Friday, June 15, 2007


Word reaches us this rainy evening that Mr. Nifong, the prosecutor who mishandled the rape investigation and prosecution of Duke Lacrosse players, announced, tearfully during his testimony during a Bar hearing regarding his ethics violations, that he intended to resign.

Too little too late.

Reade Seligman, 21, one of the innocent players who was accused and prosecuted, testified at the hearing. He recounted how Nifong refused for several months to meet with his lawyer, although DNA evidence had exonerated him, and the fact that he wasn’t even at the party where the rape was alleged to have taken place. Seligman testified how when confronted with his alibi Nifong “smirked” and said he was not interested in fiction. Seligman testified how his father collapsed on the floor when he learned the complaining witness had identified Seligman in a photo line-up. And finally, Seligman testified how he was ostracized by the Duke community once he was indicted. A classmate and study partner in his African studies class wrote in the student newspaper how the rape had “brought Jim Crow back to the South.”

Previously in the hearing, Raleigh attorney Brad Bannon testified that he spent 100 hours reviewing the 1,844 pages of DNA results. Six months earlier Nifong had released the results along with a summary of the findings. One problem: the summary did not list that another, un-charged male’s DNA was located in the samples tested. If not for the diligent work of this lawyer, innocent men might have gone to prison.

Who among us, when first hearing of the incident, did not say to themselves that the lacrosse players- all white and from privileged backgrounds- must be guilty? Who among us did not hope that the prosecutor would work quickly and efficiently to show that a black women could finally get justice in the South?

Just one problem: the student were innocent and the woman was a troubled liar.
Compound that with a prosecutor about to enter a difficult election, and you have all the ingredients for a tragedy.

This case illustrates just how much damage one prosecutor with the wrong ideas and ideals can cause. He wrecked the families of the young men who were accused; he brought disgrace to his office; and his actions contributed to a loss of confidence in the justice system.

The question we have is not what to do with Mr. Nifong. He should certainly be disbarred. The question we have is how many other Mr. Nifongs are out there?

We criminal defense attorneys call ourselves Liberty’s last line of defense. That was truly the case in the Duke prosecution. But for dedicated lawyers working when public opinion was strongly against them and their clients, innocent young men would probably have gone to prison.

We think our legislators and the public should think long and hard about the Duke case the next time they consider handcuffing criminal defense attorneys by taking away a defendant's ability to defend him or herself in court. Losing the right to the rebuttal closing argument as just happened here in Florida troubles us greatly. We view it not as an isolated incident, but the begining of a trend.

You damn well better believe any member of the Florida legislature would want their attorney to have the last word if their son was wrongfully accused of rape.
It is something to think about.

We can’t sign off without commenting briefly on the US Supreme Court’s decision in Bowles v. Russell.

Keith Bowles is serving a 15 year to life sentence imposed by an Ohio state court. When the federal judge denied his habeas corpus petition, he mistakenly told Bowles, that he had 18 days to file his notice of appeal. Bowles’ attorney filed the notice of appeal on the 17th day. After briefs were filed, the Court of Appeals granted a motion to dismiss based on lack of jurisdiction when Ohio argued that the appeal was not timely filed, as law required the notice of appeal to be filed within 14 days.

Justice David Souter writing for the four dissenters in the case spoke for us when he wrote that “it is intolerable for the judicial system to treat people this way.” He added, “There is not even a technical justification for condoning this bait and switch.”

Of course Justice Thomas wrote the majority opinion. And of course he based his reasons on Congress- “
Because Congress decides whether federal courts can hear cases at all, it can also determine when, and under what conditions, federal courts can hear them,”

Once again- if it was a member of Congress’s family who got shut out of an appeal after a Judge gave incorrect instructions, we believe there would be a greater outcry to stop this insanity.

Just what kind of legal system treats its citizens this way? Our legal system. And it stinks.

You can read how the NY Times reported the case

See you in court ignoring any advice our robed readers give us and our clients on how many days we have to appeal.


abe laeser said...

Shameful day for JUSTICE.

Nifong should be selling tools at Home Depot, and only come to court when he gets a traffic ticket. Yes, I appreciate what the defense attorney was able to do. I am more mortally ashamed that the prosecutor did not understand that it was HIS duty to look at his case in the same way.

Justice Thomas is finally permitted by Scalia to write an opinion - on an issue which relies upon an onerous rule. I am no fan of tardy pleadings, but four days without an resolution on the merits does not have the ring of Justice in its effect.

I did just get a pleading on a defendant in a 1977 homicide who plead guilty to 2/D/M in mid-1978. He just found TWO separate people in his jail wing who filed affidavits that they witnessed the shooting in 1977, and it was self-defense. What a coincidence that these guys were just a few cells away, and remember an event 30 years old. If 'Clarence the Wise' would like to suggest that laches applies, I would not be troubled.

Unfortunately for Bowles, the right wing of the Court cannot see the distinction in these two fact patterns.

Shameful day indeed!

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if occasionally a trial lawyer or someone who actually practiced law with clients made it to the USSCT. only ginzburg dealt with people, roberts was a brilliant appellate lawyer, most of the rest elitists with political connections. I have been a lawyer 20 years: in that time I have seen no gun control but continued debate on a women's right to an abortion legalized 34 years ago, no help for the mentally ill and homeless but continued debate on the death penalty, no improvement in health insurance for millions but continued intellectual debate affirmative action, no reparations for slavery lynchings and civil right abuses but debate against enforcement of the civil rights act, voting rights act and 1954 busing case, etc, etc. what a country. since the miami opera house is already in financial difficulty why not hold concerts for the kids in the summer and the camillus house could use the old miami arena for a shelter, feds should buy it for 80 million, use it as homeless shelter and for hurricane supplies/shelter. another salvo from Mr. common sense. add that to my fbi file you mo ther f uckers.

