Saturday, January 13, 2007

Hijacker of the Hoax Replaced By Gell Prosecutor and Former Co-worker

In a case that needs no additional irony, the prosecutor who decided to retry Alan Gell, despite evidence of his actual innocence and prosecutorial misconduct in withholding that evidence, will now replace Defendant Nifong as prosecutor of the Hoax.

Citing the conflict of interest created by his upcoming trial before the State Bar Disciplinary Hearing Committee, Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong has requested that a special prosecutor be appointed by Attorney General Roy Cooper. In a press conference today, AG Cooper announced that he has granted Defendant Nifong’s request, effectively ending Nifong’s reign as Hijacker of the Hoax. Longtime prosecutor Jim Coman, who is the head of the NC Attorney General’s Special Prosecution Unit, as well as the former head of the SBI lab, and Mary Winstead will be the primary attorneys assigned to the case, according to Cooper. Promising to seek truth and justice while respecting all those involved, Cooper stated that the special prosecutors would approach the case with eyes wide open on evidence and closed to everything else.

If the hoax proceeds to trial, it will not be Coman's first attempt at placing innocent men behind bars. In 2003, despite the revelation that prosecutors David Hoke and Debra Graves withheld evidence that exonerated Alan Gell of murder charges that had sent him to death row, Coman decided to put Mr. Gell on trial for a second time. Later Coman would testify at the State Bar trial of Hoke and Graves to the effect that withholding evidence was standard policy in the Attorney General's office.
"In September, the state's senior prosecutor was in an unusual place: the witness stand. And what he said has caused quite a stir among lawyers around the state.

"Jim Coman said under oath that the state Attorney General's Office had a policy of withholding a certain type of evidence helpful to defendants.

"The prevailing view when I was there the first time, both under Judge [Lacy] Thornburg and Attorney General [Mike] Easley and now Governor Easley," Coman said, "was that just because something embarrassed a witness or might be impeaching to them, did not in and of itself, unless it went to being exculpatory, was not something we had to turn over." N&O
Coman would later rationalize his admission by clarifying that he misspoke.

"I was not very precise," he said. "My use of the term 'impeaching' or 'impeachment' ... would have not been accurate." N&O

In fairness, it should be noted that Brad Bannon, in a letter to the State Bar, described Coman's conduct, in the trial that exonerated the former death row inmate, as honest and honorable.

"...Mr. Coman (who was Agent Ransome’s boss and head of the SBI during the first trial of Alan Gell, and who did a very honest and honorable job as lead prosecutor in the second trial of Mr. Gell)... " Bannon Letter

Having once voiced over a tape in evidence, the second prosecutor assigned to the Hoax, Mary Winstead, is also not unfamiliar with prosecutions involving questionable, at best, conduct by prosecutors. Nor is she unfamiliar with with Defendant Nifong and the Durham County District Attorneys office.
"Superior Court Judge Leon Stanback granted a motion by the defendant's attorney, Public Defender Robert Brown Jr., to send the tapes to Florida to be examined. Brown said an expert there will use computer analysis to identify voices on the tapes."

"Brown made the request a day after another expert in Raleigh was unable to adequately reconstruct the tapes. Brown said the tapes are crucial to his case because they will show the victim's demeanor before and after the assault."

"The tapes, which have the victim's voice on them, will be used in the trial of Timothy Malloy, who is charged with rape and sexual assault at a Durham gas station where he worked."

"Prosecutor Mary Winstead said she accidentally erased a small portion of both tapes while she was listening to them in preparation for the trial. "

"Somehow her voice and that of a detective ended up on one of the tapes, she said.The tapes were taken from an answering machine belonging to a friend of the woman who reported the rape early April 25, 1992." N&O September 29, 1993
The prosecutor who replaced Winstead when the case made it to trial? Mike Nifong.

The decision by Defendant Nifong to beg for recusal comes the day after it was publicly revealed that his chief investigator, Linwood Wilson, obtained from the accuser a new version of the Hoax that appears clumsily tailored to weave its way around the published accounts of the overwhelming evidence of actual innocence. Wilson's meeting with the accuser on December 21 was the first time anyone from Nifong's office had spoken to the accuser about the facts of the case since her allegations were made on March 14.

