What in the world is going on in the Durham courthouse these days?
...Allegations in the air:
That drunken driving charges were unlawfully thrown out. That one man's record was inappropriately expunged. That a man with a dangerous driving history got his case pleaded down to nothing. That there are different "rules" for people with lawyers and for those who represent themselves.
The charges have surfaced over the past 11 months, under the scrutiny and relentless reporting of N&O reporter John Sullivan. In every case, they come back to one man: Durham District Attorney Jim Hardin.
Hardin runs the office. His lawyer friends handled the cases.
It was his campaign treasurer whose client kept his license - after he was nabbed for his 15th moving violation.
Coincidence? Uh, yeah.
...Fact is, Hardin is pretty tight-lipped all around these days. I could not reach him by phone Thursday afternoon. And he refuses to speak to Sullivan entirely, demanding all questions in writing. Hardly appropriate isolation for a public official.
But even when he isn't talking, Hardin's court record says a lot:
If you have the money, or the connections, you can get a different kind of justice. A kinder, more lenient version. A kind that looks away at just the right moment.
...when you face a prosecutor in the courtroom, you should feel confident that he isn't giving others a pass because they hired his campaign supporters or friends.
Unlike defense lawyers, district attorneys are obliged to pursue the truth, as fairly as possible.
If you can't count on that, what in the world is going on?
Thursday, June 21, 2007
"A smudged picture of justice" - Ruth Sheehan, News & Observer (October 22, 1999)