Analysts Debate Prosecutor’s Acts In Duke Lacrosse Case


In a review of the Duke University lacrosse-rape case, the Associated Press says that if the American legal system is a machine, the prosecutor is the On/Off switch. The prosecutor decides whether a person should be charged with a crime and, if so, which among a wide array of statutes should be used. Joshua Marquis, a vice president of the National District Attorneys Association, says that, “Accusing a man of sexual misconduct [] is just about the worst scarlet letter you can paint on somebody. And there is enormous responsibility that comes with that.”

Durham County, N.C,. Prosecutor Mike Nifong’s critics say he has abused his discretion, prejudicing the case with unethically loose talk, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge contradictions in the accuser’s statements and ignoring strong exculpatory evidence. Fellow prosecutors say the job’s wide discretion cuts both ways. “What happens if he decides, `I’m not going to present it to the grand jury. I’m going to play judge and jury, and these guys are going to walk’?” says Charles M. Hatcher Jr., a former West Virginia prosecutor who overcame a misconduct complaint. “Damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.”


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