Anonymous said...

RALEIGH, N.C. — Breaking down in tears at his ethics trial, Mike Nifong abruptly said Friday he would quit as district attorney and admitted he got "carried away" during his discredited rape prosecution of three Duke University lacrosse players.

This gives Miami-Dade County hope that KFR and many others will soon be on under the magnifying lens as well. KFR, you know you made some horrible things as State Attorney. Abuse of power and association with Felons. Save yourself, your Administrators as well as Investigators and step down before the AG, FBI and FDLE comes looking for you.

Rumpole said...

When pleadings are filed late- by a day or two- we're not talking months or weeks here- wouldn't it make better sense to discipline the attorney? How about a $1000 fine per day plus a mandatory 16 hour bar course? Even if the money doesn't hurt, the course will take the most valuable thing away from a lawyer- time- especially if they only hold the course on consecutive saturdays.

The point is that the client should not suffer for the lawyer's mistake.

Rumpole said...

Go check out the Broward Blog. There is a link on our front page. There is an excellent letter from a lawyer who was serving 10 months at Lompoc, a Fed prison in California.

fake eddie rabbitt said...

This rain is making me crazy. I love a rainy night, but this is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that's what a competent lawyer does--rely on a judge in running his business.

Anonymous said...

All you high and mighty Federal court lawyers should know the rules and not rely on the judge. You are the ones getting paid by the client not the judge

Anonymous said...


Abe, Abe, Abe.

aBe, aBe, aBe.

abE, abE, abE.

abe, abe, abe.

C'mon, ABE

Anonymous said...

Anybody else the Q in the gallery at the US Open in Oakmont on TV? He has the best seats.

Anonymous said...

This is funny.

Jason Grey apparently sent in a curse ladden post, in the previous comments section about Judge Klein, and this is what Rumpole posted: Classic!

We have decided to edit Mr. Grey's response:

He wishes that you engage in carnal relations with yourself.
He also believes you are another name for a cat, a mule, and that in most games of chance you are not successful.

Anonymous said...

Rumpole, have I told you lately that I love you?

Anonymous said...

hats off to facdl for getting behind the reginal conflict office initative. it's time we rooted out corruption.

Anonymous said...

1:40, although I think you wrote that comment just to stir up some shit, here's the link to facdl's position paper advocating against the regional conflict offices. I know it's 10 pages, but you can get through it with some help, I'm sure.


Anonymous said...

To Nifong ... the road to hell is paved with good ... oh, never mind.

Let's hope that the "Nifong story" is told in one of the first classes given to new prosecutors ... and is repeatedly told to the experienced hands there.

Thank you Abe for being one of the first to recognize the horrors of such abuse of power.

fake David Chase said...

do you suppose that judges fred
"tonton macoute" seraphin and tom "mellow-man" petersen have had a sit down with joe "maypo" farina and kathy "travelocity.com" fernundle?

theres the idea.

the contest is to write the script of that meeting.

winner gets 20% of kathy's frequent flyer miles and the knives used on mike hanzman and gerry klein.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jason Grey: you can't stand the heat so get out of the kitchen. It would be hard to find a bigger gossip at the GJB or person who has more to say behind people's back than you and your puppy/lap dog partner. Go f yourself.

Anonymous said...

Abe, teach those felony A,B,C and county court prosecutors to listen and don't dismiss whatever defense lawyers say as "fiction" as Nifong did. Teach them to use common sense and give them the discretion to use it instead of having a chief breathing down their necks whose primary objective is to cover their butts, their chiefs' butts and Kathy's butt. Maybe you should have the major crimes and economic crime prosecutors train the newcomers instead of letting them pick up bad habits from their non-commonsensical chiefs.

Jason Grey said...

Everyone is a big brave hero when they are anonymous. Come out, come out, who ever you are. You want a piece of me? State your name so we can all sees what a big, successful, skillful lawyer you are.
I always say what I believe to be the truth. If a lawyer sucks I will say so. If I screw up I will say mea culpa. Too many people in the building screwing up peoples lives cause they are gutless, lazy, lawyers who have no idea. Fuck em, and fuck you.

Anonymous said...

Jason your post sounds great except for that "mea culpa" expression. That may be fine Latin legalese, but people won't understand you unless you say "my bad".

Anonymous said...

9:01 fake jason gray 1140 fake juan grecian formula moron.

Anonymous said...

Abe, I take offense at your plans for Nifong. My husband sells doors and windows at The Home Depot and he is honorable in every way with both his customers and his employer. Nifong is not good enough to work with The Home Depot.

My son is currently incarcerated based on "victim" testimony that was produced by a Nifong style prosecutor's threats to the victim and her family. Basically he told them it was either my son or all of them. Now the victim is struggling with how to recant without being charged with perjury.

abe laeser said...

Dear most recent Anonymous,
Of course, I believe that your husband works at Home Depot and your son was coerced into a plea.

Since you are wise enough to read this Blog, you must know where I work. Come visit. Let us talk about you plight.

I would also understand it if your imaginary life did not appear. Your choice.

Rumpole said...

I'm not sure prosecutors can counsel individuals in specific cases, can they?

Anonymous said...

Abe's merely offering to listen to an accusation of injustice. Have we gone so far to assume this is not proper?