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Heated Debate: Bernie Grimm and Jim Hammer Lock Horns

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Posted today are some random pictures showing you the views from the homes of people about whom we have reported. I was having fun looking at them and comparing them and I thought you might find them a bit interesting.

Click here to check out my photo essay

Also posted today is a video blog that I can't believe Ted and Bernie have OK'd for me to post. I received an e-mail from a viewer after the viewer saw the video blog they did with me on Thursday night and which I then posted on Friday morning. I printed the e-mail and then on Friday night, when Ted and Bernie came in to do the show, I sprung the e-mail on them while the camera was running in our newsroom. And how did they respond to the e-mail?

Click here to check out the video blog

By the way, don't blame me for their conduct! I simply received a viewer e-mail with a request, read it to them and well, they complied.

While I am on the topic of Bernie, if you saw Friday's night show, you watched Bernie and Jim Hammer lock horns — big time. The usual good banter between two members of the legal panel had an edge. After the segment Bernie immediately lamented to me about the on air battle with Jim. He felt bad about it. I tried to calm things and said, "Don't worry about it. Jim's a big boy. We are all lawyers. We all know from time to time we get hot under the collar or we get passionate about our views. I know Jim is fine. Jim has had tougher battles." Apparently that was not enough for Bernie. When I finished the show I walked into the newsroom and Bernie was still in the bureau. He was sitting at a computer terminal typing an e-mail to Jim. I don't know the exact words, but I am sure it was genuine. We — the members of the legal panel — are all good friends and from time to time throw a few punches, but we are all good sports. I know Jim was fine, but no doubt he was pleased to get an e-mail from Bernie.

As I am sure you know, DA Mike Nifong has been disbarred — or recommended for disbarment — by the ethics panel in North Carolina (I am a bit uncertain as to their procedure. In some jurisdictions the panel makes recommendations and the highest court of the state makes the final decision.) I just want to emphasize a few things in this blog today about it: Nifong is reported to have said early on in the investigation something like "Why do [the players] need lawyers if they are innocent?" He was suggesting that hiring a lawyer is proof or evidence of guilt. The answer to his question is obvious: To protect themselves from a rogue prosecutor determined to indict them, convict them and send them to prison for 30 years. Yes, they needed lawyers — they really needed lawyers! I emphasize this because I want to remind you not to assume guilt simply because someone has hired a lawyer. Innocent people need lawyers — big time — and this is the perfect example.

Another thing: I receive many e-mails about the "race issue" in the Duke lacrosse case — many blaming African Americans for igniting this issue. Don't forget that it was Nifong who brought up the race issue first ("raping a black girl") and, per the panel hearing which heard all the evidence, he raised it for a selfish motive: To win the race for DA which was held in May 2006 — two months after the party. This accuser was not a girl — she is in her 20s — and she had previously made a false claim of rape. Nifong knew it, but still tried to inflame the public with that remark to gain the African American vote in the election.

And yes, once the race issue was raised, others ran with it. They are to be condemned as wrong. Yes, it is horrible that we have — in my view — two systems of justice: one for Whites and one for Blacks. But we don't fix it by being unfair. The African American leaders who jumped on the race card (they know who they are) got it wrong on this one. Yes, there is prejudice in the system and yes, this case involved race — but not in the manner in which they said. An apology to the three lacrosse players would be a good idea. Also, using their stature to heal the community would be much appreciated.

If Nifong's crying at his hearing bothered you, I am not surprised. I hate to see people cry, but I also know tears — lots of them — were shed by the players and their families. There is also a piece of me that has empathy for a man (or woman) who disgraces himself (or herself). But then I remind myself: He knew as early as April 2006 (if not sooner), that the case was bogus and pursued it (the election was in May 2006) for selfish reasons. And there is more — lots more. Reade Seligmann and his lawyer in late March 2006 and April wanted to talk to the DA and present his airtight alibi. Would Nifong talk to them? Nope. He was too interested in himself and in winning an election just a few weeks later, in May.

Even after the May 2006 election, and after he had gotten what he so selfishly wanted — to win at all costs including his own dignity — he continued. When the DA had to turn over discovery in mid-May 2006 to the defense, and I read it for the first time, I was horrified. Until I actually read the discovery with my own eyes, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume I simply was unaware of the prosecutor's case against the three students. I knew from years of experience to hold my fire until I saw what the DA had in his files. When I read the discovery in May it was plain: This prosecution was a disgrace and had to be stopped. Someone had to stop this and fast. Nifong, who had the power to stop it all, did not.

