Re this and this, can anyone imagine a recent attorney general of New York or California making a statement like the one Cooper made in contrite recognition of a malicious prosecution?
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds writes, in part:
MORE: A lefty blogger wonders why people care. Aside from the obvious — it’s a manifest injustice in a case that got loads of publicity — I think it underscores that the political/media system isn’t living up to the standards of fairness it sets. In the conventional imagination, it used to be — see To Kill a Mockingbird or reports of the Scottsboro rape trial — that it was the noble fairness-obsessed lefties who supported due process against the ignorant right-wing hicks who tried to lynch people out of a mixture of racism, political opportunism borne of racism, journalistic sensationalism, and sheer meanness. Now the hats have switched. That’s worth noting.
I think that’s right. My hunch, and this relates to my original point, is that while abuses of police and prosecutorial power probably happen everywhere, they are more likely to go unremedied in entrenched, one-party political cultures like those that exist in some of the so-called blue states.
5 thoughts on “Thought Experiment”
Jonathan & Reynolds are right. This turns on its head a long tradition (that was not without some basis) in which we see the justice system chew up the less powerful; in Twelve Angry Men the divisions were on class & ethnic lines rather than racial ones.
But some of our interest arose because we were long suspicious of the ideas of the Duke 88; this case demonstrated how pernicious ideas that seemed witty, speculative, interesting, could be when taken seriously. And we realized that some people actually did take these positions seriously – even when it meant a clear miscarriage of justice. It was just another of many jolts that brought home reality in the last few years.
Having voted in the last election in Durham, let me assure you that Durham counts as having an entrenched party – there were *very* few elections that were contested.
Last I checked, NC was a Red State, though Durham is a Blue County.
Setting aside Mr. Nifong’s ethical deficits and deficiencies of character and judgment for the moment I have a brief observation. Mixing the stridently adversarial culture of the American legal system – which prosecutors are professionally obligated to rise above – with our anything goes local-level partisan politics, is a prescription for tempting DA’s to abuse their power.
When have they not abused their power? The ambitious ones have always used big prosecutions — justified or not — as stepping stones to higher office. Giuliani and Spitzer are merely two recent examples.
Point taken, Jonathan. Ambition however, I think, manifests itself differently in appointive positions where the prosecutor is aiming at, perhaps, a Federal judgeship down the road, instead of elective office. Demonstrating sound legal reasoning and a moderate temperment would weigh more heavily in encouraging restraint there.
Perhaps Law schools should devote greater time to teaching ethics ?
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