With the recent announcement by federal authorities that they would not pursue a criminal investigation of police and prosecutors in the Duke Non-Rape, Non-Kidnapping, and Non-Sexual Assault Case, we pretty much have come to a dead end in the sorry aftermath of this affair. As one who has been immensely critical of the federal criminal system in general, I must say that while I am not surprised at the outcome, nonetheless the pure cynicism that came from the U.S. Department of (In)Justice was shocking even to someone as jaded as I have become.
Yes, it seems that the feds have discovered federalism. After taking a cursory look at the case, the feds made the following announcement:
“We believe the State of North Carolina has the primary interests in this matter: protecting the integrity of its judicial proceedings, holding Mr. Nifong accountable for his actions as an officer of its courts, and vindicating the principles of justice under state law.”
This is rich. This comes from the same DO(In)J that saw no problem in prosecuting and convicting Michael Vick despite the fact that there are no specific federal statutes regarding dog fighting, but that such statutes exist in Virginia law. Now, there are specific federal statutes for obstruction of justice, and for misusing federal funds. (The Durham Police Department used federal funds for part of their investigation, and for housing and feeding Crystal Mangum while the case was on-going.) However, the feds have decided to take a powder.
In most circumstances, as one who believes in the balance of political power as set by the Constitution of the United States, I ordinarily would welcome such "restraint" from the feds, especially since they are not known for respecting Constitutional boundaries. However, the fact that federal statutes actually have some weight in a case like this is instructive. What further complicates things is that North Carolina law does not make it easy for state investigators to examine wrongdoing in situations like this. According to the ABC News story quoted earlier:
Spokeswoman Noelle Talley said without federal assistance, it would be difficult to launch an investigation into criminal wrongdoing in the Duke Lacrosse case. Unlike federal prosecutors, North Carolina cannot convene an investigative grand jury that would hand up indictments. Talley said the State Attorney General’s Office and the State Bureau of Investigation are discussing their options.
My sense is that the North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, who performed magnificently in that important press conference last April when he declared Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans to be "innocent of all charges," is at a dead end. It will be nearly impossible for him to pursue criminal charges against former prosecutor Michael B. Nifong and members of the Durham Police Department. And so it will end.
As I survey what is left of this case — some civil suits against Nifong, Duke University, the City of Durham, and some police officers — I realize more than ever that the United States has become a country that is run by political rogues, and no more is that apparent than with federal and state prosecutors, and "law enforcement" officials. Indeed, if one wishes to be a lifelong criminal — and get away with it — I would strongly recommend going to work either in a prosecutor’s office or become a member of a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency.
The lawlessness of "law enforcement" personnel in the Duke case was and is breathtaking. People wearing badges or working as prosecutors fabricated evidence, lied to judges, lied to grand juries, lied to the public, hid exculpatory evidence, used federal funding fraudulently, intimidated witnesses, suborned perjury, ran a rigged "lineup," and obstructed justice. Once upon a time, these things were considered to be crimes, but in the world today in which police and prosecutors rule, they simply are another day at the office.
Each day brings new revelations about just how malevolent those in "law enforcement" really are. From cops who apparently are not investigated when their wives die "mysteriously," to the rash of unprovoked tasing of innocent people by the police (as seen on YouTube), to innocent people being gunned down in no-knock raids by police (who then cover up the evidence, as they did in the Kathryn Johnston case in Atlanta) or just plain harass and arrest people out of pure spite, as we see in this case in New Jersey, the United States has become a nation where police and prosecutors are near-dictators.
Keep in mind that ordinary citizens are not permitted to lie to grand juries (see Barry Bonds and Marion Jones), destroy evidence and obstruct justice, but such things simply are another day at the office for police and prosecutors. More important, we now have the Bush Administration giving official approval to the crimes committed in Durham. Nifong and the police committed these crimes in broad daylight. Those wanting to gain a sense of just how bad the police and prosecutorial misconduct really was should read the federal civil rights lawsuit that the three indicted players have filed against Durham, Nifong, and the police. As one who has followed this case closely from its beginning, I can assure you that the statements made by the plaintiffs are not over-the-top.
So, we have one more example of police and prosecutors committing real crimes and being able to walk away without a scratch. Unfortunately, it has become a continuing story in this country, as certain classes of people are able to operate lawlessly without ever having to account for any of their actions. This is the United States of America today. There is none other.
December 14, 2007
William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He also is a consultant with American Economic Services.