He also knew in the summer of 2006 — and maybe as early as April '06 — that the accuser had other men's DNA on her other than the three players. Did he stop when he learned this? Nope. Did he tell the defense when he learned of the other men's DNA as required by the Constitution? Nope. Was he required to do so? Yes. What did he do? He continued and yes, by continuing he did something even worse: he hid evidence of innocence.

In October of 2006, Nifong admitted in court that he had never spoken to the accuser about her alleged assault. Did he stop it then? Nope. Did he bother to talk to her then? Nope. Would you not think before charging the case he would want to know what happened or at least what she says happened? When did he talk to her about the alleged events of that night? I don't know if he ever did. On December 21, 2006 he sent an investigator to talk to her (he did not bother to go.) The investigator reported back to him that the accuser could not say there was penetration — in other words: no rape. Finally Nifong was boxed in and he filed a motion — four days before Christmas — to dismiss the rape charges. But the other serious sexual assault charges? He let those stand and still his interest in the truth was not sufficiently teased so that he would bother to get in a car and go talk to the accuser himself.

And finally, the icing on the cake: At the hearing last week, after all the evidence showing his conduct and the negligence in this case and the acknowledgment that the State Attorney General said that the players are innocent and after his crying, what does he do? He said at the end of his testimony late Friday he still believes something happened in that bathroom at the party.

So while at the beginning of writing this blog I had some fleeting empathy for a crying man who disgraced himself, as I finish it I am mad — mad at what he did to the African American community (he used them), mad at what he did to the three players and their families and mad at what he has done to the other many fine prosecutors across the country who work hard every day to keep us safe.

I don't know about you, but I am still waiting to hear from the other prosecutors in Nifong's office. What did they know and when? Remember, these are not just coworkers, these are officers of the court. They are lawyers and likewise they have responsibilities. If I were the North Carolina Bar, I would begin asking them questions. If they knew, shame on them and they need other jobs. We need courageous prosecutors, not cowards or worse.

And, while I am at it, what about the 88 Duke professors who wrote the letter condemning the three lacrosse players? I would like to hear from them in an equally public way.

And finally, what about the former Duke lacrosse coach? He got pushed out because of this. Should not the university do something for him?

The attorney general of North Carolina is a hero. He had the courage to use the "I" word — INNOCENT. If the three players had gone to trial and had been found not guilty by the jury, it would not have done the trick. It would only have meant there was not enough evidence to convict. Juries don't declare defendants innocent — they only declare "not guilty," that there simply was not enough evidence. Some would still have assumed guilt. The North Carolina attorney general and his team scoured the evidence and took the giant step of saying "innocent." It might have been more politically attractive to simply say not enough evidence, but they did not. The word used was "innocent."

As for the three players and their families, they should be thanked for their courage under adversity, acting with great dignity throughout and for having been the sacrificial lambs. In the end, they have done a service for all of us. At least now many people will carefully wait for the facts and not simply accept accusations. They have renewed interest in the important concept of the presumption of innocence. I do hope that their suffering will in particular help the innocent poor — the ones who can't afford lawyers, but whose juries and communities may now realize the importance of innocent until proven guilty. So, the players and their families should take a bow and again, thanks. You have done a service.

I would be remiss if I did not mention their lawyers. This is probably why each went to law school. I admire them.

Now for some e-mails:

E-mail No. 1

Hi Greta,
How is it that a journalist is able to separate emotions when doing an interview? Some of the questions that are asked have to be extremely difficult, and yet, the public still wants to know, so it is your duty to ask. Do you find yourself removed from society in a sense that you ask these questions without showing emotion? Day after day there are heartbreaking events that you and other journalists have to cover, and yet you can continue to do this on a daily basis. I don't want to cite any specific cases, but, do you ever find yourself attached to some of the families? Is it hard to sleep at night after tough interviews when a child is missing or similar type case? I don't know how you do what you do, but, I am glad that you help the families get the word out and get the public's help.
I just read this to myself, wow, I ask a lot of questions!!
Stay gold,
Steve Curtician
OH

ANSWER: I feel very bad for the people and no, I am not detached... but I can do my job.

