Nifong to do the Perp Walk

Micheal Nifong, the former Durham District Attorney is going to go to jail. For one day.

Nifong was sentenced Friday to a single day in jail, having been held in criminal contempt of court for lying to a judge during his pursuit of rape charges against the three falsely accused lacrosse players.

Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III could have sentenced Nifong, who had already been stripped of his law license and had resigned from office, to as many as 30 days in jail and given him a fine as high as $500. Instead, he opted for a largely symbolic punishment—the public humiliation of sending a prosecutor to jail—that he said would help protect the integrity of the justice system.

“If what I impose with regard to Mr. Nifong would make things better or different for what’s already happened, I don’t know what it would be or how I could do it,” Smith said.

Well how about making the punishment for fitting than merely the symbolic. I’m thinking of something involving a rail, tar and feathers.

Lets be clear here. Nifong lied repeated to the judges involved in the case, he manipulated them and abused his position. I find it rather disappointing the same court that Nifong abused is cutting him slack on this. But as usual, the law profession has a disturbing tendency to protect their own.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics,
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. Bithead says:

    This isn’t even a slap on the wrist, but rather more of an affectionate stroking. This case will be forever cited as an example of how the criminal justice system doesn’t work. And, why.

  2. Beldar says:

    I agree that the legal profession has, in general, a disturbing tendency to protect its own.

    But I don’t think the legal profession, in general, has any sympathy for Nifong. To the contrary, the people I know who are the most outraged by his conduct are lawyers, including prosecutors, who understand how deep an abuse of public trust Nifong committed.

    I agree that this punishment is too light, and I don’t buy the judge’s explanation for the symbolic punishment: “If what I impose with regard to Mr. Nifong would make things better or different for what’s already happened, I don’t know what it would be or how I could do it.” The maximum punishment — 30 days, if this press account is correct — would have still been inadequate for purposes of societal retribution and setting an example for others.

    I just don’t think this particular decision ought to be generally attributed to the profession.

  3. just me says:

    At the very least it should have been a weekend.

    Nifong is getting off lucky.

  4. Don’t you just love our justice system? 🙁

  5. JKB says:

    Look if they gave him longer, think of the effect it would have on prosecutors in the future. If there is accountability, prosecutors will be just like normal people.

  6. MikeT says:

    I think this is more of an example of the law enforcement apparatus protecting its own, than the legal profession protecting its own. Cops, judges and prosecutors frequently look out for one another. Do you realize the number of times where cops make such monumentally stupid decisions about using force, stuff that would never be tolerated from private citizens, and get no penalty. There are shootings, like the Sal Culosi one, where a prosecutor would go ballistic on a private citizen for being that negligent, but the cop gets away free.

    Our system rewards people based on numbers. This is the problem with having a system that is obsessed with statistics and metrics, when every generation before us has known that the murky matter of meting out justice is not conducive to that. We need a system which encourages the creation of prosecutor offices which care more about getting the appropriate penalty, no matter what it is, than getting the best statistic that they can get.

    Bottom line… when prosecutors are judged based on how well their sense of right and wrong functions, how carefully they study a case to mete out a fair penalty, and for showing temperance in how far they will go, it’ll get better.

  7. Eneils Bailey says:

    “If what I impose with regard to Mr. Nifong would make things better or different for what’s already happened, I don’t know what it would be or how I could do it,” Judge Smith said.

    Wow, he is to spend the night in jail. You could get that time around here for farting in church and pointing at the preacher’s wife.

    I think if I were these three players I would go full bore ahead with civil suits against Nifong, the State of NC, and the administration and screaming feminist at Duke who are constantly on the rag.

    These players and their families deserve to be awarded actual damages, lawyers fees, lost wages and income, and the impact if will have on their earning capabilities. Punitive damages against Nifong, the state of NC, and Duke University should be substantial given the fact all the individuals and organizations were operating on lies and ideas to prove how far they will go to win an election and enforce some bogus politically correct social concept.

    Actually, at this point, if I were one of the players, I would feel better after a substantial monetary judgment, and watching Nifong spend the rest of his life paying for his unconscionable behavior tending gas pumps behind the counter of a convenience store.

  8. John Thompson says:

    I (a civil lit attorney for what its worth) have said this over and over and over and over–any policeman or prosecutor who is found beyond a reasonable doubt to have planted evidence, lied under oath, or knowingly pursued false charges should automatically be sentenced to the maximum penalty their intended victim would have/did face if convicted. What is so hard to understand about this? If you want to try and destroy someone else’s life while wielding and abusing the awesome and grossly disproportionate power of the state (i.e., OUR power), its the least you should expect (I would not be against the death penalty for deliberate falsification of evidence, “testilying,” or “Nifonging.” Am I wrong?

  9. Kent says:


    I agree. Punishment for perjury equal to what the falsely accused would have faced is a principle of justice as old as the Old Testament.

    In this case, that would mean … let’s see … life in prison?

    Nifong is getting off awfully light.