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Appeals Court Ruling in Falsely Accused Duke Lacrosse Players' Lawsuit

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals dealt a serious blow to the civil lawsuit of the falsely accused Duke La Crosse players. The players had sued various governmental entities and two police detectives, Officers Mark Gottlieb and Benjamin Himan.

The three-judge panel rejected their claims for damages filed under federal law against the City of Durham and its police department.

The panel allowed the former players to continue with their claims under North Carolina law that Durham officials violated their state constitutional rights. The panel also allowed the three wrongfully accused players to proceed with their state claims that two police investigators – Mark Gottlieb and Benjamin Himan – engaged in malicious prosecution.

The opinion is here.

The players previously settled a lawsuit against Duke University for an undisclosed sum. Where is Crystal Gail Mangum? In jail, awaiting trial on a murder charge. In October, she received permission to represent herself at trial.

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Duke Lacrosse Accuser Indicted for Murder

Crystal Magnum, the woman who falsely accused three Duke University lacrosse players of rape, has been indicted in North Carolina for the murder of her boyfriend, Reginald Daye. She was initially arrested two weeks ago and charged with assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly stabbing him with a kitchen knife. He died from the stab wounds four days ago.

It's hardly her first new brush with the law since the Duke case. In February of last year, she was arrested for the attempted murder of a different boyfriend, and ultimately charged with felony first-degree arson and a slew of misdemeanors, including contributing to the delinquency of a minor, injury to personal property and resisting arrest. [More...]

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Ex DA Mike Nifong Files Bankruptcy on Day Answer Due in Players' Suit

Ex Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong filed for bankruptcy today. Also today, his answer to the civil lawsuits filed by the exonerated players were due.

In the October lawsuit, attorneys for the three players accused Nifong, the city of Durham, police investigators and others of conducting "one of the most chilling episodes of premeditated police, prosecutorial and scientific misconduct in modern American history."

Nifong listed his liabilities at $180 million. The case is: In re Michael B. Nifong, 08-80034, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Middle District of North Carolina (Durham).

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Three Unindicted Duke Lacrosse Players File Massive Civil Lawsuit

Three current and former Duke lacrosse players who were not among those indicted in the failed criminal case, have filed a civil lawsuit against 45 defendants, including Duke University, DA Mike Nifong, the Durham police department and several individual officers, the Duke medical center and the SANE nurses, the DNA lab and its owner in a 400 page complaint filed in federal court.

The introductory paragraph of the complaint states:

This action arises out of a combination of actors and entities that, from time to time, we refer to herein as the Consortium. The Consortium included a world renowned University, its faculty, its police department, its medical center, and a SANE nurse; a city, its city manager, its police department, and a rogue officer; a private DNA lab, its lab director, and its owner; and a prosecutor who was disbarred, and subsequently convicted of contempt and incarcerated for certain of his acts in furtherance of the Consortium’s conspiracy.

The complaint alleges a conspiracy to railroad the team members:

Plaintiffs’ claims arise out of the Consortium’s conspiracy to railroad 47 Duke University students as either principals or accomplices based upon the transparently false claim of rape, sexual offense, and kidnapping made by a clinically unreliable accuser on March 14, 2006. The conspiracy was facilitated by overt acts and by the refusal to intervene on the part of those in the Consortium who knew of the wrongs conspired to be done to Plaintiffs, had the power and authority to intervene, and refused to do so.

The complaint is available in three parts, here, here and here (pdf.)

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Former Duke Lacrosse Coach Sues Duke

Despite settling with Duke University last year over his forced resignation as coach of the Duke Lacrosse team following the barrage of publicity of the unfounded sexual assault charges against some of the team's players, Mike Pressler is suing Duke and trying to rescind the settlement.

His reason: a Senior VP at Duke disparaged him after the settlement.

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Duke Players File Civil Suit Against Nifong and Durham

The three much maligned and wrongfully charged Duke lacrosse players filed their civil suit against ex-DA Mike Nifong and the City of Durham today.

The three former Duke lacrosse players wrongly accused of rape filed a sweeping civil rights lawsuit today against the city of Durham, a host of police officers, former District Attorney Mike Nifong, and the DNA laboratory hired by the disbarred former prosecutor.

The 162-page lawsuit called the case "one of the most chilling episodes of premeditated police, prosecutorial, and scientific misconduct in modern American history, which resulted in charges brought and maintained against three innocent Duke University students and lacrosse players over a period of more than one year. "

Here's what the players want. The copy of the complaint is here (pdf).

The Defendants:

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Ex-DA Mike Nifong Reports to Jail; Players to Seek $30 Mil

Disgraced ex-DA Mike Nifong reported to jail today to serve his 24 hour sentence for criminal contempt of court. He will be put in a single cell for his safety.

A source close to the three wrongly accused players says they are seeking $30 million in damages and reforms to the legal system. If those demands are rejected, the players will file suit next month.

All of TalkLeft's coverage of the Duke case is available here.
I also highly recommend the new book, Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case by Stuart Taylor, Jr. and KC Johnson.

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Ex-DA Mike Nifong Held in Contempt of Court

A North Carolina judge today found ex-DA Mike Nifong in contempt of court for lying to the court about providing DNA tests to defense counsel in the abysmal Duke lacrosse players proseuction.

Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III sentenced Nifong, who has already been stripped of his law license and has resigned from office, to a single day in jail. He had faced as many as 30 days in jail and a fine as high as $500.

Prof. K.C. Johnson live-blogged the contempt trial.

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Duke Lacrosse: "Until Proven Innocent"

I just received a copy of Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case by Stuart Taylor, Jr. and KC Johnson.

Anyone interested in this travesty of a prosecution simply must read this book.

The book gives nice coverage to the blogs, including TalkLeft and Liestoppers.

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Ex-DA Mike Nifong Apologizes to Duke Lacrosse Players

DA Mike Nifong issued an apology to the three vindicated Duke lacrosse players today in court.

A hearing is ongoing as to whether Nifong committed criminal contempt of court. After the apology, the defense lawyers withdrew their request for sanctions.

Contempt of court is an affront to the dignity of the Court. The court is the victim.

The Judge previously found probable cause to believe that Nifong lied to the court at two pretrial hearings.

If convicted, Nifong could be fined and sentenced to up to 30 days in jail. He has resigned as DA and been ordered disbarred.

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State Bar Files Nifong Disbarment Ruling in Duke Lacrosse Players' Case

The North Carolina State Bar today filed its formal opinion in the disbarment of Durham DA Mike Nifong for his actions in the discredited Duke Lacrosse players' case.

The opinion is here.

Nifong also has a criminal contempt hearing on deck for July 26. He has been ordered to appear personally. He also has a new lawyer.

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Duke University Settles With Wrongly Charged Lacrosse Players

Duke University has agreed to a financial settlement with the wrongly charged Duke Lacrosse players. Here is the University's press release:

Durham, NC -- On Monday, Duke University leaders announced they have reached a settlement with David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann. Below are statements about the settlement.

STATEMENT OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES AND THE PRESIDENT OF DUKE UNIVERSITY:

This has been an extraordinary year for Duke students David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, who were accused of serious crimes they did not commit. In April, after a thorough review, the North Carolina Attorney General declared that they were innocent of all charges and that the charges never should have been brought. We welcomed their exoneration and deeply regret the difficult year they and their families have had to endure. They conducted themselves with great dignity during their long ordeal.

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The Lesson in the Mike Nifong Debacle

The transcript of the disbarment ruling for Durham D.A. Mike Nifong is now available here. The Sunday papers will be filled with editorials about Nifong's disgraceful conduct. But, the money quotes are these:

The prosecutor, as any defense lawyer will tell you, is imbued with an aura that if he says its so it must be so. And even with all the constitutional rights that are afforded criminal defendants, the prosecutor merely by asserting a charge against defendants already has a leg up. And when that power is abused, as it was here, it puts constitutional rights in jeopardy. We have a justice system but the justice system only works if the people who participate in it are people of good faith and respect those rights.

....It is very difficult to find any good in this situation that brings us here. I can only think of a couple things. One is that there are very few deterrents upon prosecutorial misconduct. For very good policy reasons, prosecutors are virtually immune from civil liability. About the worst that can happen to them for the conduct of a case is that the case can be overturned. The only significant deterrent upon a prosecutor is the possibility of disciplinary sanction. And here the most severe sanction is warranted.

While many, and perhaps most prosecutors don't cheat and lie, Nifong is not the only one. This happens to many defendants all over the country who don't have the resources for top-flight lawyers who will fight for them to the end.

According to the Innocence Project,

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D.A. Mike Nifong: Disbarment

Bump and Update: (live blogging court ruling now)

The panel has deliberated. Disbarment is the only appropriate recommendation. The root of this case is self-deception arising out of self-interest. We had a prosecutor in a case where his self-interest collided with race, sex and class. If part of a John Grisham novel, it would be too contrived. He was facing a primary and he was politically naive. We can draw no other conclusion but the initial statements he made [to the media] were to further his political ambition.

Then, he refused to change his mind and accept the facts as they developed even in the face of a declaration of actual innocence by the Attorney General. (Even yesterday, on the witness stand, he clung to the mistaken belief that something happened.)

Aggravating factors found: selfish motive, a pattern of misconduct, multiple offenses, refusal to acknowledge misconduct, substantial experience in practice of law.

Mitigating factors: lack of prior record and character.

Finding: Aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors.

This matter appears to be an aberration in both Nifong's career and the way justice is handled in North Carolina. But we have to recommend the most severe penalty, disbarment.

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Duke D.A. Mike Nifong Resigns From Office

Bump and Update: Embattled D.A. Mike Nifong, while testifying in his ethics trial today, announced on the stand he is going to resign.

Facing the loss of his law license, a tearful Mike Nifong said Friday he will resign as district attorney, more than a year after he obtained rape indictments against three Duke University lacrosse players who were later declared innocent by state prosecutors. "My community has suffered enough," Nifong said from the witness stand at his ethics trial on allegations that he violated rules of professional conduct in his handling of the case.

You can watch the video of his announcement here.

Why make the announcement now? Perhaps because the trial has gone really badly for him, a decision is expected tomorrow and he's hoping for suspension rather than disbarment. If he admits his mistakes and resigns, perhaps he will avoid disbarment and be able to practice law again one day.

Closing arguments and deliberations are Saturday beginning at 9:00 a.m.

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