physical evidence when they have no admissible evidence linking the person with the alibi to the crime?

Which doesn't change that the other abusing prosecutors should face penalties. But Nifong is in a different class than the others.

dick said...

Burbly,

The question then becomes why were the boys thought guilty by so many of the public. Nifong publicized that they were, the Gang of 88 never even admitted that they could be innocent, the university did not stop to check on whether they were guilty or not before firing their coach and backing up the Gang of 88, the students of the Gang of 88 saw a way to possibly get on the good side of their professors, the Democratic party saw a way of getting their candidate elected, the police saw a way of ingratiating themselves into the black community, the NAACP thought they had a free publicity event that was a win-win, the race bigots of the black community flocked there in droves, the reporters thought they had the cartoon white male to beat up on. The list just goes on and on and on and nowhere in that list is the thought that the boys were innocent. That is why this was possible and as was noted above when the converse actually did happen on the same campus and with the same prosecutor, did you read it in the papers for more than possibly one day?

tjl said...

"Nifong so obviously concealed exculpatory evidence for so long in order to boost his election chances."

Of Nifong's many ethical violations this must be the worst. Mangum had DNA in her from at least 4 males, none of whom were team members. Nifong's attempts to excuse his handling of this evidence were so lame as to insult the intelligence of the state bar panel. It's obvious he understood that the DNA evidence was fatal to his case, and deliberately concealed it.

Brady violations due to sloppiness are not all that uncommon, but it's almost unheard of for a District Attorney knowingly to withhold evidence so crucial as this. Nifong richly deserves his disbarment.

Christy said...

Nifong character witness and former prosecutor Judge Anthony Brannon spoke nostalgically about not having to turn over discovery in the old days. "Every time I gave them an open file I had to go try the case." Nifong's defense Atty Dudley Witt noted that "only from the mid-90s to the present" have prosecutors turned over discovery in N.C. Frankly that doesn't sound to me like prosecutorial misconduct is rare.

BTW, the only thing Nifong confessed to, as far as I can figure, is not paying attention.

Carolynn said...

My husband had to testify against a guy who was accused of the mass murder of his family. The prosecutors case was that the guy had talked about wanting to kill his stepdad. They convicted the guy.

The actual murders took place about 20 years ago. My husband doesn't think that he did it -- or at least there wasn't enough evidence to prove that he did, all of it was circumstantial. We felt like the prosecutor just was making a name for himself.

It made us sick. When do things get so bad you decide to pack up and leave?

Cedarford said...

Dick - The question then becomes why were the boys thought guilty by so many of the public. Nifong publicized that they were, the Gang of 88 never even admitted that they could be innocent, the university did not stop to check on whether they were guilty or not before firing their coach and backing up the Gang of 88, the students of the Gang of 88 saw a way to possibly get on the good side of their professors, the Democratic party saw a way of getting their candidate elected, the police saw a way of ingratiating themselves into the black community, the NAACP thought they had a free publicity event that was a win-win, the race bigots of the black community flocked there in droves, the reporters thought they had the cartoon white male to beat up on. The list just goes on and on and on and nowhere in that list is the thought that the boys were innocent. That is why this was possible and as was noted above when the converse actually did happen on the same campus and with the same (DA, nothing happened beyond a one-day minor news article)

Dick points out a whole bunch of people completely turned off their critical thinking skills past Nifong - for various reasons. For the approved PC metanarrative. For the sake of "any rape accuser is a victim who must be believed, all men are evil predators" feminist misandronysts. For the sake of raw black racism displayed by the black Durhamites, black officials, black activist students, the widely discredited dying NAACP, various national black race baiters - as well as the more honest Panthers (Hating Whitey Since 1966 and Proud Of It) For the sake of the whole branch of new academia (post modern critical studies) that basically exists on the premise that white males are privileged oppressors all, Amerikkka is evil, Western Civilization awful and in need of destruction.

Anyone with half a brain that looked at the Lacrosse case by the end of March saw massive holes, no case at all. Then the fascination set in as people clearly in the wrong from Nifong to media to Duke Admin to the Group of 88 to the black voters that swept Nifong into office in two following elections
- all refused to admit they were wrong or apologize.

The "Lacrosse case" damage is not just to Nifong for personal intransigence, but appears to have national historical significance for a number of groups that jumped on the guilt of the players and found they went "a bridge too far".

The NY Times has taken major hits, various TV pundits like Nancy Grace, Wendy Murphy have tattered their careers. The MSM, as with the Dan Rather affair, has been finessed at nearly every turn by non-traditional web-based news and analysis. An exception was Joe Neff, an investigative reporter in Charlotte that alone of local media seemed to be capable of critical thinking, and a few columists like Dorothy Rabinowitz. People laugh even more at "feminist rape statistics" as coming from humorless, lying, dickless Stalinists. The false accuser is openly sneered at as "the Louvre of Strange DNA", "Crusty The Lying Wh*re" - endangering actual future rape victims.

The Group of 88 is in full whine mode that "the blogosphere is still persecuting them". While their whole "critical studies" anti white male movement is being rethought as to it's actual academic value other than warehousing black, feminist, gay academics just for numbers that add "diversity" - but faculty that otherwise do not meet the high standards of other academic programs. SANE programs are now discussing screening nurses for feminist bias that could discredit the very concept of SANE as objective forensic examiners. President Brodhead is viewed as a treacherous, expedient man who catered to PC and flourishes while the PC crowd proudly waves the head of Larry Summers and their other victims or near-victims who "trangressed and offended" at other elite universities and law schools.

DPD is being investigated for criminal and civil liability matters. Durham is being seen as another failed "black-run" city. The NAACP viewed less and less as a civil rights group and more as a pack of tribal racists interested in shakedowns - is on the verge of financial meltdown and organizational extinction.

It goes well past Nifong. This case will follow others for a long, long time, and I don't mean the accused 3.

It DOES add to credence by certain groups that prosecutorial misconduct is not that rare, that the American legal system does differ in quality of justice based on how much money you have, and that certain parts of the US legal system are deeply flawed. (Grand Jury rubberstamp system, racist/stupid trial juries, local "good 'ol boy networks where all the lawyers, cops, prosecutors, and judges are in cahoots behind closed doors)

M. Simon said...

The whole Drug War is prosecutorial misconduct.

We now know from the NIDA no less that Addiction Is A Genetic Disease.

So why does this continue? For the major reason that you have prosecutorial misconduct. It is popular.

Nifong did what he did because he thought it would be popular where he lived. He was right.

M. Simon said...

Bruce Hayden 11:54 AM,

Bruce,

That is exactly how I see it. Prosecutors have the tools to railroad any one they want and they prefer to use the tools only on the guilty.

No one cares as long as it is done to "them". It is when it is done to "us" that people rise up. Who ever the "us" is that gets catered to.

We have in fact condoned the railroading of the guilty. No surprise if the innocent get caught up in that little machine every now and then.

Kirby Olson said...

