ILNews

Prosecutors talk about Nifong disbarment

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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Indiana prosecutors worry about heightened suspicion of charging decisions they make as a result of the high-profile disbarment of a North Carolina prosecutor over the weekend.

Talk started months ago as the situation escalated, but banter took a new surge this morning following Michael Nifong's nationally televised disciplinary proceeding Saturday. He was disbarred for violating professional conduct rules in his prosecution of three Duke University lacrosse players falsely accused of rape.

"Around the country and here, prosecutors are talking about the Nifong effect," said Stephen Johnson, executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council. "This is a black mark against all prosecutors."

The North Carolina bar charged Nifong with breaking several rules of professional conduct, including lying to both the court and bar investigators and withholding critical DNA test results from the players' defense attorneys. The commission unanimously agreed that Nifong's actions involved "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation."

The 29-year prosecutor said he would waive any right to appeal the punishment in an attempt to help restore faith in the criminal justice system and the role prosecutors serve throughout the country.

"I can't even express my disgust for this guy," said Cass County deputy prosecutor Randall Head. "Nifong's behavior defies belief, but it's an aberration. Most prosecutors I know make a concentrated effort to avoid problems Nifong created, and I have never known a prosecutor who engaged in the systematic cover up of exculpatory evidence the way he did."

Head said he believes this case will help educate the public about the Rules of Professional Conduct and what prosecutors are not allowed to do, as well as have an impact on how juries view DNA results.

Johnson found a bit of irony in this case, as North Carolina's system is similar to that in Indiana and Hoosier lawmakers spent time this past legislative session talking about the Nifong situation and comparing it to this state's system.

"They missed the point," he said. "What's different is that here, we're more often talking about charges not being filed. That says a lot. Justice is often served by not filing charges."
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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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