Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How Incompetent Reviewers in the Mainstream Media Thwart Justice

 Radley Balko in the Washington POST today writes about a case he had been working passionately on, the unjust accusation and two decades' long imprisonment of Darryl Howard. The villain in the story is ADA Michael Nifong. If you go down the transcript of Judge Hudson's ruling today, overturning the conviction, and you search for "Nifong" you find over and over "false and misleading," "false and misleading." The hero of William D. Cohan's THE PRICE OF SILENCE, touted by the early puffers in the mainstream media, is the same Nifong. When he falsified evidence against the lacrosse players in 2006 he was behaving in character, following his old pattern begun even as an ADA, before his becoming District Attorney. In his media tour Cohan has been glorifying Nifong more and more as he himself seems to spin out of control, unable to accept honest criticism to the point that he whines against "too much" free speech, in a HUFFINGTON POST speech. Balko makes a powerful point about the mainstream reviewers. Their writing is not only incompetent: it is malign in that it thwarts efforts such as those by the Innocence Project.

Here is Balko, today:
[Judge] Hudson then adds, “Based on a review of the State’s Answer and exhibits, the state has presented no evidence that either Det. Dowdy or ADA Nifong were unaware of the informant memo; rather, the State concedes that both were aware of its existence.” He concludes that Nifong’s and Dowdy’s violation of Howard’s “Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights” was prejudicial.

This is a rather thorough rebuke. And as noted previously here at The Watch, it comes at a time when author William Cohan has just written a book and is in the midst of a media tour that are both transparent attempts to rehabilitate Nifong’s reputation from the damage inflicted during the Duke lacrosse case.  But prosecutorial misconduct is rarely a one-off phenomenon. As I documented in my initial story on Howard, there’s evidence that the Durham DA’s office has had a serious and longstanding culture of misconduct. But an eagerness to “move on” from the Duke case has prevented any thorough assessment of that culture, or any effort to look into how many innocent people may have been victimized by it and help those people get their convictions overturned. Cohan’s book — and the praise heaped upon it by media outlets like NPR, the New York Times, the Economist and the Wall Street Journal — will make this all the more difficult. [end of quotation from Balko]


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