Christy said that Nifong had only confessed to not paying attention. Not so. This is from wral.com, a news station that covers Raleigh-Durham:

"During the ethics trial, Nifong acknowledged he knew there was no DNA evidence connecting Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty to the 28-year-old accuser when he indicted them on charges of rape, sexual offense and kidnapping. Nifong later charged Evans with the same crimes."

Nifong has accepted disbarment and doesn't plan to appeal. He has said that the punishment does fit his crime and accepts that justice has been done (finally).

Daryl said...

Doyle will say anything.

Everyone knows the Duke story first reached national prominence when a thousand journalists in newsrooms around the country simultaneously ejaculated into their pants at the prospects of a bitter, divisive, racially-charged rape trial between privileged, wealthy white scholar-athletes from Duke vs. a poor, black, dumb stripper.

Skip said...

Do prosecutors break the rules on a regular basis to get convictions? Of course they do. But the difference is that the vast majority of the time when they do it, the guys they're railroading are, in fact, guilty. And so nobody cares.

Internet Ronin said...

M.Simon wrote:

No one cares as long as it is done to "them". It is when it is done to "us" that people rise up. Who ever the "us" is that gets catered to.

We have in fact condoned the railroading of the guilty. No surprise if the innocent get caught up in that little machine every now and then.


True. The big difference in this case was the tremendous amount of publicity accorded as well as the accused having sufficient financial wherewithal to wait out the prosecutorial delays and fight.

Christy said...

Kirby, That statement is true, however.... I listened to almost the entire hearing that week and when Nifong's testimony came at the end, he was saying "if you say the record says so, I guess it's true." Yes, he admitted that he knew the DNA matched others and not the LAX players before he indicted. But he did not see that as an impediment to prosecuting them. Yes, he failed to turn over discovery, but, gee, he thought he had, and he never read the letters from the defense lawyers asking for specific information so when he told them they had it all he thought he was telling the truth. He insisted he never ever lied because his parents brought him up to tell the truth. He could see those who didn't know him might disagree and realized his effectiveness as a D.A. was over.

I maintain that he confessed only to not paying attention.

tjl said...

"The big difference in this case was the tremendous amount of publicity"

Some particularly strident contributions to the volume of publicity came from the Group of 88 Duke faculty members with their diatribes about race/class/gender. Their public utterances were so extreme, so impervious to facts, logic, and the workings of criminal procedure, that the case took on an almost mythic dimension as a proxy battle between reason and post-modern academic unreason.

Dave said...

Look. It's done a lot. Check out Rolando Cruz. He was tried and convicted *3 FRICK'N TIMES' in DuPage County, IL (a Republican stronghold for decades) by a state's attorney who aspired to higher office. He was later elected Atty Genl of IL and was in line to become Governor until George Ryan ran afoul of the law.

Likewise, David Dowaliby and Gary Gauger were convicted on crap evidence by prosecutors who were under public pressure. The line between overzealous prosecutors and prosecutorial misconduct is not *that* thin a line. Nifong went way over the line, counting on local public support and normal defense inadequacies to protect him.

OTOH, there are still those who believe Mumia is innocent, despite the abundance of evidence to the contrary.

It would appear that we really, really need rules to be followed in order to prevent the miscarriage of justice due to public idiot beliefs and 'metanarratives'.

Kirby Olson said...

Christy, I haven't followed the case as closely as you have, so what you say trumps what I said. Nifong just simply confessed to being more or less asleep at the switch?

I don't know if that's worse or better.

I suppose there's now nothing that can be done about the Gang of 88. It seems that the deal done behind closed doors with Duke and the three students set as one of its conditions that the Gang of 88 were not to be sued or to be the subject of any future legal actions -- so this deal was therefore completely exculpatory in their regard?

Can someone outside of the students sue them -- or could Duke pursue them for reckless disregard for the truth -- something along the lines of what U of Colorado did with Ward Churchill? The gang of 88 were just as malicious in their malfeasance as Mike Nifong, if not more so. Since there were 88 of them, at least some of them had to know what they were doing when they tried to railroad these students.

downtownlad said...

It's funny, because all of the people who are horrified at Nifong's actions, couldn't give a damn about Bush's justice department bringing phony charges about "voting fraud" against Democrats - as they did in Wisconsin.

They couldn't give a damn when we torture innocent people in Iraq and KILL them, because well - they're Arabs and they deserve it.

But we're supposed to go ballistic about Nifong.

I don't see what the problem is. It didn't even reach a trial. None of the kids were found guilty. None of the kids had to go to jail. Big freaking deal.

downtownlad said...

And in New York - the police arrested over a dozen black kids in Brooklyn, for the crime of attending one of their friend's funeral - who was killed a few days earlier.

Republicans think that is dandy.

Also in the New York area, another dozen or so kids are facing felony charges for a senior prank where they placed alarm clocks in the classroom. Of course, Republicans said those alarm clocks were "bombs" - so they are now facing four years in children. Because you know - safety first.

Criticize Nifong all you want - he was incompetent. But I can't stand hypocrites.

Kirby Olson said...

Professors at a major American university would have happily lynched their own students.

That's not a concern?

downtownlad said...

Well Kirby - Considering that you supported the literal lynching of prisoners of war by the United States Government - why is THAT not a concern.

Why isn't it a concern that Bush appointed US district attorneys with the sole purpose of bringing FALSE charges against Democrats?

Like I said - they're all wrong. But at least I'm consistent.

From Inwood said...

Skip

You say:

“Do prosecutors break the rules on a regular basis to get convictions? Of course they do. But the difference is that the vast majority of the time when they do it, the guys they're railroading are, in fact, guilty. And so nobody cares.”

Um, let’s make that

“(a) the guys they're railroading are, in the mind of the cops, prosecutor, media, & thus the public, clearly guilty,

“(b) the guys they're railroading are, in the mind of the cops, prosecutor, media, & thus the public, clearly guilty of having done something bad somewhere in their past if not here,

or

“(c) the guys they're railroading are, in the mind of the cops, prosecutor, media, & thus the public, clearly guilty of having done something bad here if not, perhaps, guilty of the full charge; (e.g., this creep now before me under arrest was definitely one of two masked creeps who held up the bank & killed a teller; the cops can’t find the other one & the public wants a murder conviction, so this guy deserves to be railroaded; or this complaining witness is clearly a pro, but she didn’t deserve the beating she got from this creep afterward & so we’ll overlook her pro status & add on a rape charge.)

As W.C. Fields might have said in one of his non-100 Top films, “you can’t railroad an honest man!”

And don’t say that nobody cares. Take a poll asking a question about whether it’s better that 100 guilty men go free than one innocent man be convicted. I suggest that a majority will answer “yes” without thinking. But if one of theirs is the victim….

BTW, is "being railroaded" a recognized psychosis by prison shrinks? I'd say that it would lead to the symptoms associated with Clinical Depression.

From Inwood said...

dtl

You say

And in New York - the police arrested over a dozen black kids in Brooklyn, for the crime of attending one of their friend's funeral - who was killed a few days earlier.

