Skip to comments.Duke case lawyer: Try to imagine the pain
Posted on 01/28/2007 3:05:24 PM PST by randita
Posted on Sun, Jan. 28, 2007
DUKE LACROSSE CASE
Duke case lawyer: Try to imagine the pain
Defender for 1 of the accused players talks about impact on family
GARY L. WRIGHT email@example.com
Charlotte lawyer Jim Cooney is handling the highest-profile case of his career: defending one of three Duke lacrosse players charged with sexually assaulting an exotic dancer a team party last March. The three men -- David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann -- are white. The woman is black.
Cooney, for the first time since being hired to defend Seligmann, talked in depth about case that fueled racial tensions in Durham, led to the suspension of Duke's lacrosse program and left Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong facing ethics charges.
Q. How have these three men been affected by the publicity and the allegations?
The best way to answer this question is to ask everyone who may be reading this to imagine how they would feel if their picture -- or a picture of their sons or daughters -- appeared on the cover of Newsweek accused of a crime as heinous and vile as rape. Then I would ask everyone to consider that if the district attorney had succeeded in convicting these young men of all of the crimes with which they had been charged, none of these young men would have been released from prison until they were well into their 50s. They literally would have never seen their parents alive again outside a prison visiting room. It does not take much imagination to understand the daily pain that these young men and their families go through each day these cases are permitted to continue.
Q. Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong has been accused of withholding evidence favorable to the defendants. The DA eventually dropped the rape charges after the victim changed her story. He now faces ethics charges levied by the N.C. State Bar. What is happening in this case?
I think my answer to this question is better left until the resolution of these cases. Moreover, Mr. Nifong is now the subject of ethics charges by the State Bar, and I think it is important to accord him something that was not given to these young men -- due process and a fair trial.
Q. Do you think we'll ever know what happened during the team party on March 13, 2006?
I feel very confident that we know what happened. I am also confident that there are certain people who will never believe the facts of this case because it does not fit their view of the case or their personal agendas. The simple truth, as the facts show, is that there was no rape, no sex offense and no kidnapping.
Q. What do you believe happened inside that house?
There is little question that this was a party in which a number of young men were engaging in conduct -- drinking, watching strippers -- that is offensive and about which they should have known better. This said, nothing that occurred at that party justifies either jailing these young men for 30 years or the national condemnation and death threats that they received.
Q. Do you think the news media played a role in the players being charged?
The media played a pivotal role in these cases, both in leading the "charge" against the players, and then in the re-evaluation of the cases in light of the objective evidence. There is little question that, fueled by the district attorney's comments and focused on the theme of "privileged white males vs. poor black female," a feeding frenzy developed among the media with one commentator after another competing to outdo each other in their condemnation of the defendants.
The feeding frenzy led to an atmosphere of outrage that not only demanded indictments -- regardless of the evidence -- but was directly responsible for street protests in Durham and in front of Dave Evans' house and the mob that confronted Reade Seligmann at his court appearance, a mob that shouted out death threats.
Q. The DA has taken himself off the case and asked the N.C. Attorney General's Office to take over the prosecution. What do you hope will happen now?
My hope is that all of the charges will be dismissed against all of these young men. My belief is that the prosecutors now reviewing the case will do so professionally and honestly.
Q. What do you make of the tensions of race and gender that this case has exposed?
I think many of these tensions pre-existed this case. Perhaps one of the great tragedies of this case is that the African American community in Durham has historically been one of the most vibrant, prosperous and successful communities in this state, even during the height of segregation. The success and resiliency of that community has been lost in the media frenzy surrounding this case. Regrettably, these cases were hijacked by individuals who had an agenda that had nothing to do with Durham, these defendants or justice. I fear that this case has widened the race and gender tensions that existed before, and so polarized people that any attempt to relieve those tensions has been set back by years.
Q. Will this case change how prosecutors deal with rape cases?
I can't speak for how prosecutors will view rape cases. I do fear that many legitimate victims of rape will not come forward after these cases because their real claims will be met with skepticism. There was a long struggle in this country to force the justice system to take rape cases seriously and treat real victims of rape with the dignity and justice that they deserve. I fear that these efforts have been set back by decades because of this case.