E-mail No. 2

Hi Greta:
I'm a little late reading your GretaWires, but in reading the 6/14/07 one, I agreed with the lady that said that she was disappointed in your interview with the young "fat" lady. To tell you the truth, me too... "the monster in you" came out and may be your intentions were not to sound that bad about "FAT" people. But that's the way it sounded. In reading about obesity... not every fat person is unhealthy... but in the other hand, skinny people could be more unhealthy and psychologically insane.... The fat lady was not really obese... or with significant weight as you said.... She looks vibrant, happy, intelligent and HEALTHY.
Everything in excess could bring pain to a human — but being skinny is not necessarily a sign of being happy or healthy. (Ask Paris) Ha-ha!
Thank you.
Juana Couvertie
Tampa, FL

E-mail No. 3

[Are you surprised] that Fred Goldman wants to publish this "If I Did It" book, but change the title. It's not like he is doing it for Ron's wife and kids to have. Ron didn't have a family.
It's a bit sick don't you think?
Alicia
Coppell, TX

E-mail No. 4

Greetings Greta,
In regards to Paris Hilton, would you kindly point out to your viewers that there is a very big difference between the fairness of her sentence [IE: length of time required to be served] versus the equity of her sentence in comparison to what other persons sentenced on similar charges receive?
The length of Ms. Hilton's sentence for probation violation was fair- as this was the approx. amount of time given to similar violators prior to the over crowded jail conditions in California.
The equality of her sentence was unfair because, due to current over crowding, she wasn't treated as jailed persons of lower income and social status.
Keep up the good work. Always enjoy your show.
David Sherwood
Altus, OK

E-mail No. 5

Hi Greta,
What a hero, this Nifong! He resigns from a job he was about to lose anyway! Let's not kid ourselves. The only reason he did it was to try and gain sympathy, with his phony tears, and avoid loosing his license to practice law. North Carolina needs to yank his license anyway now, and let the lawsuits begin, which they should. This bastard needs to go prison!
He brought these charges without even speaking to the worthless sack of garbage accuser. He didn't have to talk to her. She was black. That's all he needed to know. Blacks get a free pass with all this liberal PC BS. He used the case to win favor with blacks in order to get elected.
Period! The sonofabitch should get 20 years, and serve every damn minute of it. And that, would never restore the lives of the three young men to where they were. But it would be a damn good start!
Rob
Tuscaloosa

E-mail No. 6

Why don’t you have a segment on lawyers and call it "Lawyers Gone Wild." You could highlight Debra Opri (Larry Birkhead's lawyer) about her charging him $600, 000 for legal services, Roy Pearson for suing $54 M for his pants, Nifong for railroading innocent people, Mary Lacy (Boulder, CO DA) for not prosecuting an infant murder, and the Citrus County DA for not prosecuting the four other people involved in the Jessica Lunsford murder. I’m sure you find numerous other examples of our vaunted legal profession in action. Show them for what they really are: a bunch of money hungry crooks.
Gerry Taylor
Somerset, KY

E-mail No. 7

Greta:
Watched your interview of the lady that weighed 225 Lbs. I am your greatest fan, but I have to tell you that you were a little crude. However, what I would like to know is how tall she is. She seemed to carry herself very well and if she is say 6 ft. tall she may not be that much overweight to begin with.
Thanks,
Janie Leroy
Inman, SC

E-mail No. 8

I'm a professional truck driver and Hilton is in a good place that maybe she can learned something.
Russ Dougherty
IA

E-mail No. 9

Hi Greta,
For some reason I have no sympathy for wa-wa-Mike Nifong! What he caused those boys is so terrible!
Love your show.
Kathi
Grand Rapids, MI

E-mail No. 10

Nifong has NOT resigned. He says he intends to resign. I intend to climb Mount Everest.
Bob Bannon

E-mail No. 11

Greta,
I think the D.A. made a mistake, but I honestly think he thought he was doing the right thing at the time. He seems to be a basically good person. I don't think he used it as an election tool. I am sick of ppl crucifying him. Thank you for being fair in the interview... I will continue watching you. I was just ticked over this Paris thing.
Hugs,
Mary

E-mail No. 12

Dear Greta,
I was so relieved tonight when you didn't ask Collin Finnerty's father about his son's conviction last year on an assault charge in D.C.
It could have been a real turd in everybody's punch bowl — please excuse the pun — if you'd somehow wandered away from your script.
Instead, you rightfully kissed Mr. Finnerty's rear end so hard it's an absolute wonder you didn't get a concussion or — at the very least — mess up your plastic surgery any worse than it already looks.
We viewers can always count on you to keep things "fair and balanced," and for that I am grateful.
Sincerely,
Paul Perkins

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