Republicans think that is dandy.

Er, what section of the NY penal code covers attending a funeral?

And why single out Republicans? I know some Democrats who immediately breathe a sigh of relief when someone is arrested for a rape on the UWS.

Eli Blake said...

This is a complicated synopsis. The short answer is BOTH: There were some unique aspects here AND there are other rogue prosecutors scattered around the country. Here's how I see it:

Just like in sports, in politics (and prosecutors are either elected or their jobs depend on someone who is) there is a lot of pressure to win. Your own paycheck is directly tied to it.

Add to the fact that our criminal justice system is adversarial by its nature, and a prosecutor is trying to gain a conviction whether it is justified or not.

Now, in the Duke case, there was an election looming and given the demographics and opinions of the town, if Nifong drops the charges or doesn't keep taking a 'tough line,' he loses the election. Then he might be right, but he'd be unemployed. So he chose to bastardize himself despite his own misgivings and play the 'hardliner' and win the election. But by then he was trapped by his own positions and could only go forward, much like a driver who goes down the wrong road, it turns into a trail or a stream bed and can't even turn around but only go forward.

However, it brings up what a Holocaust survivor said once about Adolf Eichmann, when she described him as 'everyman.' In other words, yes Nifong was wrong, but can any of us honestly say that we are so moral that we'd throw a career away in the same situation (since at the time it looked like not going forward would be the choice that would throw a career away, though eventually it was the opposite)? I'd like to think I'd make the right decision, and believe I would, but having not been in that position I can't say for sure that I would.

And that leads me to the matter of more rogue prosecutors. I believe that:

1. Most prosecutors are hard working professionals who would not do something like that.

2. Given the pressures noted above to win, there are those who 'cheat' (just as there are coaches and athletes who cheat in sports) and put (in blunt terms to match what this is) their own lives ahead of the lives of some innocent people.

3. Just like cops who plant evidence, doctors who cheated their way through medical school and b.s. their way through the operating room, priests who bugger boys or teachers who molest their students, there are some bad prosecutors and they give a bad name to their entire line of work.

From Inwood said...

dtl

You say

"Also in the New York area, another dozen or so kids are facing felony charges for a senior prank where they placed alarm clocks in the classroom. Of course, Republicans said those alarm clocks were "bombs" - so they are now facing four years in children. Because you know - safety first."


"Four years in children". What section of the penal code.... Nevermind.

More important, I didn't know that there were any Republicans teaching or acting as administrators in the NYC School system to make such charges.

Oh, I get it, the Republicans were on the Bomb Squad.

BTW, how do I get on your Urban Legend Mail List? Sounds like a fun place.

Internet Ronin said...

Eli, I know I know what I'd do.

AMac said...

The North Carolina branch of the NAACP supported DA Nifong's effort to prosecute the Duke Lacrosse Rape Hoax/Frame. Law Prof Irv Joyner represented their concerns; he was one of the very last to, grudgingly, find some fault with Nifong's performance.

In August 2006, the NC NAACP put up a web page that contained dozens of misrepresentations and lies about the falsely accused students. Amazingly, the organization continues to host "Duke Lacrosse Update: Crimes and Torts committed by Duke Lacrosse Team Players on 3/13 and 3/14 as Reported in the press, mainly from the Three Players’ Defense Attorneys".

Revenant said...

I don't think what Nifong did is uncommon at all. What's uncommon is being as amazingly incompetent at it as he was. It is pretty easy for prosecutors to engage in unethical conduct and get away with it.

I suspect that Nifong drank his own Kool-Aid in this case, and bought into the whole "evil white men are guilty guilty guilty" meme being pushed by the Duke University faculty and the black community.

Beth said...

Our former DA, Harry Connick (the crooner's daddy) had death penalty cases overturned for hiding exculpatory evidence. In the 1980s, when I was in my twenties, people from his office spent a weekend stopping people leaving gay bars, and demanding our names, addresses, phone numbers and employment information. I told them to get f*cked. I celebrated when that little tyrant finally left office, but the guy we have now is completely useless. I have little faith in the criminal court system anymore; so much depends on the District Attorney, people who are generally as much politician as crime fighter.

Here's a current case in Jena, LA that should make any reasonable person shiver. White kids hang nooses on tree at high school? That's a youthful prank. White kid beats up black kid at party? Prank. White kid pulls shotgun on black kids at convenience store. Highjinks! Now, the black kids who wrestled the gun from him--the DA says that's aggravated battery and theft. Black kids (stupidly) retaliate against a friend of the shotgun toting redneck--white kid's fine, coupla hours at the hospital? Attempted second degree murder charges and some other bits tacked on could put the black kids away for 100 years.

That's life here in the Deep South, 2007.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Did protesters at Duke carry "castrate" signs when a black man was recently accused of raping a white Duke student?

No offense, but this argument is bullshit. The Black Man Incident occurred after the White Men Incident. They did not occur at the same time and receive different treatment. One occurred after the other. It is quite plausible that the second case received less sensational attention because of the ridiculous media frenzy in the first case led to more caution. And that is a good thing. That kind of media frenzy simply shouldn't happen, whether the defendant is guilty or innocent.

Revenant said...

It is quite plausible that the second case received less sensational attention because of the ridiculous media frenzy in the first case led to more caution.

The problem with that argument is that the rape happened between the media frenzy and the belated media concession that they might, maybe, could possibly been a little bit wrong about the Duke thing.

The more likely explanation is that "black criminal, white victim" isn't a story that grabs the attention of the mainstream media. It is a dog bites man story, especially in a city like Durham. Who was the last black criminal to be convicted in the press in advance of his trial -- OJ Simpson, maybe?

Revenant said...

Beth,

That's not a very fair description of the story. The white students got suspended and the one who attacked the black kid got charged with battery. Their actions obviously weren't viewed as just "hijinks".

The miscarriage of justice here appears to be in the way the black kids were treated by the legal authorities. The school seems to have behaved reasonably.

tjl said...

Beth says the current New Orleans DA is "completely useless."

Under his mismanagement, criminal justice in New Orleans had more or less ceased to function long before Katrina. How do I know? As a Houston lawyer, I've had to defend many Katrina evacuees. All reacted with scorn and disbelief when I told them that no, the DA wasn't going to fix their case, and yes, the witnesses would actually show up to testify against them at trial.

dave in boca said...

downtownlad mentions the massive vote fraud in Wisconsin as a "phony" case brought by the Bush Justice Dept. among his specious analogies.

There were two national elections where phonies like Gore and Kerry carried Wisconsin because of massive vote fraud in Milwaukee and Madison.

Shouldn't that be investigated?

Beth said...

tjl, Eddie "The Hat" Jordan is a scourge on civilization. People can commit murder here and get off with what they call "DA's time," the couple of months the DA has to file charges. When he took office he fired most the experienced investigators and assistant DAs. It's not Katrina that caused this, it's politics, and in his case, racial politics. He's a nitwit.

