I’ve been given harsher sentences for a speeding ticket.
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – Mike Nifong, the disgraced former Durham County district attorney, was held in criminal contempt of court Friday for lying to a judge when pursuing rape charges against three falsely accused Duke University lacrosse players.
Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III sentenced Nifong, who has already been stripped of his law license and has resigned from office, to a single day in jail. He had faced as many as 30 days in jail and a fine as high as $500.
“If what I impose with regard to Mr. Nifong would make things better or different for what’s already happened, I don’t know what it would be or how I could do it,” Smith said.
Reading his contempt decision from the bench minutes after the conclusion of two days of testimony, Smith said Nifong “willfully made false statements” to the court in September when he insisted he had given defense attorneys all results from a critical DNA test.
In fact, Smith found, Nifong had provided the defense with a report on the DNA testing that he knew to be incomplete. The omitted data contained test results showing that DNA of multiple men, none of whom were lacrosse players, was on a woman who said she was attacked at a March 2006 party thrown by Duke’s lacrosse team.
Wow. A prosecutor gone wild, withholding evidence in an attempt to destroy three people’s lives and he gets a single day in jail? Stop and think about this for a minute.
The limitation of the state to take away liberty unfairly is perhaps one of the top 3 most important ideals in our society. So important was this to our forefathers that it takes up about half of the Bill of Rights:
The fourth amendment stops the legal system from enacting unusual search and seizures. Although this amendment is now considered optional in most states.
The fifth amendment brings us a plethora of justice related ideals.. Double jeopardy which protects citizens from a mad prosecutor repeatedly prosecuting for the same crime until he gets a conviction. The protection from self-incrimination, (Miranda, and “taking the 5th”) The fifth guarantees due process and equal protection.
The sixth amendment brings us more… the promise of a speedy and public trial, a trial by jury, the right to be confronted by your accuser and the very right to have an attorney.
The seventh amendment gives us the right to a trial by jury in a civil trial as well as criminal.
The eight amendment protects us from excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment in case of conviction.
All of this was to put limits on the state to take away liberty unjustly. — To protect us from unruly prosecutors.
The words we hear everyday on the news and on cop shows just aren’t cute buzz phrases, they are the very core of our legal system and our civilization.
Mike Nifong broke every ideal of justice in this country. He sought to tamper with the jury by television, he withheld evidence, he lied to the court about withholding evidence… he was out of control.
If you stop to think about it -really think about it- what Nifong did with his position was worse that what these 3 men where accused of doing. Rape, of course, is an abomination but when the prosecutor stands to read criminal charges, it is worded “The State vs John Doe” in the theory that the crime is a crime against the public, not just the victim….
In this case, the 3 men where accused of raping a single woman. While the ideal is nice that it is a crime against the people of the state, in reality if the accusations where true there would have been only a single victim.
An out of control prosecutor, manipulating the legal system and the evidence to take away the liberty of 3 men falsely accused, truly is a crime against all of us. And for that he deserves much more than a single day.