Us v. Them III


If you haven’t already, read David Feige’s (Indefensible Blog) Slate editorial on the disbarment of Mike Nifong.

Some highlights:

[I]n the rollicking back and forth of a normal state trial, it is a rare case in which problems involving the withholding of potentially exculpatory evidence (as Nifong was accused of doing) don’t arise. . . . There are, of course, a few particularly egregious cases that leave visible traces in appellate records. A 2003 study by the Center for Public Integrity found nearly 11,500 such cases. Of them, four out of five were shrugged off as harmless errors. And as previously noted in Slate, of the 2,012 cases since 1970 in which appeals judges actually threw out an indictment, conviction, or sentence because of prosecutorial malfeasance, in only 44 did prosecutors even appear before state ethics boards to answer for their actions. Another indicator: A Chicago Tribune investigation found 381 Illinois murder convictions that were reversed because prosecutors withheld evidence or prompted witnesses to lie. The number of those prosecutors publicly sanctioned or disbarred as a result? Zero.

(The point, which all defenders realize already, is that the Nifong case isn’t unusual because he did it, but because he got disciplined for it.)

My favorite:

[I]n an era of breathless, round-the-clock coverage of big criminal cases, his over-the-top remarks were often defended. Within hours, a cadre of current and former prosecutors flooded the airwaves to condemn the young men, lament their devious ways, and defend Nifong’s press strategy. . . . Later, of course, the same prosecutors who so vigorously defended Nifong’s conduct became vocal proponents of a severe sanction.

I love it. One of them gets wounded, and the others devour him in a frenzy. As I’ve written before, not because he “oughta know better” but to demonstrate the sanctimony of the rest.

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