Beth said...

Revenant, the school's principle wanted to expel, not suspend, the white students who hung nooses from the tree they wouldn't allow black students to sit under. The school board overruled him and suspended them them for three days.

The white youth with a shotgun wasn't charged with anything, according the stories I've read. If they have now gone back and charged him with assault, good for them. But that doesn't change the fact that the six black youths are up for life sentences while the white youths are treated like good kids who've gotten into a spot of trouble.

These two DAs, the white one in Jena and Jordan, who is black, here in NOLA, represent the worst of the extremes of the racial politics of the South.

From Inwood said...

Beth

You’ve raised a great point here, though you limit yourself to race & gay issues: The elected prosecutor following the wishes of his electorate, or of what he sees as his/her ultimate electorate.

Several points:

(1) OK get after Harry C for being anti gay, but does the name “Stonewall” ring a bell. That was NYC in your lifetime.

(2) I suggest that New Orleans, make that Louisiana, is not representative of anything. Please read tjl’s comment again. He can speak for himself, but I don’t see him blaming NO’s evils on Katrina.

(3) Based on the news story from rural LA you linked, & please, I have no contrary facts I’m just exercising my usual caution against practicing law by newspaper, you’ve shown what appears prima facie to be the fearless panderer prosecutor in action.

I & many others saw the Hon Eliot Spitzer bring charges against a ton of Wall Street (Boo, Hiss) folks & then settle them without trial by defining deviancy down, thus gaining more notches in his gun without any heavy lifting. He then kept reciting that accomplishment & even had Republican friends of mine saying that they liked him because he wasn’t “cow towing to those Wall St B*****ds”. He rode that horse all the way to the NY Statehouse, & possibly to a VP candidacy if somehow Hillary does not get the big nomination. Rudy G, in front of cameras, arrested Wall Street guys in handcuffs late in the afternoon on a Summer Friday Nite years ago, knowing that their lawyers would be on their way to The Hamptons, & though his convictions were overturned on appeal, rode that horse to the mayor’s office in NYC. (Again some Republican friends: hey, here's a Republican who can get elected in NYC, because he doesn’t “cow tow to those Wall St B*****ds”. Many an obscure, small-town prosecutor has risen to become Governor, Senator, Congressman, cabinet member, judge, etc. Some almost rode it to the White House, cf. Tom Dewey.

Isn’t the question really “what distinguishes any of them from Nifong”? My answer is “in some cases the world; in other cases, not much.” But let me amplify that answer. DNA is changing Criminal Law at the physical level (To use a movie script analogy, “Boy Meets Girl; Boy Beats Girl”). You might say: “If’s there’s no DNA, ya gotta back away.” It’s not Nifong’s initial reaction then, however politically motivated, which surprises, nay, disturbs me; it’s his continuing reaction which, even though he was a rogue, should’ve changed three days, three weeks after the incident as the facts developed contrary to the template he kept working from. He stayed too long at the fair. Inexcusable.

Kirby Olson said...

Downtownlad -- when did I support the "literal lynching" of anybody? I don't think I did.

Lynch: to put to death by mob action without legal sanction; 2. the punishment of presumed crimes for offenses usually by death without due process of law.

Note that it says "usually by death."

Where can you show me a mob action that I support? I'm honestly not sure what you're talking about. Mob action without legal sanction?

Who what when where?

I didn't support Abu Ghraib or however you spell it. I thought it stunk, and the idiots involved deserved court martial and long sentences.

tjl said...

"I don’t see him blaming NO’s evils on Katrina."

The N.O. evils that Beth & I were discussing long predated Katrina. They have deep roots in the local culture, with its lack of seriousness about education and economic opportunity. The disaster merely threw a national spotlight on these problems and made it clear that these issues can't be ducked if this marvellous and irreplaceable city is ever to come back.

A grotesque figure like Eddie Jordan could never be elected DA in a city where the majority of voters were educated and felt they had an economic stake in the community. Most victims of violent crimes are low-income minority residents who don't have the means to live in more secure neighborhoods. But these are the same voters who are most likely to be swayed by the demagogic appeal of an Eddie Jordan. The solution is obviously better education and more economic opportunity, but it's a puzzle how these things can happen without competent law enforcement.

Mortimer Brezny said...

The problem with that argument is that the rape happened between the media frenzy and the belated media concession that they might, maybe, could possibly been a little bit wrong about the Duke thing.

A public concession is different than a private recognition of error. And when the rape happened is not the relevant date; when the media frenzy would have started up is.

Beth said...

tjl, yes, you and I are in agreement (I think Inwood read me as contradicting you, but I was simply emphasize the awfulness of Jordan's tenure).

I didn't vote for Jordan (we call him "The Hat"), but I wasn't alarmed when he won initially. I think he got a lot of support across race and income lines because he'd done what others had tried but failed to do: as a U.S. Attorney, he successfully prosecuted former Gov. Edwin Edwards. It's apparent now that he can't take much credit for that. And I was among the many who were shocked when he took the DA's office and quickly fired almost every white employee. He was found guilty of discrimination for that action, but it didn't change the fact that the DAs office is now staffed by campaign supporters who are inexperienced in the investigatory and court processes of prosecuting crimes. (Uh oh, shades of Bush and FEMA!)

I'd love to see us get it together and recall him. But until then, the FBI and the new U.S. attorney's office seems to be filling in some of the gaps. There are good arguments for appointed rather than elected positions in some areas of government.

Revenant said...

Revenant, the school's principle wanted to expel, not suspend, the white students who hung nooses from the tree they wouldn't allow black students to sit under. The school board overruled him and suspended them them for three days.

Right, and I'm saying the school board did the right thing. It would be unjust to expel students for legal, nonviolent conduct of a nonacademic nature. They didn't attack anyone, they didn't cheat, they didn't steal tests... they just did something that was juvenile and racially offensive. Expelling students for gang-beating someone, on the other hand, seems perfectly fair.

The white youth with a shotgun wasn't charged with anything, according the stories I've read. If they have now gone back and charged him with assault, good for them.

I was referring to the student who attacked the black kid at the party. It isn't clear what, exactly, happened in the shotgun encounter, since the story doesn't cite any actual sources for what it claims happened. The encounter reportedly took place after a series of fights between white and black students at school; perhaps the white kid felt threatened. The fact that one of the three black kids involved in that incident later took part in the gang-beating suggests that there might have been good reason to be afraid.

But that doesn't change the fact that the six black youths are up for life sentences

I've already agreed that the law was way too harsh on the black kids. I'm just disputing your claims that (a) the school system behaved wrongly and (b) the white kids got off easy. Aside from the treatment of the black kids by the law, the rest of the situation seems fair.

Beth said...

Rev, I don't find it merely juvenile to threaten uppity black students with a reminder of lynching--it was a calculated choice of images. I think those students should have been out on their asses for the rest of the year, and made to understand that actions have consequences. If they'd been taken to task, there'd not have been a subsequent series of fights. What a bunch of louts. The black kids were overcharged and the white kids patted on the heads and told to do better next time.

