Herald Sun Editorial:
Attorney General Roy Cooper didn't mince words Wednesday when he described his investigation into the Duke lacrosse case.
"We believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges," he said.To read the balance of the editorial, which includes the questionable assertion:
With that, Cooper cleared former Duke lacrosse players David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann of charges of sexual assault and kidnapping stemming from a party on Buchanan Boulevard in March 2006.
"Innocent" was a strong word, one we're sure Cooper chose carefully. It meant, as Duke University President Richard Brodhead pointed out, that this wasn't just a technicality -- this was exoneration. After three months of investigation, state attorneys Jim Coman and Mary Winstead found that Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann were innocent of any crime. The dark cloud of the past 13 months was lifted.
The defendants and their families must feel a tremendous sense of relief. There will be no trial, no possibility of prison. The three young men can get on with their lives, although this incident is sure to be with them in one way or another as long as they live.
As unequivocally as Cooper cleared the players, he was equally blunt in criticizing Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong. Cooper's words were simple and to the point, and could hardly have been more damning.
"With the weight of the state behind him, the Durham district attorney pushed forward unchecked," Cooper said. "There were many points in the case where caution would have served justice better than bravado. And in the rush to condemn, a community and a state lost the ability to see clearly. .... We need to learn from this and keep it from happening again to anybody."
"This case shows the enormous consequences of overreaching by a prosecutor."
We have questioned Nifong's actions throughout this case, including a stacked photo lineup using only pictures of lacrosse players, when standard procedure is to include unrelated faces as a control. Nifong is also facing ethics charges from the State Bar for statements he made to the media when the case first broke and for withholding DNA evidence beneficial to the defendants.
But Cooper's simple statement cut to the heart of prosecutorial misconduct. Nifong, he said, pressed on with the case without a credible witness or credible evidence. To hear that about a prosecutor with 28 years of experience was shocking.
It is bound to raise questions about what other cases have been pursued improperly by the Durham DA's office. How many defendants without the resources to hire energetic attorneys have been sent quietly off to prison?
Nifong has been seriously damaged by his own actions, by the charges from the State Bar and now from Cooper's report. His problems could cause ripples through other cases being handled by the Durham DA's office. As a result, we think it will be impossible for Nifong to continue as Durham district attorney.
It's time for him to resign.
"We encouraged Nifong to push for a speedier trial, but because he declined to do so, the process has dragged on for too long."click here: Snooze Room Editorial.