According to this MSNBC commentary, Mike Nifong has received a severe penalty but it is precisely what he deserves:
Lawyers usually try to understand a fellow practitioners blunders and usually reprimand their colleague without issuing the ultimate penalty, the death penalty for a lawyer: disbarment. While it is public disgrace indeed, it also says you are the worst of the worst and do not deserve to live as a lawyer. You are not trustworthy. The public has to be protected from you. Plus, it strips Nifong of the only way he knows to make a living. Instead of collecting his pension and retiring, he will have to start from scratch. It is a stunning fall from the height of his power. And it is absolutely the right thing to do. Nifong had many chances to escape this fate, yet he never chose to do the right thing. Not once.
I agree completely with the article. Prosecutors and other law enforcement officials generally deserve our respect, but they should also be held to a high standard. When they start playing with the truth in order to make political points or because of prejudice, they should be held accountable. Mike Nifong has now been held accountable.
But the reason this story caught my attention was not quite so noble. You see, when the accusations were first made against the Duke University Lacrosse players I reacted with prejudice. Without fully processing the information, I categorized them as spoiled rich kids trying to take advantage of a poor victim who didn’t have the resources to defend herself. As it turns out I was wrong.
I don’t know if Nifong reacted as I did. Even if that was where he started from, as the evidence came in, he had every reason to change his mind and correct his actions, yet he did not do so. He couldn’t let his high profile defendants go. As stated in the MSNBC article I quoted above, “. . . he never chose to do the right thing.”
I was surprised when it turned out that the Lacrosse players were not, in fact, guilty. And why is that? I guess I have a prejudice against the rich, the assumption that their money will get them off. That’s not a good thing. I think many of us do have the flip side of that prejudice, a prejudice against those who are down and out, homeless, vagrant, seemingly out of place. I have heard such prejudice acknowledged many times. But it’s good to realize that we can have a prejudice against the successful as well.
The one cure of prejudice is a willingness to have your opinions corrected. So many times I have answered “I don’t know” when someone asked me my opinion of some popular case. That’s usually the right answer. In general we don’t know, because we don’t have all the evidence. This would have been another good case in which to say, “I don’t know.”
This reminds me of a Bible text:
?15You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. — Lev. 19:15 (NRSV)*
*The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1996, c1989. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.