With Friday’s news that Mike Nifong has asked the court to recuse him from the Duke rape case, I think now is a good time to reflect on the responses you wrote me to my past two columns on the case.
Many of you asked for his removal a long time ago, and I imagine you are now pleased with the Bar investigation as well.
Susan Jordan writes:
Thank you so much for stating what I believe so many people are feeling. Being in North Carolina, naturally this situation has been all over our news and conversations. I don’t only feel as this prosecutor should be removed from the case, I feel as he should be removed from office and disbarred.
I, as so many, feel as if he has tried to manipulate political gain at the costs of these young men’s futures. How can he even sleep at night? How could anyone even vote for a person like this? Don’t they realize that should it benefit him, he would do the same to them? Talk about corruption in our legal and political systems.
SRE: Thank you Susan! I agree that with the new evidence that has come to light, this is yet another case of political corruption for 2006.
James Dolan writes:
If I were the judge, here's what I'd do:
I would summon the North Carolina Attorney General to court with Nifong, remove Nifong from the case, order the AG to put Nifong on administrative leave, not allow him to return to his office (for fear of evidence tampering), appoint a prosecutor from another district, have all evidence/files inventoried, deposit all evidence/files with the court clerk, publish the inventory on the case docket, and allow defendant’s counsel access to review all of it.
That's for starters.... Then the Duke administration....
SRE: It looks like sometimes you get what you wish for.
M. Glover writes:
I am an attorney and a graduate of Duke Law School and I initially fell into the trap of allowing my chauvinistic loyalties to the school to color my view of the proceedings, "hoping" for the innocence of the students accused, and the redemption of the reputation of Duke as a whole and these young men in particular.
Now I am embarrassed that this was my initial focus, because as events have unfolded, it seems clearly to involve a much larger and more crucial issue than the reputation of an institution or even the destroyed lives of the accused ... whether our judicial system will step up to the challenge of preventing the abuse by prosecutorial authorities of constitutional protections.
For generations, minorities have justifiably lived in the fear that our government, our law enforcement agencies, and the courts would function in a way that might (and undoubtedly did) visit a kind of state sanctioned discrimination upon them through abusive police, selective prosecution and, in some cases, premeditated misuse of state power to harm them. The reaction to these Duke student indictments in some quarters was apparently glee, not because the gleeful had reason to suspect the guilt of the accused, but because of a vague and unstated sense that "it's about time you people discovered how this feels."
My hope is that this seemingly obvious violation of constitutional rights in a high profile case involving children from privileged backgrounds will cause a broader segment of our society to demand greater vigilance in reigning in politically motivated prosecutors.
SRE: Great point, this case certainly does bring light to an issue that has affected racial minorities in our society for a long time and I share your hope.
Joel Salatino writes:
I really felt as though I was the only person who found it hard to believe the young lady in this case. Though the lacrosse players were guilty of poor judgment, and more than likely have paid too high a price for their mistakes, this young lady is the true loser. The DA was just cashing in his ticket to what he thought was a ride to a higher office. He took full advantage of the race and the socio-economic differences existing in this drama. Once again politics gets in the way of doing public good.
I think he should be made an example of…
SRE: I agree -- it will be interesting to see which, if any, sanctions the Bar recommends.
Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission.
A woman of firsts, she was the first woman president of the Harvard Law Review and the first woman to head a national presidential campaign (Dukakis). Estrich is committed to paving the way for women to assume positions of leadership.
Books by Estrich include "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics is Destroying the Criminal Justice System" and "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders." Her book "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women," is a departure from her other works, encouraging women to take care of themselves by engaging the mind to fight for a healthy body. Her latest book, The Los Angeles Times bestseller, "Sex & Power," takes an impassioned look at the division of power between men and women in the American workforce, proving that the idea of gender equality is still just an idea.