Revenant said...

Beth,

First of all, calling it "a reminder of lynching" is just hyperbole, as none of the students involved are old enough to remember a time when blacks had to worry about getting lynched.

Secondly, you wrote:

I think those students should have been out on their asses for the rest of the year

On what grounds? Giving offense is not valid grounds for expulsion. I would be very surprised to hear that the school guidelines for expulsion allowed for that. Is wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Che Guevara (responsible for more murders than all the American lynch mobs of the last 75 years) grounds for expulsion? What about a hammer and sickle? A swastika? All of these things are symbols of vastly worse crimes than lynching, but they don't merit expulsion. Kids who use those symbols do indeed have a lot to learn -- but expelling them only teaches the lesson that might makes right, and people with power don't need to obey the law or respect the rights of the weak. Is that a lesson you really want a bunch of loser racist kids to learn?

If they'd been taken to task, there'd not have been a subsequent series of fights.

You're assuming that the white eighty percent of the student body would have calmly and politely accepted their friends being unjustly expelled from school to satisfy the rage of the local black community. Somehow I doubt it would have played that way.

But even if it had, you can't justify an unjust punishment by pointing to the fact that it is useful to society. The kids didn't deserve to be expelled, and the possibility that expelling them would have caused black kids and white kids to refrain from beating each other up doesn't justify expelling them. The proper way to prevent fights is to punish the people who start them -- and teach them the lesson that anger is not a justification for violence.

The black kids were overcharged and the white kids patted on the heads and told to do better next time.

Offending people is legal. Getting together with a bunch of your buddies to beat the shit out of a kid is not, even if the kid IS white and a jerk. The black kids apparently got overcharged, but let's not lose sight of the fact that they are, in fact, violent criminals and do, in fact, deserve prosecution. The noose kids aren't, and don't. You're trying to make the noose incident out to be worse than the gang beating, which is both morally and legally ridiculous.

Oh, and one final thing -- the article cites the length of time the white kid spent in the hospital as if that had some relevance to the crime against him. It doesn't. A trivial example -- if I empty a pistol at you and miss completely, I'm guilty of attempted murder even though you suffered no harm at all. I *suspect* the kid wasn't too badly beaten (although "hours in the hospital" can still indicate stitches and broken bones), but if he was, in fact, knocked unconscious and then kicked by the group then that's pretty serious assault. That sort of thing quite easily CAN kill, and just because it DIDN'T kill doesn't make it less serious.

Beth said...

Revenant, the noose is a threat, not an act of offensive speech. That's grounds for expulsion. The kids who beat up the white kid need to be charged for that, but the white authorities in this town let things get to that point by coddling the white kids. Your belief that lynching is some quaint, vague memory of the past is way out of line with reality. Lynchings continued in the southern states at least up through the late 1960s. For the small number of blacks in Jena, that threat would not be taken as a joke. Cross burning is free speech on private property, but it's legally a threat when done to intimidate a target. The nooses were intended to intimidate the black kids who, for Christ's sake, sat under a f*cking tree that white kids claimed as their own. It's no different than burning a cross at that site.

Bruce Hayden said...

Um, let’s make that
“(a) the guys they're railroading are, in the mind of the cops, prosecutor, media, & thus the public, clearly guilty,

“(b) the guys they're railroading are, in the mind of the cops, prosecutor, media, & thus the public, clearly guilty of having done something bad somewhere in their past if not here,
or

“(c) the guys they're railroading are, in the mind of the cops, prosecutor, media, & thus the public, clearly guilty of having done something bad here if not, perhaps, guilty of the full charge; (e.g., this creep now before me under arrest was definitely one of two masked creeps who held up the bank & killed a teller; the cops can’t find the other one & the public wants a murder conviction, so this guy deserves to be railroaded; or this complaining witness is clearly a pro, but she didn’t deserve the beating she got from this creep afterward & so we’ll overlook her pro status & add on a rape charge.)


As I indicated above, I see this more from the cops than from prosecutors. Some, if not many, seem to operate from the point of view that they know when someone is bad, and if they can't get them on what they think they are really doing, they will settle for something else to get them off the streets.

As a society, we put up with it, because most of the time, the cops are right. So, when they cross the line here and there, we tend to look the other way, because in the end, the country is probably a bit safer because of it.

I don't like it, not one bit. It used to bother me an awful lot more though, esp. when I was a young male, and sometimes was on the receiving end of this. But now, I cut them more slack. In many cases, they deal with the dregs of society on a daily basis, and do a job that most of us couldn't handle. As I said, I don't like it, but can now accept it.

The comments about political prosecutors above was interesting. Both Spitzer and Guilliani made their names essentially exploiting their roles as such. I am not really surprised that prosecuting becomes political, since in most cases any more, it is a political job. Indeed, our newest Senator here in CO was our Attorney General before being elected to the Senate. And, I am sure, he isn't the only state AG or elected DA to serve in Congress.

We may do better to move to a system where DAs are appointed, by, for example, the governor. It seems to have worked in a lot of states with the judiciary. Not surprisingly, most of the money spent in judicial elections seems to come from the attorneys who practice before the judges.

From Inwood said...

Beth & Rev

As I said, I hate to practice law through newspapers. Moreover, this news story after the nooses in the trees is confusing, to say the least. (I think that Rev has made the same point.) But it seems clear that nooses were in trees.

And so, as much as I find the concept of “hate crimes” to be void through vagueness &, as interpreted by those in control of schools & HR departments of public employers & corporations & by administrative agencies & the courts, in which a situation is resolved by applying extra-ordinary principles of meaning to many meaningless actions, resulting in an amorphous PC blob of injustice, if anything is a hateful action done with malice aforethought, this was. And, presumably it offends some section of the school district’s behavior policy!

And more important, the nooses in the trees seem to me as much a threat as a statement. (Beth would, I think not use the word "seem".) To me they border on assault. I say "border" since based only on this news story, I cannot say for sure that they meet the classical test of assault: “creating a well-founded fear of imminent peril coupled with apparent present ability to execute attempt if not prevented”.

And so I agree with Beth when she says

"Rev, I don't find it merely juvenile to threaten uppity black students with a reminder of lynching--it was a calculated choice of images. I think those students should have been out on their asses for the rest of the year, and made to understand that actions have consequences."

Three days is an affront to the Black community.

So saying, I do agree with the rest of your comments, & disagree with the rest of Beth’s remarks. I definitely agree with you that “actions speak louder than words” & should be treated so. No effrontery through words should be facilely equated to physical violence, though, here again we should be aware that threats are not just "words, mere words" Nor should we overlook what was probably a smoldering situation, an eruption waiting to happen & think that if only we had punished the white boys justly, no violence would have happened.