It appears that this newly remodeled script for the Hoax, and Defendant Nifong’s decision to employ the new script as the basis for dropping the more easily disproved rape charges, while pressing forward with the remaining charges, may have been the straws that broke the Hoax’s back. While the State Bar has denied that the timing of their filing of charges of misconduct against Defendant Nifong was tied to anything but the Grievance Committee’s request that they be filed as soon as possible following its mid-October decision to forward the charges to the DHC, the fact that the formal filing came only six days after Nifong’s decision to continue to pursue the sexual assault and kidnapping charges, suggests a connection.

It should be noted that when it was revealed that Nifong had dispatched henchman Wilson to obtain the new script from the accuser, it was widely speculated that the decision to finally hear the accuser's tale was prompted by the December 15 sworn court testimony of Dr. Brian Meehan, lab director for DNA Securities Inc., who revealed that he and Nifong had conspired to withhold the full results of DNA testing from the defendants. In part, that speculation was fueled by the timing of the decision to finally interview the accuser as it closely followed the public bombshell of this additional misconduct. Also fueling suspicions about the timing was the coordination of the December 21 interview with Nifong’s simultaneous three hour interview with the New York Times.

Today, The New York Times confirms that the pressure on Nifong began to build with the reaction to the December 15 testimony of Dr. Meehan.
“According to friends, Mr. Nifong’s resolve had begun to falter even before the ethics charges were brought against him.

“At a court hearing on Dec. 15, a DNA laboratory director admitted that he and Mr. Nifong had deliberately withheld exculpatory information from a report. Mr. Nifong prided himself on integrity, having been a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, yet the laboratory director’s testimony and his acknowledgment of the error undercut his reputation.

“Things only worsened from there.

“Some fellow district attorneys advised Mr. Nifong privately in Raleigh on Dec. 19 to take himself off the case. Mr. Nifong felt stunned and subdued, friends say, yet still could not bring himself to exit. In an interview with The New York Times two days later, he described such a step as tantamount to letting defendants handpick their own prosecutors. But then the North Carolina State Bar filed an ethics complaint on Dec. 28, taking him to task for his early public comments about the case. It was an unprecedented rebuke for a prosecutor in the middle of a legal brawl. The next day, the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys issued a news release asking him to recuse himself immediately.

"Mr. Nifong’s friends told him he had two choices: dismiss the case or ask the attorney general to take it over.”
Defendant Nifong’s move to scurry away from his hijacked Hoax returns the reins to Crystal Mangum, whose false allegations initiated the Hoax. In recent weeks, Ms. Mangum has garnered a small, but surprising, amount of media sympathy from some who had attempted to paint her as a victim of Defendant Nifong. Her complicity in the re-scripting of the Hoax, and her stated intentions to press forward with her claims, should put to rest any lingering doubts that she has been anything less than a willing accomplice. Defendant Nifong’s decision not to be the last rat to jump from the sinking ship came after consultation with Mangum.

"In a two-hour meeting at his office on Thursday, Mr. Nifong and an aide talked about the choices, an official involved in the case said. He told the accuser that a trial would be brutal, but that he had already talked with the attorney general’s special prosecutions unit and trusted that office to give the case a fair review. He asked what she wanted to do.

“She was concerned about the effect of the case on Mr. Nifong’s career, the official recalled. She wanted to sleep on the decision. She continued to insist she had been sexually assaulted.

“On Friday, she and Mr. Nifong spoke by telephone. She again said she wanted to go forward. Although she was not happy about Mr. Nifong’s giving up of the case, the official said, she said she understood his reasoning and pledged to cooperate with any new team.”
While at the District Attorney’s office yesterday, Ms. Mangum was served with a subpoena issued by defense attorneys demanding she be present at the February 5 Hoax hearing. In his press conference today, AG Cooper noted that it was too early to know whether that hearing will take place as scheduled. This week, files will be transferred from Defendant Nifong’s office to the special prosecutors for a “fresh and fair” review. Cooper noted, as well, that the new prosecutors may need to request additional information, recheck the received information, and may also conduct re-interviews. Cooper noted that it is likely that the new prosecutors will speak with witnesses, members of the Durham Police Department, and District Attorney Nifong as part of its review.

