June 16, 2007


Mike Nifong was the district attorney in North Carolina who prosecuted the three Duke University students accused of raping a woman. It turns out that he had exculpatory evidence and lied to the judge about it, and of course failed to disclose the existence of that evidence to the defense attorneys.

Today, he was disbarred for his conduct. Here's an interesting quote, though: "After the hearing, attorneys for the exonerated lacrosse players said they would push for criminal charges against Nifong. 'I don't think that any of us are done with Mr. Nifong yet,' said [one.]"

Well, here's a couple thoughts for you considering all that has happened. First, consider the power of a disbarment on an attorney's psyche.

I've heard that while suicide rates among the professions are highest among dentists (despite their best efforts not to, the fact of the matter is that they inflict pain for a living and constantly have to intrude on their patients' personal space, and do not enjoy either substantial monetary or social rewards for their work like medical doctors do), the rate spikes up even higher when you consider professionals who lose their licenses to practice their profession. Among that subset of professionals, disbarred attorneys have the highest rate of both attempted and successful suicide. Somewhere a while back I read that one in three disbarred attorneys attempts suicide within five years after losing their licenses.

Second, all of these young men came from families able to afford strong legal representation and to conduct a very thorough investigation of the facts underlying the criminal charges. They were fortunate to have that kind of financial power at their disposal, and strong family units that were not only able but also willing to stand behind them and provide them with the resources they needed to fight this over-zealous and politically-ambitious prosecutor. Their attorneys did an excellent job of demonstrating not only that the prosecution did not have a case, but that these men were actually innocent of any wrongdoing greater than exhibiting poor social graces at a college party.

If they had not been at least upper-middle class and, let's face it, white, and had not been able to mobilize those resources in their own defense, would we now be thinking about Mike Nifong as the next governor of North Carolina, after having successfully prosecuted a high-profile rape case and solidifying his law-and-order credentials? As it is, he's not an attorney anymore and he has been publicly disgraced in a very graphic fashion. His name is mud in North Carolina and I don't think there is much political recovery from such a disgrace.

He cast the legal system and in particular the subset of that system that includes public prosecutors' offices into significant disrepute, and I think the disbarment is appropriate as a result. So he's had his future and his livelihood taken from him, forever. He basically has to start his life over. He's at very serious risk for falling into a depression deep enough that there's a one in three chance he'll try to check himself out.

Is that enough punishment for him?

1 comment:

zzi said...

I don't think your blur is right.

I did say JOhn Wayne wasn't but I don't believe this either.

You’re right: In 1957, William Holden was the first to receive $1 million for a single movie, The Bridge on the River Kwai.
. . . now does Pres Clinton has 10,000 ties?