FORUM: The Nifong case - how rare?

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Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

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Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law School recently said: “Nifong’s misconduct was hardly unusual: Some of the most high-profile cases in history have involved strikingly similar acts of prosecutorial abuse. But instead of being punished, the worst violators are often lionized for their aggressive styles.”

And the New York Times quoted Bennett Gershman, former prosecutor in Manhattan who now teaches law at Pace University, as saying: “You have rogue prosecutors all over the country who have engaged in far, far more egregious misconduct, and in a pattern of cases. And nothing happens.”

But the most damning evidence comes from the Center for Public Integrity, a group of investigative journalists that has analyzed more than 11,000 appellate court opinions in which prosecutor abuse was alleged.

The CPI concludes, “Since 1970, individual judges and appellate court panels cited prosecutorial misconduct as a factor when dismissing charges, reversing convictions or reducing sentences in over 2,000 cases. … In thousands more, judges labeled prosecutorial behavior inappropriate, but upheld convictions using a doctrine called ‘harmless error.’” (www.publicintegrity.org/pm.)

So is prosecutorial abuse “rarer than human rabies”? No, not by a long shot.

We can only hope that one of these days, the National District Attorneys Association will change its tune.

CAREY ROBERTS

A Washington-area writer and commentator on political correctness.

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