Sticking with a story
No DNA? No problem
Withheld evidence fuels appeals
To see documents, a map and a timeline on the case, go to newsobserver.com/twistedtruth.
what delayed the tests?
What Cline said in court
Tests of all the evidence were delayed for years in the case of State vs. Frankie Washington. Prosecutor Tracey Cline said the delays were caused by the State Bureau of Investigation crime lab. In March 2004, a judge issued an order that compelled the tests to be performed. In a June 2005 hearing, Cline told a judge, “The SBI lab is backed up. We’re doing the best we can.” In 2007, Cline testified that it can take years for the SBI to test. She still did not acknowledge that the court order and key evidence had not been sent to the crime lab until after the June 2005 hearing.
What the record shows
After a judge issued an order in 2004 to compel testing, Cline didn’t send the order to the SBI. None of the analysts received it, according to their testimony. Records show that key pieces of evidence - a hat and fingerprints for matching with a stolen purse - were not tested until August 2005. Final SBI reports were written in January 2006.
Cline responds now
The evidence “wasn’t sent off ... and I thought it was. I should have verified that it was. And now we do. And I take full responsibility for that. I’m the prosecutor. I should have followed through. And now we do.”
Could Washington sue?
Frankie Washington does not have any grounds for a civil suit that would involve Tracey Cline, who receives broad immunity as a prosecutor. But Washington is in contact with a lawyer and is considering a civil suit against the city of Durham based on its police investigation.
Tracey Cline, in her own words
“All of us as citizens have to realize that the Constitution protects the rights of the guilty and the innocent. And we would not want it to be any other way. Every day we go to court - or in every jurisdiction in North Carolina, South Carolina, probably all the 50 states - there’s evidence that’s thrown out because of constitutional violations. There’s confessions that are thrown out. There’s evidence that’s suppressed. Everything. This happens every day because of a violation of someone’s constitutional rights. And, to be sure, sometimes the guilty people go free.”
Hometown: Crouse, N.C.
Education: Livingstone College; law school, N.C. Central University
Career: Assistant public defender, Fayetteville, 1989-1993; assistant district attorney, Elizabeth City, 1993-1994; assistant district attorney, Durham, 1994-1997; private practice, 1997; assistant district attorney, Durham, 1998-2008; elected district attorney, 2008; re-elected with no opposition, 2010.
anybody that thinks this is only one or two people in NC does not recall the crap that happened in the 80’s with a daycare center when charging a husband and wife with sex crimes - all of them thrown out after years of crap - a lost marriage and so much more. there is too much of this type of junk that looks like law and order and is in fact CRIMANAL activity by elected officals and their staff.
This sort of criminal abuse, where DAs are more interested in fame, fortune, and re-election than they are in justice, is all too common almost everywhere around the country. But Raleigh Durham sure seems to be a cesspit of blatant corruption.
I read the article. She should be in jail, not puting people in jail.
Maybe it is sampling error, or just anecdotal, but the worst prosecutorial abuses that I am aware of (and that may be the key) are by Democrat DAs. The conventional wisdom would have it that law and order right wingers would be the culprits. Does anyone have a theory based on more than thin air?
Thanks for this stuff, abb.
Sounds very familiar.
It’s why I try hard to avoid Durham County when I drive in NC.
Remember this? Hits a little close to ‘home’ ...
Officials: DA interest probed - Activists deny approaching assistant prosecutor Cline
Herald-Sun, The (Durham, NC) - Friday, September 29, 2006
Author: JOHN STEVENSON
Durham Judge David Q. LaBarre and Durham Assistant District Attorney Tracey Cline said Thursday that political activists approached them about accepting a possible gubernatorial appointment as Durham’s chief prosecutor.
Both said they weren’t interested.
The person Cline said approached her with the offer, lawyer Jerry Clayton, denies he did so. LaBarre would not identify the people he said approached him.
The top prosecutor’s job would be open to appointment if County Commissioner Lewis Cheek, the only candidate on the ballot besides District Attorney Mike Nifong, won the Nov. 7 election.
