Everyone remembers the Duke Lacrosse case where three white Duke lacrosse players where charged with rape, sexual assault and sodomy of a young black woman. She was an exotic dancer and several of the lacrosse players were rich kids.
Mike Nifong was the District Attorney. He was running for reelection in a county that was heavily populated by blacks. The case immediately gained national attention especially after Nifong castigated the young men on national television. However, amid allegations of incompetence and prosecutorial misconduct, he eventually dropped the rape charges and asked the NC Attorney General to prosecute the other charges. Following a thorough investigation, the state declared the young men innocent, dropped the remaining charges and labeled Nifong a rogue prosecutor. The state bar eventually disbarred Nifong. Several families sued him and he filed for bankruptcy. The city of Durham and Duke University paid these young men and their families millions of dollars for Nifong’s conduct.
More recently, former Senator Ted Stevens was the victim of prosecutor misconduct. Federal prosecutors in his case ignored their ethical and legal duties to win a conviction against Stevens. Stevens appealed the conviction but lost his reelection bid largely because of the convictions. The judge in the case, Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan, said in his twenty-five years on the bench that he had never witness such prosecutorial misconduct as the prosecutors had displayed in that case. Newly minted Attorney General Eric Holder was forced to recommend a dismissal in the case. The judge obliged Holder and went further. He appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the prosecutors who mishandled the case.
Apparently, many state and federal prosecutors have forgotten the famous words of Mr. Justice Sutherland in Berger v. US, 295 U.S. 78. He said the duty of the prosecution was “not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done.” These words seemingly fall on deaf ears in the corps of prosecutors around the country. Convictions at all cost seem to be norm.
However, a prosecutor in Texas is seeking justice not convictions. His name is Craig Watkins. He is the first black DA of Dallas. As matter of fact, he is the first black DA of any Texas county. He implemented a program called the Innocence Project in Dallas County. To date, the project has used DNA evidence to gain the release of twelve false accused men. Most of these men were black men. Some had been on death row or incarcerated for more than twenty years. In some measure, he restores one’s faith in the criminal justice system.
The two examples above gain national attention because the cases involved rich white people. Unfortunately, our prisons are filled with innocent poor blacks that could not fight back. They rot in prisons because of rogue prosecutors. No one is pursuing justice for these men. The system has failed them twice.