Q. Why do you think this case attracted so much attention?
I think there were really three factors. The first was that this case was a "perfect storm" of race, class and gender issues -- it appeared to appeal to our worst thoughts about male athletes and underprivileged women of color. Second, the district attorney was so adamant and certain in his public statements that these crimes occurred -- and that they were racially motivated -- that even casual viewers could not help but be outraged by it. The third was that a number of constituencies -- both the media and individuals with various race, gender and class agendas -- then seized upon the case for their own purposes. This created a Pandora's box that, once opened, could not be shut.
Charlotte lawyer Jim Cooney defended serial killer Henry Louis Wallace, who was sentenced to death in 1997 for the murders of nine women. Cooney, 49, is a death penalty expert who helped get Alan Gell off North Carolina's death row in 2002 and won him a retrial and an acquittal. Last year, Cooney defended bank executive David Crespi, who was sentenced to life in prison for murdering his 5-year-old twin daughters.
Gary L. Wright
I feel very confident that we know what happened. I am also confident that there are certain people who will never believe the facts of this case because it does not fit their view of the case or their personal agendas.
The media played a pivotal role in these cases, both in leading the "charge" against the players, and then in the re-evaluation of the cases in light of the objective evidence.
I want Nifong's head on a platter. Period. While the accuser "dances" for me. OK, skip the "dancer".
This to be followed by anyone else in media or politics that stayed on the bandwagon.
In the words of a mother of one of accused players, "Mr.Nifong, you f****d with the wrong family".
And what is the realistic time frame for the rest of it? The new prosecutors will need some time to get in on the case, before appearing with it in court. How long could this take? After that one could hope for the thing to be dropped or to unravel quickly, within maybe a month or two. And what is the timeframe for nifong being cut down to size?
Nifong and the leftist agenda in this case has completely ruined Duke and Durham's reputation. There is no getting it back. If you are from Durham, for the rest of your life, you are from the home of the Duke rape trial. Thank Nifong crooked agenda and DemocRAT politics for that.
The sad thing is that the only reason these three boys were able to fight the charges is that their families could afford it.
How many working class and poor people has Nifong sent to prison without justification, to fatten his conviction record?
Nifong should be disbarred and prosecuted...and then, sued in civil court for everything he's worth!!!!!
That dancer needs to pay as highly as Nufong.
BOTH have intentionally planned and plotted to ruin the lives of innocent young men.
100 % dittos. Incorporate the 88 members of the Duke faculty lynch mob. Each should pay and pay hard.
This was obscene. Anyone who knowingly participated should be held responsible, commensurate to their knowledge/participation.
And how many cases will have to be re-opened hbecause of this? Between those expenses and the damages awarded in the likely civil suits, North Carolina could be in big financial trouble.
Any defense lawyer worth his salt who had a case prosecuted by Nifong is going to be filing an extraordinary motion for new trial.
This case shows that no one is safe from being convicted on bogus charges in our justice system, especially if the defendant is white and/or male...the only reason these three students aren't going to prison for 20-plus years is the attention the case got plus the ability of their families to hire good lawyers. Nifong could have gotten away with this.
"Both the homely dancer and Nifong need to suffer the ultimate CRIMINAL penalty: death by lethal injection."
What an idiot.
I don't know exactly what an "extraordinary motion" is, but it wouldn't surprise me if these attorneys in these other cases had all their new fees paid by the state. And I hate lawyers as much as the next guy (hell, as much as the next three guys!), but it wouldn't be unreasonable based on the jeopardy, nay, peril, in which Nifong has placed the state.
And the moral of the story is don't invite/hire scheming whores to one of your parties.
While many of us agree with you, the odds are that he isn't worth two dead flies.
Of course, I once knew a guy who did that, and his wife ran off with somebody to California with all his stuff! (served him right - he was trying to avoid paying a richly deserved civil judgment. He was a used car dealer.)