Cheek got enough petition signatures to put his name on the ballot. But after weighing the situation for weeks, he finally declared he would not serve if he won — which would force Gov. Mike Easley to select someone in his place. Despite Cheek’s decision not to serve, his name remains on the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate.
A third district attorney candidate, local Republican Party Chairman Steve Monks, is running on an unaffiliated, write-in basis.
Dissatisfaction with Nifong’s handling of the controversial Duke University lacrosse rape case has fueled much of the campaign rhetoric so far, with some voters mounting an “anybody-but-Nifong” initiative.
Cline said Thursday that Clayton asked her about accepting a gubernatorial appointment as district attorney if Cheek won. According to Cline , Clayton suggested that retired Sheriff Roland Leary and state employee and former City Councilman Ed Pope were behind his overture.
Cline said she spurned the idea.
“I am not involved in the political game here,” she said. “I am not involved in any political maneuvering whatsoever. The voters should determine who is the next DA of Durham County. I have always supported Mike Nifong as DA and I continue to do so.”
Clayton denied he discussed the situation with Cline .
“All I can do is deny it because I don’t know anything about it,” he said Thursday. “I’m not in any camp, working for anybody or doing anything in regards to the election.”
But in the past, Clayton has been deeply involved in district attorney politics. He provided heavy support for two unsuccessful candidates: Pat Evans in the 1990s and Freda Black in a Democratic primary four months ago. Black now works for Clayton.
Like Clayton, Leary and Pope denied any maneuvering in the November election.
“I know nothing of what you speak,” Leary said Thursday. “Of course, rumors are abounding. But Roland Leary has done nothing in that direction. That’s just not right. I deny that.”
Even if he wanted to manipulate a possible gubernatorial appointment, he didn’t have the influence to do so, Leary insisted.
“I find the governor to be an independent person who makes his own decisions,” he said. “I don’t know who influences him. I certainly can’t influence him. ... I know the governor, but I’ve never spoken to him about appointments to any office at all.”
Pope said it “would be silly” to make empty promises about an appointment that would be entirely in the governor’s hands.
Cheek also said he was not involved in discussions about the situation.
“I have no idea who is having that conversation with anybody,” he said. “I’m not involved in anything like that at all. I don’t know anybody who is. But I can’t say it surprises me. I expect there are a whole lot of things going on behind the scenes. That’s the nature of politics.”
LaBarre, a retired Superior Court judge who now presides two days a week on the District Court bench, declined Thursday to say who approached him.
He said only that “several different individuals from several different political camps inquired about my interest in the DA’s Office.”
LaBarre said he turned them away.
“In my judgment, a judge should not be involved in the DA election,” he added. “I do not intend to be even indirectly involved. The voters have several choices in the DA’s race. I would not want my name injected into it as any sort of inducement to vote or not vote for any particular candidate.”
Nifong said Thursday it was his understanding that inducements had, in fact, been made.
“I was told Roland [Leary] and Ed [Pope] were making claims or promises or whatever to members of the African-American community that if they would vote for Lewis Cheek, then Tracey Cline would be the next DA,” said Nifong.
“I also heard they made representations to the white community that if they voted for Lewis Cheek, then Dave LaBarre would be the next DA,” Nifong added.
Cline is black; Cheek is white.
“People have accused me of dividing the community with the lacrosse case,” the district attorney said. “It seems to me the lacrosse case has merely revealed divisions that already existed. This ongoing campaign by Roland Leary and Ed Pope is the most divisive thing I’ve ever seen.”
Meanwhile, Nifong confirmed Thursday that Pope had asked him to intercede on behalf of a Durham man named Christopher Andrew Best who is imprisoned for armed robbery.
“Ed came to me and asked if I would do something to reduce his sentence,” Nifong said. “I told him I had no authority to do that and no one else in the court system did either.”
Pope acknowledged he asked Nifong about Best, saying he did so because he was acquainted with the convicted man’s family.
“It wasn’t an influence thing or anything like that,” he said. “I was just asking him for a little help. I didn’t know what he could or could not do as district attorney. It had nothing to do with the election.”