EDITORIAL: Nifong Has Caused Enough Damage
Mike Nifong needs to step away from the Duke lacrosse case before he brings any more shame on himself, North Carolina and the law.
Not to mention three young men who have had their lives ruined by a bafflingly wrongheaded course of prosecutorial conduct -- or misconduct -- that seems incompetent at best and actionably reckless and self-serving at worst.
The three young student athletes arrested after a rough night in a ratty off-campus house may not have been simon-pure in their behavior. The common perception that they were spoiled, elitist rich kids with too much time and money on their hands may not be far off the mark. But there is a big difference between doing some dumb things and committing rape, which is the second-most-serious felony on the books, exceeded only by murder.
And there seems to be no evidence that anybody was raped during that sorry night of youthful debauchery. Nor was there ever any such evidence, except the highly questionable and now recanted testimony of a stripper who is clearly about as unconvincing a witness as you can find -- a witness that Nifong, the Durham district attorney, never even bothered to talk to before going public with his damningly inflammatory accusations.
Nifong, whom Gov. Mike Easley had appointed to the D.A. job in 2005, needed to turn around and run for election last year to a full term. The suspicion persists that he seized on the sensational "rape" case as a potentially popular issue. And he hasn't done much since to dispel that impression. He even appears to have conspired with an expert witness to compromise key evidence that would have damaged his case against the lacrosse players, which was already weak enough.
The unfairness and groundlessness of the rape case finally became so obvious to everyone that those charges were finally dropped. But Nifong stubbornly left other serious accusations pending against the defendants, though they seem equally unsustainable.
After being criticized by the State Bar and having to take the oath of office in secrecy because of fear of a possibly ugly scene, Nifong still blithely insisted that it was the whole city or county of Durham, not he, that was somehow to blame.
"I don't feel that I'm part of the problem," he said in an inscrutable statement. "Durham has some healing to do. And I need to be part of that healing process, and I need to have something to do with how we move forward."
The way the lacrosse case needs to move forward -- if at all -- is without Mike Nifong.
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