Saturday, June 23, 2007

Duke: Someone Else's Editorial & My Rant

I never followed the whole sordid story at Duke until the players were exonerated. I also don't claim to know more about the American legal and criminal justice system than most educated Social Studies teachers. While I can talk intelligently on the subject, I can't say I'm an expert by any means. Nor did I investigate the article's statistics. But I'm still going to recomend this article for no other reason than I think he's right.

One Off Offing: Why you won't see a disbarment like Mike Nifong's again.

Call me cynical and pessimistic, but I think this editorial is right on the money. Mike Nifong went down in flames as he should have! He should be cained for ruining those guys. They plan on suing him, but lets face it: DAs and prosecutors get fabulous immunity from lawsuits (for obvious reasons). Even the best lawyers will probably have an ordeal getting any kind of settlement out of that jerk.

Seriously, let's all admit it. The only reasons these guys aren't in prison right now is because:
  • Their folks were filthy rich and hired the best legal guns and PR talent that only old moneyed people at a place like Duke could possibly afford.
  • They were demonstrably innocent to a degree most defendents never are.
  • They're white. Come on folks, would the media really care so much had they been black guys on Duke's basketball team? Que our last point...
  • The entire nation was watching everything on TV.
Nifong was a bad prosecutor. But I have trouble believing that he was particularly incompetent or dumb. He probably just did what he would normally do under similar circumstances. Media attention was on him, so he probably wanted to appear tough (harboring political ambitions are we?). This time though, he underestimated who he was up against. A few simple mistakes spiraled out of control. Even so, the best lawyers money can buy show up and commentators STILL say the boys are lucky! Gosh, What would have happened to me in their shoes?

While I consider myself relatively privileged by American standards, I certainly wasn't in the same league with these lacrosse players. I'm convinced my parents love me. Had something like this happened when I was at NAU, they would probably have taken out a second mortgage and maxed out the credit cards to make bail and help out. But my folks don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars lying around to keep me out of the slammer! Eventually, I'd get stuck with some lazy, two bit, court appointed, law-school grad rookie begrudgingly doing Pro bono work!*

Even if I got off like the lucky boys at Duke, my folks certainly wouldn't have had the millions in legal fees to extract a modicum of justice in a lawsuit (probably a crapshoot anyways). I shudder to think what would have happened to me or my friends in similar circumstances. A shortened prison term in exchange for a plea agreement? Shorter if I ratted out friends? Parole after a few years? Calling all legal experts to speculate on what my fate would have been!

*Disclaimer: I'm just being sarcastic and cynical here. I don't really mean to demean all court appointed criminal defense lawyers! I'm sure many of you are the dedicated, hard working public servants that everyone deserves (including folks at Guantanamo)! If nothing else, this case certainly highlights the desperate necessity for good criminal defense attorneys!

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