The Durham district attorney acknowledged Tuesday that voters might decide in next week's primary to support or oppose him based on the Duke rape case his office is handling, rather than his 27 years spent prosecuting cases in the county.
The blame for that sits with the defense attorneys for the Duke lacrosse players and with the national media, he said.
"The defense is trying the case in the media," Mike Nifong told the audience during a forum hosted by a newspaper.
My, oh my. I wonder where the defense team would have gotten an idea like that. Maybe it was from the DA who granted 50+ interviews in the first opening days of the case when the story first broke. Contrary to what some people want to whitewash now as 'information sessions' or calling for calm, if you look back on those early sorays with the press, Nifong does nothing much of either. Instead, he says repeatedly that he belives a crime occurred, that the players are guilty, and that they were obstinately refusing to admit their guilt. If wasn't until after the DNA tests came back negative that he more or less clamed up. By then, he had already overreached with public statements and had no place to retreat to. If he hadn't stopped giving interviews at that point, the press would have eaten him alive asking about inconsistancies in the case and errors made.
Of course, no one dwon there is going to let Nifong just pass the hot potato on this one, ecspecially not when it's so easy to use it as ammo against him.
Nifong faces two fellow Democrats in a primary election Tuesday that will likely determine who handles the Duke rape case if it goes to trial. No Republican is seeking the seat.
His opponents, Freda Black and Keith Bishop, blame Nifong for the attention, citing dozens of interviews with the media in which Nifong said he supports the accuser in the case. Black is a former Durham assistant district attorney and Bishop is a lawyer in private practice.
Bishop said Nifong had already turned the community against the lacrosse team before all facts in the case had been gathered. "I would be livid if whatever happened to these young men at Duke happened to my daughter," he said.
Bishop and Black have accused Nifong of violating the state rule that prohibits prosecutors from talking excessively about a case.
And that's part of the real problem, that when he spoke to the press it was a violation of state ethics guidelines. Yes, it's horribly unfair that the defense have no such restriction and it's even more unfair that they are often free to do almost anything short of something illegal to get their clients off. Like it or not, that's the system we have in this country however where the prosecution is held to a higher standard, not only of behavior but of burden for proof. Nifong not only called down the lightning on this one by starting the campaign in the media, but he also broke the rules while doing it. Would the defense have started their media campaign regardless? Who knows. If it remained a local story with no national press implications they might not have felt they needed to be as visiable with their story as they are now. Even if they eventually would have gone public on their own, at least Nifong could then really claim with a straight face that it's their fault that the entire case has become a media circus.