But, point of order. I must note that I’m not a First Amendment lawyer, though based upon the following from Prof A about today’s “Bong Hits 4 Jesus", SCOTUS can’t define what’s freedom of expression on or around school grounds either:

“Chief Justice Roberts is joined [in the opinion] by Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, and we've got concurring opinions from Thomas (alone) and Alito (joined by Kennedy). Breyer (alone) has a mixed opinion about it (concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part). And Stevens dissents, joined by Souter [ADDED: and Ginsburg].”

My two cents without Bong hits: I believe that, by parity of logic, school administrators should be able to ban all the radical chic & other garbage (as you note Che, Mao, Stalin, & Hitler were “responsible for more murders than all the American lynch mobs of the last 75 years”). This should be true in the sophisticated school areas which so look down zee nez on Louisiana. And I’d go further: all message shirts should be barred. The kids won’t be allowed to wear them on the job when they get a job, unless they work for an organization which is engaged in a cause. And yes that goes for “support our troops” & “Jesus Saves”. Such a ban won’t violate the little kiddies’ freedom any more than banning a “F**k The Principal” T-shirt would. (Aside, I would allow a T-Shirt which read, à la that Bumper Sticker, “T-Shirt Sloganeering Is Not The Answer”.)

But I suspect that we do not have a “city mouse, country mouse” school administrator divergence here. That is, the city mice, er, PC Administrators, by parity of illogic (wimpishness) take the same attitude toward PC misfeasors as the country mice, er, Louisana “boys will be boys” school board did with the deep South White misfeasors. And I'd guess that the ACLU & the usual suspects would fight this PC misfeasance to the death. I think that the result of such selective indignation produces a putative-adult Cameron Diaz on vacation in Peru completely baffled that the natives would be offended by her Mao pocket book (or whatever the PC term today is) when everybody in Hollywood & Manhattan just raved about her making a statement through fashion.

Revenant said...

Revenant, the noose is a threat, not an act of offensive speech.

The notion that the noose represented a threat is ridiculous. Fifty years ago you could have made a case for viewing a noose as a threat of lynching, but today the idea is absurd -- the last time a black man was lynched in the United States, this year's high school sophomores hadn't even been BORN yet, and that particular lynching ended with the killers being prosecuted (and executed) and the KKK being sued and bankrupted. So sorry, but anyone who sees a noose hanging from a tree and thinks "I'm going to get lynched!" is a moron, and while the cynic in me is inclined to believe that the school system is run for the benefit of morons it appears to have not been the case this time around.

The superintendent correctly surmised that the white students were not threatening to lynch the black students (a conclusion supported by the complete lack of lynching -- even of the six thugs -- that followed). However, since the noose was extremely offensive (in the manner a swastika is or a hammer-and-sickle or Che t-shirt should be), the students were suspended. That's fair.

Your belief that lynching is some quaint, vague memory of the past is way out of line with reality. Lynchings continued in the southern states at least up through the late 1960s.

I don't see how it is out of touch with reality to observe that people born in the late 1970s and early 1980s don't remember the 1960s. Mos of the kids' *parents* don't even have clear memories of the 1960s at this point.

From Inwood said...

Bruce H

I agree that the cops are the most judgmental, that's why I put them first in my laundry list.

But as you note, I too cut them some slack since they face this stuff first hand & I wouldn’t. That's why when I get stopped by one, I don't say things like "my good man, why aren't you out looking for real criminals rather than picking on a true gentleman like me?"

Also, as you may've found out, DAs, esp. Asst DAs have to get along with cops & tend to up the ante if the cops think it necessary & appropriate (as opposed to "just & right"?) A criminal lawyer with whom I served in the Army Reserves once told me that he had a simple drug possession case arising in Washington Square Park in which the ADA wouldn't agree to time served & told him that he was going to have to go to trial for this dreck. . He finally found out, off the record, that the miscreant had only been arrested in the first place, being one of many, because he'd sassed the cop on a "Class" basis & then had at the station decided to claim "Police Brutality" (probably true!)& that the cops were simply "upping the ante" & that this file was marked for trial unless the miscreant agreed to some outrageous jail time & it was out of his hands. The miscreant was found not guilty even though he performed poorly & when my buddy talked to some jurors afterward, they expressed surprise that the legal system would bother with such de minimis.

I’m glad you found the Spitzer/Rudy stories interesting. I think that the public fools itself if it thinks it’s really electing judges & DAs/AGs on the state level. The might as well be appointed since they are generally at first & simply, like Nifong, run for “re-election” & are generally voted in along party lines, although NY has a history of voting for the AG candidate who is from the party opposed to the party of the guy they are voting for Governor, on the theory that he will be a watchdog. (Not in the 2006 debacle, however)

Old Al Smith story. May even be true. Seems that he & a candidate for some judgeship were on a ferry which was about to dock. The lower one, in a whinning voice suggested that no real money was being spent on his campaign & golly how would the public be made of his wonderful qualifications for this judgeship. Smith replied “See the garbage in the water? Watch the Ferry bring it in. I’m your ferry.”

From Inwood said...

Bruce H

I agree that the cops are the most judgmental, that's why I put them first in my laundry list.

But as you note, I too cut them some slack since they face this stuff first hand & I wouldn’t. That's why when I get stopped by one, I don't say things like "my good man, why aren't you out looking for real criminals rather than picking on a true gentleman like me?"

Also, as you may've found out, DAs, esp. Asst DAs have to get along with cops & tend to up the ante if the cops think it necessary & appropriate (as opposed to "just & right"?) A criminal lawyer with whom I served in the Army Reserves once told me that he had a simple drug possession case arising in Washington Square Park in which the ADA wouldn't agree to time served & told him that he was going to have to go to trial for this dreck. . He finally found out, off the record, that the miscreant had only been arrested in the first place, being one of many, because he'd sassed the cop on a "Class" basis & then had at the station decided to claim "Police Brutality" (probably true!)& that the cops were simply "upping the ante" & that this file was marked for trial unless the miscreant agreed to some outrageous jail time & it was out of his hands. The miscreant was found not guilty even though he performed poorly & when my buddy talked to some jurors afterward, they expressed surprise that the legal system would bother with such de minimis.

I’m glad you found the Spitzer/Rudy stories interesting. I think that the public fools itself if it thinks it’s really electing judges & DAs/AGs on the state level. The might as well be appointed since they are generally at first & simply, like Nifong, run for “re-election” & are generally voted in along party lines, although NY has a history of voting for the AG candidate who is from the party opposed to the party of the guy they are voting for Governor, on the theory that he will be a watchdog. (Not in the 2006 debacle, however)

Old Al Smith story. May even be true. Seems that he & a candidate for some judgeship were on a ferry which was about to dock. The lower one, in a whinning voice suggested that no real money was being spent on his campaign & golly how would the public be made of his wonderful qualifications for this judgeship. Smith replied “See the garbage in the water? Watch the Ferry bring it in. I’m your ferry.”

From Inwood said...

Sorry. It's late & I hit the button 2X

From Inwood said...

Rev

It's a threat. Or if you want, it borders on a threat. And in a community like this it might not be unreasonable to regard it as a threat.