With the Attorney General's office intent on interviewing the participants in the Hoax, it seems very likely there may soon be a run on defense attorneys in Durham.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

There is something SERIOUSLY WRONG with North Carolina Justice!

It is time that the Federal DOJ took a long hard look at what goes on in the legal fraternity of North Carolina , and sooner the better.

Justice in North Carolina reeks of the odor of much carrion!

Anonymous said...

This is a little off topic, it relates to Nifong being a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. My understanding of conscientious objectors is that they cannot participate as a soldier in a war because they do not want to have anything to do with killing a fellow human being. If so, how could he take a job that often requires trying to have someone receive the death penalty? Did he abstain from death penalty cases, or did he cease to worry about how his actions might lead to someone's death after the Vietnam War ended.

Anonymous said...

How many of the hoaxers will actually go on the record with the new DAs? Notes from memory, rigged lineups, Meehan and the DNA.

They know the axe is falling.

bill anderson said...

5:29,

That is a REALLY good point. Is this one more piece of evidence that we are dealing with a sociopath, or did Nifong suddenly have a change of heart once he realized he could manipulate cases in which people could be legally killed by the state?

I believe that Nifong is a sociopath, and a sociopath ALWAYS will lie, and do so pathologically. That he and Crystal have been together means that there was a critical mass of lies that gave us this stinkbomb of a criminal case.

Anonymous said...

I am so disillusioned. I always knew that police officers lie under oath to get around fourth amendment issues. This is the legal profession's open secret. It is a product of the egregious remedies fashioned by the courts to protect only the guilty from illegal searches, but which leave no recourse to the truly innocent.

One can almost sympathize with a police officer who must perjure himself to prevent a perp from walking on a technicality resulting from a flawed search.

On the other hand, until now I believed that DAs were essentially honest people who would never hide evidence which might prove the innocence of the defendant. How naive!

I discussed the Duke case with an old friend who was a judge for six years and now a practicing criminal defense attorney. He said, to be fair, most DAs are honest and would not knowingly railroad an innocent person. However, there are a significant number who are not.

The Duke Hoax has opened my eyes and, unfortunately, made me more cynical.

Mike - Nevada

gs said...

Wait until the DPD and Wilson gets interviewed by the new DAs. I think we may have officers taking the fifth. Were they in the room with Nifong and Meehan? Meehan is talking to stay out of jail.

DPD rigged lineups and falsified reports from memory. And Wilson just wrote up a hugh lie of a report and forgot that the DR (strip club owner) changed his story about the accuser dancing there after the attack.

These guys would be crazy to talk about their actions to the new DAs.
Nifong can no longer cover them.

Anonymous said...

Jim Coman of the Gell case? This is insane!

bill anderson said...

I hope that Cooper understands that he and Coman are on notice. The blogosphere did not rise up because we don't like Mikey Liefong (although we don't like him, true enough). It rose up because of what he was doing.

Believe me, there is even MORE exculpatory evidence out there, and the attorneys are going to drop one bomb after another. If Coman wishes to join his friend the Fong, well, he can be my guest.

So, my message to the blogosphere is to make sure that these people do not get away with anything. I can spell Coman as well as I can Nifong.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe this story from Nifong and his gang. I think Linwood went to Crystal to give her the new version of the hoax. Nifong is trying to lay this at the feet of Crystal(no one has seen or heard from her since April.)I will need to hear this story from Crystal. He is cowardly Poultry. Crystal is not that smart.

Anonymous said...

5:29 You are right on the button. Guys I knew during the war were medics or working in hospitals for two years (no salary) to furfil their committment to their country. Would love to see his deferment papers. Poultry

Anonymous said...

Are you telling me the AG's office could not find a competent attorney ? Where does NC find these people??

Anonymous said...

If Liefong should get disbarred,how would a replacement take place. Another (m)Easley appointment or would a special election be held?

Anonymous said...

This entire case will probably do a lot to make us law abiding citizens. Anyone without money would be toast - the guys were almost toast. I always thought I did want to get involved with the justice system, but now I know for sure - this has been a education.

Anonymous said...

how is this going to make us law abiding citizens? How about it making lawyers abide by the law. What law did the defendants disobey?

bill anderson said...

Exactly. In North Carolina, one can be law-abiding, but still be charged with terrible crimes. Look at what happened in the Little Rascals case.

