Tag: Innocence Commissions

The Lesson in the Mike Nifong Debacle

The transcript of the disbarment ruling for Durham D.A. Mike Nifong is now available here. The Sunday papers will be filled with editorials about Nifong's disgraceful conduct. But, the money quotes are these:

The prosecutor, as any defense lawyer will tell you, is imbued with an aura that if he says its so it must be so. And even with all the constitutional rights that are afforded criminal defendants, the prosecutor merely by asserting a charge against defendants already has a leg up. And when that power is abused, as it was here, it puts constitutional rights in jeopardy. We have a justice system but the justice system only works if the people who participate in it are people of good faith and respect those rights.

....It is very difficult to find any good in this situation that brings us here. I can only think of a couple things. One is that there are very few deterrents upon prosecutorial misconduct. For very good policy reasons, prosecutors are virtually immune from civil liability. About the worst that can happen to them for the conduct of a case is that the case can be overturned. The only significant deterrent upon a prosecutor is the possibility of disciplinary sanction. And here the most severe sanction is warranted.

While many, and perhaps most prosecutors don't cheat and lie, Nifong is not the only one. This happens to many defendants all over the country who don't have the resources for top-flight lawyers who will fight for them to the end.

According to the Innocence Project,

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8th New York Inmate in 13 Mos. Freed by DNA

The Innocence Project reports that Roy Brown, the 8th New York prisoner in 13 months, will be freed from prison today because DNA testing has established his innocence.

Roy Brown solved the case from his jail cell.

“This is unlike any case we’ve ever seen. Roy Brown broke the case from his prison cell and confronted the actual perpetrator, who in turn killed himself. The true perpetrator’s courageous daughter then volunteered her own DNA sample, only to have the judge who oversaw Roy’s trial refuse to release him – saying that he had more confidence in the highly questionable practice of ‘bite-mark’ analysis than in the hard science of DNA.

Only after the true perpetrator’s body was exhumed and subjected to DNA testing did prosecutors accept the truth,” said Peter Neufeld, Co-Director of the Innocence Project. “Today, exactly 15 years after he was convicted, the truth has finally set Roy Brown free.

This is just more evidence that New York needs to establish an Innocence Commission:

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