July 4, 2007
Misconduct in criminal cases
Don Cheesman, The South Missourian News
United States citizens should be concerned about our criminal justice
system. Over 2 million men are now incarcerated in our state and federal
prison system. The now infamous case involving District Attorney Mike Nifong
of Durham, N.C., is just one example of misconduct. Nifong put his personal
ambition above justice for the three Duke University students, falsely
accused of rape.
In recent years, 117 death row inmates have been proven innocent through DNA
and other evidence. How many of these innocent men were inadequately
represented by weak and less than ethical defense attorneys? Criminal
defense attorneys usually require their fee to be paid in full, often with
no intention of doing the hard work required to exonerate their innocent,
and often naive, client.
From the time the accused hear the words, "You're under arrest," the accused
may wait for his trail for two years or more. Believing he will be granted a
fair trial by jury, the accused tells his paid and trusted attorney the
truth surrounding his case, partically any exculpatory evidence.
By law, the prosecuter is provided this information long before the trial.
Too often, the exculpatory evidence is never heard by duped jury members, as
the trusted defense attorney sits idly by in the court room, never raising
an objection; allowing an often overzealous prosecutor to distort the facts,
withhold evidence from the jury and impune the honesty of witnesses for the
defense. Through their actions and inactions, these criminal attorneys
pervert the Constitution and Bill of Rights. As a result, innocent men and
women lose their freedom, day after day in court rooms across America.
Citizens should be very concerned. Why? Because we could be the next victim.
In the criminal case involving the innocent Duke students, Nifong chose to
ignore DNA evidence which, by itself, proved the falsely accused students
innocent. The accuser had made a similar false accusation 10 years earlier.
Her accomplice at first told police she did not believe a rape had occured.
Facing unrelated legal charges herself, she was coerced by police to change
her story to, "well, maybe, something did happen." This coersion by police
is known as witness tampering, a criminal act.
The good news? Nifong now faces criminal charges himself. A prosecutor being
disbarred and criminally charged, while not a prescedent, is very rare.
After more than 26 years of prosecuting fellow citizens, he may now be
humbled by facing the loss of his freedom.
Defense attorneys, prosecutors, police and judges in our criminal system
should make a note of the Nifong case - the citizens are watching you.
Fair and just prosecution is necessary.
Persecution is evil and a crime which undermines citizen trust in our
justice system and destroys the reputation and future of those convicted.
Our honest officers of the court, are respected and law abiding
professionals with much responsibilty.
The old adage, "It is better that a hundred guilty go free than one innocent
accused lose his freedom, good name or life," applies here.
Source : The South Missourian News (Donald Cheesman is retired from the
military and lives near Elizabeth, Ark. He can be contacted by e-mail at