I will emphasize again this one important point: The blogosphere is not going to swallow nonsense from Cooper and Coman any more than it swallowed the lies of Nifong, Crystal, and Wilson. If Cooper believes he can basically do a Nifong, he has another thing coming, and his political career will be over.

These people are so damned stupid, stupid, stupid. Let me add dishonest, dishonest, dishonest.

Anonymous said...

Bill: Right on.

The difference between this case and any past cases either of these individuals prosecuted is that in this case, the entire American legal community is watching. You are all watching as well.

This case is radioactive, it destroys anyone who gets too close to it for the prosecution. The quality of the defense lawyers is also top notch. Neither specially assigned prosecutor will want to join their buddy Mr. Nifong in getting fried.

I expect they will wait a respectful amount of time, and dismiss. They are duty bound, however, to look at the documents and interview witnesses. It's their job. However, I don't see a due diligence review taking all that long. The facts are simple, the various versions contradictory, and the physical evidence non-existant. They already know this, now all they need is a carefully put together and detailed basis for dropping the charges. Expect that.

I don't see this case taking until May, but I don't see it being dropped on Tuesday either. Be patient, people, the end is near.

-Esquire-
-Maryland

Anonymous said...

Bill: And what was up with the Ravens!!!!

-Esquire-
-{bummed out} Maryland-

Anonymous said...

Georgia Goslee on Fox news still believes that something happen, clueless.

Anonymous said...

Ann Coulter ripped Georgia apart.

Anonymous said...

to BA or MD Esq
When Liefong is disbarred,how will he be replaced?

Anonymous said...

10:45 - Gubanatorial appointment I believe.

-Esquire-
-Maryland-

Anonymous said...

If Nifong resigns or is removed from office, the Governor would appoint his replacement.

Anonymous said...

Think Durham County would want another Easley appointment? Would a special election be in order?

Anonymous said...

Add Anne Bremner to the clueless list. She still thinks this should go to trial.

TC said...

"Justice in North Carolina reeks of the odor of much carrion!"

Actually if one takes a good look across the country, there are too many Nifongs and Nifonic actions, (oh gawd I just coined a new phrase), that I call for the 1% of good attorneys to finally clean out their ranks!

Oh the 1% of course comes from that joke about how they make the other 99% look bad!

7:59 asks...
"Where does NC find these people??"

They find them the same place every state finds them. Mostly just men and women in the ranks, but with a thirst for political power!

Anderson is very correct, other names can be spelled just as easily and those new folks need to learn how many eyes are indeed watching. ALL DA's should be put on notice by this.

In fact maybe it's time to entertain the formation of an independent citizen based body to keep track of ALL lawyers! With the power to sanction and possibly even disbar!

Chew on it a bit.

bill anderson said...

Most of these prosecutors could not make it on the outside as defense attorneys, so they take prosecutorial jobs so they can bully people around. Nifong knew he could not make the kind of money that Cheshire and others like him make, and so he kept bragging about how he was such a great prosecutor and that Cheshire and company should fear him.

Today, Mikey now needs to fear other people. When Rae Evans says that he will regret his decision every day for the rest of his life, she means it. She will not touch him, but I can guarantee you that she will work to bleed him financially.

***********************************

As for the Ravens, I am not sure. My daughter was a good friend of Peyton Manning when both of them were at Tennessee, and I know some of Peyton's in-laws quite well. I do hope he does well in the playoffs, but we shall see what transpires next week.

I like Steve McNair, too, and have always admired his toughness. Of course, I tend to like college football and follow it more closely than the pros.

Kevin R.C. 'Hognose' O'Brien said...

Jesus H. Christ?

Are there no honest lawyers in North Carolina? They send Nifong to the showers (where, if you know anything about bar "discipline," you know he'll get the lightest of taps on the wrist, if that), but replace him with another guy who gets his jollies framing people?

And gives him an evidence-destroyer as a sidekick? I guess Andrei Vyshinsky wasn't available, huh?

And as for the Fong's record as a "conscientious objector" -- while there were some true COs who did admirable alternative service, most were moral and physical cowards, seeking to send others in their (usually privileged) stead. Nifong's behaviour tells us that he hasn't grown a whole lot in the last forty years. But we knew that.

GPrestonian said...

