Duke Rape Case: Nifong off the Case

Via K.C. Johnson comes the news that DA Mike Nifong has sent a letter to AG Roy Cooper requesting a special prosecutor.

District Attorney Mike Nifong has requested that he have himself removed from prosecuting the Duke Lacrosse rape investigation, ABC News has learned.

A source close to the investigation said Nifong sent a letter to North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper asking his office to assume responsibility of the case. Calls to the Attorney General’s office and Mike Nifong’s office were not yet returned.

Is this the begining of the end of this case? Will the Special Prosecutor simply dismiss the case? K.C. Johnson writes,

If Cooper accepts the request, the special prosecutions division will have to review the entire case file. It seems extremely unlikely, however, that any prosecutor would go ahead with the current version of events, as laid out in the notes produced by Linwood Wilson on December 21.

That is my guess as well. This case may end with a whimper after starting with so much heat and controversy. More here. Note that Nifong has also secured legal counsel as well.

Update: K.C. Johnson on Nifong’s retaining legal counsel,

After all, 20 days before Freedman’s remarks, Nifong himself hypothesized, “One would wonder why one needs an attorney if one was not charged and had not done anything wrong.”

Yep, I guess we can conclude that Nifong did indeed violate various legal ethics based on Nifong-LogicTM.

Update II: In comments Chris Lawrence makes the observation,

Nifong’s case doesn’t really need a new prosecutor; at this point, it needs a more credible complainant. Unfortunately for Nifong, a letter to the state attorney general won’t fix that problem.

Which is exactly right and one of the primary reasons that the case will likely be dismissed.

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Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.


  1. Should’ve known you’d beat me to it 🙂

    As my post said: Nifong’s case doesn’t really need a new prosecutor; at this point, it needs a more credible complainant. Unfortunately for Nifong, a letter to the state attorney general won’t fix that problem.

  2. Steve Verdon says:

    Yeah that was a good point. In fact, I’m going to add it to the post.

  3. just me says:

    I am trying to figure out why Nifong needs a special prosecutor to dismiss the charges. That is what is needed at this point.

  4. Steve Verdon says:

    To provide cover. He can say, “I wouldn’t have dismissed the case, but these ethics charges meant I should reccuse myself….”

  5. sandcrab says:

    And now stand by for the lawsuits from the wrongfully accused Duke students.

  6. anon says:

    If Nifong got one f his cronies to replace him in framing these boys (i.e. working with the false-accuser to spin whatever evidence into a possible crime) these boys could still be convicted. Remember, these supposedly rich and powerful boys are going up against the state of NC.

  7. Beldar says:

    Nifong does indeed need legal counsel. I think he’s at almost no risk of facing criminal charges. He’s also likely to be sued for money damages in civil proceedings, but there’s still a good chance that the county or state would provide him with a defense for that (i.e., pay for his lawyers), and the potential plaintiffs will have a hard time beating a summary judgment motion. Short and sweet, it’s damned hard to prosecute or sue prosecutors for actions — even outrageous actions — they’ve taken in the course and scope of their job. Where Nifong is genuinely likely to need personal counsel for the long haul is in potential proceedings involving the state bar and his continued right to keep his license. Those proceedings are likely to be mostly behind closed doors, but they nevertheless are likely to closely parallel public adversary proceedings — due process rights, burden of proof, etc. It’s not clear to me that Nifong has violated any laws or even committed any torts, but it’s crystal clear that he’s trampled, twisted, and spat upon his ethical responsibilities as a lawyer and a prosecutor, and I think his license is (and should be) at serious risk.