I agree with you that no adult in the US would lynch anyone, today, but teen age boys don't reason as well as adults. They have no fear.

A guy I grew up with threw one of our friends off a roof when we were all in HS. No adult ever did this in our neighborhood.

In any event these kids did a bad thing & must have known how evocative it was. Otherwise why do it? So maybe it was just an act dishonoring the Black Community. Feel better? Three days is not enough.

Save your breath for the time when loony PC idiots call some childish words "hate crimes". I’ll be there with you.

Christy said...

Is their something in campus air? Last year a Johns Hopkins frat had a "Halloween in the Hood" party that included a skeleton hanging by a noose in a tree. I looked at the pic of the hanging figure and saw "Pirates of the Caribbean." The local community (heavily African-American) and other students did not. The frat was suspended; Hopkins initiated diversity training for students and faculty.

Beth & TJL, I was once told by an FBI pal who shares my love of both N.O. and James Lee Burke's novels that N.O. and Louisiana are every bit as corrupt as the David Robicheaux series depicts. Do you know the books? Do you agree?

tjl said...

"N.O. and Louisiana are every bit as corrupt as the David Robicheaux series depicts"

The Louisiana Purchase was not just a one-time historical event.

Revenant said...

I agree with you that no adult in the US would lynch anyone, today, but teen age boys don't reason as well as adults. They have no fear.

So your argument, then, is that teenaged boys are inherently guilty, and thus deserving of punishment for violence even if they don't actually commit any? I have to disagree. The three kids did something offensive. They did not attack anybody -- not even after being punished, not even though "their" side significantly outnumbered the black students. You claim that teenaged boys "know no fear". The fact that the noose kids didn't follow up with violence conclusively proves that either (a) you are wrong or (b) the kids, despite having no fear of committing violence, didn't actually WANT or intend to commit any violence. In either case, giving them the same academic punishment for a so-called "threat" (that only an imbecile would be threatened by) that you'd give them if they'd ganged up and beaten the black kids bloody is simply insane.

So maybe it was just an act dishonoring the Black Community. Feel better? Three days is not enough.

The punishment for "dishonoring the black community" is, as it should be, zero days. The reason the students deserved to be punished is that they engaged in disruptive behavior.

From Inwood said...

Rev

Can you spell Virginia Tech?

Can you spell Jasper TX?

Both in our lifetime, for sure.

I wrote my last post late in the night & I’m now gonna flesh it out, though I suspect that, once again, the “use by date” for this thread has expired.

Again, my disclaimer: I never practiced law based on facts solely from newspaper reports. And I don’t have a copy of this school’s rules of conduct.

So, with that, it seems that besides focusing upon the fact (with which I agree) that most of this stuff is just bogus amorphous PC crap, you’re focusing on the credibility of the threat. Apparently you are applying a similar test to the test I quoted for assault, that is, you’re questioning whether such threat created a well-founded fear of imminent peril coupled with apparent present ability to execute such threat if not prevented. That’s good when it comes to the police & DA’s analysis as to whether a crime was committed, but it’s a luxury if you’re the principal or the school board. They can’t ignore something like this. And your conclusion is based on the fact that lynching threats have no relevance today. You think that kids today aren’t taught about lynching? You think that schools & textbook people would miss a chance to bash America for one of its many sins? Assuming the facts as set forth in the news article, these kids, I believe knew what effect the imagery they chose to use would have on their audience.

And we’re not talking about a kid who’s barely 5’ & possessing poor musculature huffing & puffing & threatening to put out a 6’5” Left Tackle’s lights. Three days suspension is not telling these kids that this is serious stuff to which ‘attention must be paid” & not just some amorphous PC crap conflated to hate crime status (collected in Overlawyered & in National Review, WSJ, & gasp, Talk Radio) which deserves no attention.

Exhibit A in this “crap” racism regard is the story supplied, with much disdain for the alleged miscreants, by Christy about Johns Hopkins’ agreeing with the perpetually outraged that a skeleton hanging at a pirate-themed frat party was, in reality, a lynching threat to Blacks. And yes, raw facts sometimes need interpretation or perspective. That's why PC intellectualoids at our leading universities are so wise: they are always able to interpret & give perspective to what was actually said or presented in order to reach the truth of what was really meant. It’s a talent. (Again, a disclaimer: I’m not warranting the facts in the news report; I’m assuming arguendo that they are true.)

So, I’m with you on 100% of the outrageous crap.

Finally, I would admit that if I were a volunteer schoolboard member & in real life an insurance agent in this small LA community & one of my customers/clients was (a) the biggest businessman in the school district, & (b) the Pa of one of these miscreants, I might not want to offend Pa. This is the small-town stuff that convinces self anointed urbane Limo Libs once again why they’re right in looking down zee nez & thinking that small town = small minds.

But it’s much the same the same in the NYC area. A schoolboard member in one of the big towns/villages on the L. I. shore or on one of the high-rent private schools on the Uppa East Side of Manhattan doesn’t want to be dis-invited to cocktail parties or snubbed at them because he/she has made an un-PC decision affecting the school where his/her friends’ kids attend.

From Inwood said...

Rev

I typed my 2:22 epic expansion on my Microsoft Word & then copied it into this thread.

I see that you have replied to me in between.

I think that I have covered the points in your 1:39 reply in my 2:22 epic expansion, but hold on & I'll reply specifically to your 1:39 reply in the next few hours when I can do so without interruption!

From Inwood said...

Revenant said at 1:39: [Pronouns changed in your comments to make the Fisking flow]

SO [MY] ARGUMENT, THEN, IS THAT TEENAGED BOYS ARE INHERENTLY GUILTY, AND THUS DESERVING OF PUNISHMENT FOR VIOLENCE EVEN IF THEY DON'T ACTUALLY COMMIT ANY?

Of course not. Please answer the argument I actually made rather than the one you feel I made or feel that you can easily refute.

I simply pointed out to you that the fact that there has been no lynching in the last 50 or 60 years is no guarantee that some young, heedless, if you will, kids would not do so today. Then, as you will see in my 2:22 reply, I remembered the bad adults in Jasper TX, in 1999. So I’m saying then & now in my comments that the principal was right to react & the school board’s reduction of the principal’s period of suspension is wimpy. Naturally, the jeunesse bourgeois of this school district don’t deserve punishment for actually carrying out their threat, since they didn’t do so, but they deserved greater punishment than they got for the chilling threat which, in light of Jasper TX, not to mention VA Tech, cannot be so easily dismissed by you.

[YOU] HAVE TO DISAGRE [WITH ME]. THE THREE KIDS DID SOMETHING OFFENSIVE. THEY DID NOT ATTACK ANYBODY -- NOT EVEN AFTER BEING PUNISHED, NOT EVEN THOUGH "THEIR" SIDE SIGNIFICANTLY OUTNUMBERED THE BLACK STUDENTS.

Nice of them. I suggest to you that it borders on the, er, “imbecilic” to fail to notice the fact that the kids did not follow up with an actual lynching may have something to do with the furor raised over the threatened hanging.