2:29 Anon & 6:04 Bill Anderson:

Re: defendant Nifong's status as concientious objector

Thought I'd look into it a bit. First thing is to see if he was exposed to the draft - the answer is a definite yes.

Nifong's was born in 1950 per Wiki, so I figured he was in the lottery years. Turns out his drawing year was the 1st year for the Lottery - 1969.

I found the results of the 1st Lottery drawing, and Nifong's birthday of Sept 14 was # 1. Once the Lottery started, there were no college deferments.

He would have been expected to report for his physical the first week of Jan, 1970, and having passed it, would have been inducted within weeks. His bio doesn't claim any military service.

There is no way he could have avoided being drafted unless he failed the physical or went CO.

Anonymous said...

Bill Anderson,

Not necessarily true that assistant prosecutors could not make it on the outside. A new attorney who wants trial experience will often take a job as a prosecutor. Private firms won't readily risk a client on the skills of a beginner.

Anonymous said...

From a 2004 article - I hope Coman has come up te "fairness" learning curve a bit since then...

"And Jim Coman, one of Cooper's top prosecutors and the architect of the "thorough investigation" of Gell's case that convinced prosecutors Gell was still guilty, defended his decision not to question the medical examiner whose testimony helped win Gell's freedom. The witness had "gone over to the other side," he said, and he therefore saw nothing to be gained from talking to her. How about the truth, Jim?"

http://www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A21254

Anonymous said...

Why are you attacking Cooper and the new prosecutors? They may be planning the dismissal already. They may not be planning to help Nifong. Why are all of you assuming they might not dismiss?

Anonymous said...

Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. That's why.

Anonymous said...

What in the world is Roy Cooper thinking? That was my first reaction when I heard who he had assigned to the Duke case. In a case where there has been blatant prosecutorial misconduct, how could he appoint prosecutors who have faced similar ethical questions in the past?

The more I think about it, however, the more I like it. If the case isn't promptly dismissed, Cooper has handed the world a sword it can stick in his gut and twist. Thanks, Roy!

Anonymous said...

Those who believe the case will be dropped are getting ready to learn something about NC justice. They call them "prosecutors" for a reason. In NC, it is the judge's job to do justice and the DA's job to prosecute.

My partner, a defense attorney by trade (I do tax), affectionately refers to them as the persecution for good reason. They are paid to prosecute and do it with vigor. Best chance right now remains for the Judge to throw out the lineup. The AG’s office wants to “start over” – translated means get a new and better shot at the defendants. But I have been wrong before.......................... I truly hope I am.

Anonymous said...

good luck getting a "new and better shot at the defendants"... if Nifong couldn't "get" them with his manufactured evidence trying to get real evidence for something that did NOT happen may prove to be difficult.

bill anderson said...

Coman has five letters, Nifong has six. It is easier to spell "Coman" than "Nifong," and it will easy to keep the pressure on him. The man already tried to murder an innocent man, so if he tries to "murder" Reade, Collin, and David, we will be there to deal with his reputation.

The reason I use a harsh word like "murder" is because Coman understood that he was trying someone who had not committed a murder. He treated the process of prosecuting someone as a big game, not as a matter of justice. If it took a jury only an hour to acquit, then it was obvious from the start that this was a frame-up.

While this does not mean Coman will try to take this Big Lie to trial here, he already has a track record of lying as an officer of the court. Here is hoping that someday he, too, will meet the bar of justice.

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Anonymous said...

"Where does NC find these people?"

Err ... UNC law school?

The Dude said...

I have a problem with the State being given more time to reexamine the evidence, file, statements, etc... They should not be allowed one extra minute. prosecurial misconduct got them to this point and they don't get a second bite at the apple.

Defense attorneys should be ready to shred them. This motion has been set and the State has no choice. only the Judge can change the date and that would surely hurt the State's position. didn't the attorney's file motions in the spring and summer and Judges refused to hear them until 2007.

nifong never gave a timeline. he hasn't given a "definitive statement" from the victim, he hasn;t attempted to verify with Ms. roberts. Any move to delay would be "more actionable for the civil matter".

What could the special Pros. need more than three weeks to prepare for a MOTION. There was never any work done to review. All the shady events were not reduced to writing. My guess is there is nothing to review unless nifong withheld statements or paperwork that the defense still doesn't know about.