In the ongoing saga of deception, the reach for political power, and the destruction of undeniably innocent lives, damning testimony was heard yesterday in the trial of Durham County prosecutor Mike Nifong.
On the stand yesterday was Brian Meehan. Mr. Meehan is the lab director for DNA Security Inc., the firm to which DNA evidence was sent in the case of three Duke University Lacrosse players wrongfully accused of raping an exotic dancer at a team party.
Mr. Meehan testified that he had given Nifong the lab’s findings in full in April of 2006, a week prior to the indictments of the first two of the accused players. The testing not only found no evidence whatsoever associated with any of the Lacrosse team, but it found positive matches to other men. In spite of that, Nifong did not release the test results and instead argued for and won indictments against Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty. A full month later, he won an indictment against David Evans.
Now this isn’t quite as straightforward as it would at first appear.
More below the fold.
Mr. Meehan’s testimony should be taken with a grain of salt here. What he previously testified under oath (excerpted below) directly contradicts the testimony he gave yesterday.
The director of a local lab said in court under oath Friday that he violated his company’s protocol when he did not disclose all the results in DNA testing related to the Duke lacrosse case.
Dr. Brian Meehan, director of DNA Security in Burlington, N.C., told a packed courtroom he withheld the names of the people that DNA testing excluded from matching genetic material found in the body and underwear of the alleged victim after she claims she was raped March 13.
Meehan said he was “just trying to do the right thing” in protecting the privacy of all the players, even though he handed down his report May 12, more than three weeks after Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty had been indicted for rape. He also said the failure to report this favorable defense evidence came from an agreement between himself and Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong.
When Nifong finally released a preliminary report in May 2006 which stated that there were several possible sources for the DNA found on the alleged victim. The defense immediately began calling for dismissals of the charges, yet Nifong refused to drop the cases against the players. Nifong then stated in court documents that he had no more exculpatory evidence to be turned over to the defense.
It was not until October 27, 2006 that Nifong finally turned over the full DNA test results to the defense, more than six months after receiving them. The full results definitively excluded each and every player on the team.
Also on the stand yesterday was Brad Bannon, attorney for accused player David Evans.
About the final test results, Bannon testified,
“It just kept getting worse,” Bannon recalled. “I would find another one of the items that had male DNA that excluded our clients, and their teammates, and then another, and then another, and then another. …
“We were all bewildered at the fact that it hadn’t been provided to us before.
Well, I for one am not bewildered at all. Allow me to elucidate via a timeline.
In April of 2005, Mike Nifong was working in the Durham County District Attorney’s office, where he’d been since 1978.
D.A. Jim Hardin had resigned, and based on the recommendations of Hardin and former D.A. Ron Stephens, Governor Mike Easley appointed Nifong as Hardin’s replacement for the remainder of his elected term.
According to the Raleigh News & Observer, Nifong promised Governor Easley that he would not run for election in the fall of 2006.
At 1:22 a.m. March 14, Sgt. John Shelton of the Durham Police Department finds Crystal Gail Mangum passed out in a Honda Accord in a Kroger parking lot. The details of the incident and the subsequent events at Durham Access mental health facility and Duke Hospital can be found in the same N&O article, beginning on the second page. Link.
The long and short of her medical condition:
The nurse’s report noted diffuse swelling of the vaginal walls. It made no mention of bruises, tears or abrasion to either the vagina or the anus. The nurse noted a non-bleeding scratch on the woman’s right knee and a cut on her right heel. A doctor at Duke noted a scratched heel, and no other signs of physical assault.
The next day, March 15, the woman saw two doctors at UNC Hospitals, where she had gone for health care before. Her primary complaint was neck pain. She told doctors she was dancing at a bachelor party and wanted to leave, but the other girls wanted her to stay. She said she was pushed into a bathroom and raped by three men.
“She was knocked to the floor multiple times and hit her head on the sink during one of these episodes,” the UNC records said. “She states she was drunk and had a lot of alcohol that night. She denied any pain in the emergency room because she was ‘drunk and did not feel pain.’ “
Quick meat and potatoes of Kate’s post:
One of the young men who has been accused of raping her, Reade Seligmann, no longer raped her.
Now the dancer says that he didn’t actually rape her, although he was egged on by his team mates. She says he refused because he was getting married.
Only problem is that he isn’t getting married. Oh, and ATM reciepts and cell phone records prove that he wasn’t even there at midnight, the time she claims to have been raped.
So now the time must have been between 11:35 and midnight, she says.
Only cell phone records show that both he and she made and recieved calls during that time, too.
Interestingly, on May 2, 2006, there was a Democratic primary election for Durham County District Attorney. Mike Nifong’s name was on that ballot, despite his promise to Governor Easley.
Governor Easley’s thoughts on that?
“I almost un-appointed him when he decided to run,” Easley said. “I rate that as probably the poorest appointment that I’ve,” the governor trailed off before adding “I’ve made some good ones.”
None too pleased with D.A. Nifong, it would seem.
And as I am all too fond of saying, therein lies the crux of the matter. See, Mike Nifong’s seat was up for election in November. Mike Nifong stood to gain $15,000 per year extra in retirement benefits if he were to serve four elected years as District Attorney. Easy money, if you can get it.
But how does this tie into his pushing this case so hard despite all the evidence? Well, it cannot be ignored that there were serious racial undertones to this case. To all appearances, and as specifically pointed out by many very public personalities early on, a young lower class African American Exotic Dancer was accusing at least three white Duke University Lacrosse players of having gang raped her. It’s the stuff of TV movies of the week.
We’ve all seen them. Bunch of rich, snotty, out-of-control jocks stomping all over the poor, disenfranchised kids from the wrong side of the tracks. Add the race factor for good measure, and Nifong had his election strategy dropped right in his lap. Nifong’s district has a large African American population, and this would play well on TV. If only those damned facts wouldn’t keep getting in the way.
Unfortunately, it worked. By keeping the full DNA results under wraps for as long as he possibly could, Nifong deceived his own electorate just long enough to garner 49% of the vote and retain his cushy chair. I imagine he could almost smell that extra $15,000 annual pocket change.
In December, Republican Representative Walter Jones of the 3rd district asked Attorney General of the United States Alberto Gonzales to investigate Nifong for prosecutorial misconduct and violation of the civil rights of the three accused. Al said he’d think about it. The police were instructed to “Go through Mr. Nifong for any directions as to how to conduct matters in this case.”
Geez, talk about having everything break your way.
Later that same month, Nifong was finally charged with ethics violations and dropped the rape charges against the accused players. Just for fun, he kept kidnapping and sexual offense charges in place.
In January, Nifong finally decided enough was enough, and asked to be recused from the case. What a guy.
All charges were finally dropped in April 2007, a full year after Nifong had in his hands conclusive evidence of the innocence of the accused.
Disbarment on ethics charges is simply not enough. He should never see one single penny of that extra $15,000/year. He earned that only through deliberate deception of his electorate, race baiting, and prosecutorial misconduct. He should be tried on criminal charges dealing with civil rights violations, prosecutorial misconduct, election fraud, racial hate crimes, perjury, watering his lawn on the second Thursday of the month, and each and every other charge that can be dreamed up.
And then there should be a big, fat civil suit.
And not just by the three young men wrongfully prosecuted. In the early stages of the case, up to twenty of the players stood accused. In fact, let’s not forget that the entire 2006 Lacrosse season was canceled over the political and monetary aspirations of this self-aggrandizing son of a bitch. Were professional careers flushed down Nifong’s Toilet of Ambition? We’ll never know now, will we?
I think the idea of his being financially responsible for those lost careers should at least be explored.