[I] CLAIM THAT TEENAGED BOYS "KNOW NO FEAR". THE FACT THAT THE NOOSE KIDS DIDN'T FOLLOW UP WITH VIOLENCE CONCLUSIVELY PROVES THAT EITHER (A)[I AM] WRONG OR (B) THE KIDS, DESPITE HAVING NO FEAR OF COMMITTING VIOLENCE, DIDN'T ACTUALLY WANT OR INTEND TO COMMIT ANY VIOLENCE. IN EITHER CASE, GIVING THEM THE SAME ACADEMIC PUNISHMENT FOR A SO-CALLED "THREAT" (THAT ONLY AN IMBECILE WOULD BE THREATENED BY) THAT [I'D] GIVE THEM IF THEY'D GANGED UP AND BEATEN THE BLACK KIDS BLOODY IS SIMPLY INSANE.

I’ve covered this, in my immediate response above, & I have argued that any Black school kid or his parent/guardian would be an “imbecile” & certifiably “insane” to ignore this threat, in view of Jasper & VA Tech. And, for the record, I, being of sound mind, think that the punishment for “beating the Black kids bloody” would have had to have been increased to something much more harsh than just my (& Beth’s”) “suspension to the end of the year”: it would have to be expulsion, not to mention criminal prosecution by the DA for “assault & battery” or, should the facts warrant it, “aggravated assault & battery”, or “assault & battery” with intent to commit manslaughter/murder” (BTW, I’m assuming that the Napoleonic Code, which is in use in LA, as Marlon Brando tells Vivian Leigh in STREETCAR, does use such terms.) And I personally don’t feel that this threatening incident should be, as claimed by one of the Black mothers, a “hate crime” though, under LA’s penal code, this BS PC meaningless term may well have been codified.

THE PUNISHMENT FOR "DISHONORING THE BLACK COMMUNITY" IS, AS IT SHOULD BE, ZERO DAYS. THE REASON THE STUDENTS DESERVED TO BE PUNISHED IS THAT THEY ENGAGED IN DISRUPTIVE BEHAVIOR.

Er, point of order: dishonoring the Black community is, indeed, “disruptive behavior” on school grounds & QED, punishable by school administrators. Things seemed to have gotten ugly afterwards as far as I can gather from this confusing news story. Further QED, the school administration was more justified in reacting; it just wimped out when it reduced the suspension to three days, showing that these worthies refused to treat this incident seriously, with the necessary & appropriate punishment. Just as you & I laugh at loony PC liberals, we should recognize that Whites have some duty sometime, somewhere (here, for instance) without falling for the PC crap template in the 99 44/100% of the cases, as Christy seemed initially to me to be doing in her frivolous comparison to Hopkins’ “pirates” & the need for Hopkins’ re-education & brain washing re such obviously non-threatening incident. Followed by a confession implying that the university is “guilty”.

In fairness to Christy, on rereading her post, I may’ve accused her of too much; she did say that her initial reaction was benign, but she did begin with the phrase “Is their something in campus air?”& then never seemed to criticize Hopkins’ hysterical PC reaction, which led me to believe that she supported it. Sorry if I misread her.

Revenant said...

Can you spell Virginia Tech? Can you spell Jasper TX?

Can you invoke irrelevant and unrelated crimes in an attempt to bolster your argument? The answer to all three questions is "yes". What I find most amusing about you and Beth is that you both have a lynch-mob mentality: by god, WE know those kids need to pay, so who cares if the law says otherwise.

And your conclusion is based on the fact that lynching threats have no relevance today. You think that kids today aren’t taught about lynching? You think that schools & textbook people would miss a chance to bash America for one of its many sins?

The standard for a threat is whether a *reasonable* person would consider the threat to be a real one, not whether some ignorant kid whose parents and teachers have filled his head with a bunch of silly paranoid bullshit will consider the threat to be a real one. No reasonable person could honestly believe anyone planned to hang those black kids, ergo there was no threat. The correct response to paranoid delusions is to refute them, not condone and re-enforce them by treating them as legitimate.

(I'll skip responding to the bulk of your argument, as it is based on the false premise that the nooses were a credible threat)

I simply pointed out to you that the fact that there has been no lynching in the last 50 or 60 years is no guarantee that some young, heedless, if you will, kids would not do so today.

Ironically enough, that's exactly the argument whites used for lynching black men who got too close to white women -- sure, they might not have raped them, but there was no guarantee they wouldn't. The irony is even greater when you consider that over the past quarter-century there have been tens of thousands of rapes by black men and zero lynchings by white teenagers. So congrats on being even less rational than a white lynch mob member, I guess.

I suggest to you that it borders on the, er, “imbecilic” to fail to notice the fact that the kids did not follow up with an actual lynching may have something to do with the furor raised over the threatened hanging.

That's a joke, right? You can't possibly be stupid enough to think those white kids really planned a hanging and only backed off because the local black community got outraged... can you?

Er, point of order: dishonoring the Black community is, indeed, “disruptive behavior” on school grounds & QED, punishable by school administrators.

Which is why it got punished. If it hadn't been disruptive it wouldn't have merited punishment at all, no matter HOW "dishonored" people felt by it. My point is that the "dishonor" is meaningless and irrelevant. Blacks don't have a right not to be insulted by white people, nor whites by blacks.

it just wimped out when it reduced the suspension to three days, showing that these worthies refused to treat this incident seriously, with the necessary & appropriate punishment.

A three-day suspension is a serious punishment, and goes on the students' permanent records (as does, in most school districts, the reason for the suspension). The kids were punished. Your bloodlust wasn't sated, but that's your problem.

From Inwood said...

Rev

I've been out of pocket for a few days & Prof Ann has put this in the archives, but, at the risk of talking to myself, I would suggest that you have become quite apoplectic, no? You've started to hector; to bluster.

And you really know how to characterize anyone who disagrees with you, no? An imbecile, an insane

Your argument, in so far as it is comprehendible, is that no lynching has happened in the US in 50-60 yrs, therefore it couldn’t have happened & therefore no non-imbecile Black would’ve felt threatened by this threat of lynching, QED, no harm no foul, well hardly ever, & three days is enough punishment. Because you say so. Moreover, I’m engaging in a lynching of these kids, tee hee. What? The notoriety & furor that arose had nothing to do with the fact that a lynching didn’t happen.

So there.

Sorry you are analogy impaired in failing to see that in fin de sicle 21st Century USA, murders happened, e.g., in VA Tech & in Jasper, which would make rational people take note of nooses in the trees, which nooses are quite distinguishable from a frat-party, pirate-themed Halloween Nite. And, sorry that you are pointless (delusional) in your analogy-making: comparing me to a White Supremacist (Is that better than comparison to a Nazi?) & to a vampire.

I don’t want what you characterize as “bloodlust”. Can you spell justice?

From Inwood said...

Rev

To coin a phrase: can I spell

"fin de siècle" ?