Wednesday, January 24, 2007

More Trouble for D.A. In Duke Lacrosse Case RALEIGH, N.C. - The state bar has added ethics charges to a complaint filed against the prosecutor who brought sexual assault charges against three Duke lacrosse players, accusing him of withholding DNA evidence and misleading the court.

The new charges by the North Carolina State Bar against Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong were announced Wednesday and could lead to his removal from the state bar, according to a copy of the updated complaint.

Nifong’s office arranged for a private lab to conduct DNA testing as part of the investigation into allegations three men raped a 28-year-old woman hired to perform as a stripper at a party thrown by the lacrosse team last March.

Those tests uncovered genetic material from several men on the woman’s underwear and body, but none from any lacrosse player. The bar complaint alleges those results weren’t released to defense lawyers in a timely fashion and that Nifong repeatedly said in court he had turned over all evidence that would potentially benefit the defense.

Nifong’s actions constitute a “systematic abuse of prosecutorial discretion ... prejudicial to the administration of justice,” the complaint read.

If he actually did withhold exculpatory evidence, I hope he does get disbarred. The rules are very clear:

A prosecutor has the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply that of an advocate; the prosecutor's duty is to seek justice, not merely to convict. This responsibility carries with it specific obligations to see that the defendant is accorded procedural justice and that guilt is decided upon the basis of sufficient evidence.

Commentary to NC State Bar, Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 3.8, "Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor."

Rule 3.8 itself says:

The prosecutor in a criminal case shall:


(d) after reasonably diligent inquiry, make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information required to be disclosed by applicable law, rules of procedure, or court opinions including all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense, and, in connection with sentencing, disclose to the defense and to the tribunal all unprivileged mitigating information known to the prosecutor, except when the prosecutor is relieved of this responsibility by a protective order of the tribunal.

These are not "technicalities". The people grant extraordinary amounts of power to a prosecutor. If that power gets abused to up the D.A.'s conviction rate or make them look good during an election, then fry their ass.

It's just a pity this sort of abuse only gets noticed when the Defendants are rich white kids.

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