Friday, December 29, 2006

D.A. Facing Ethics Charges

The district attorney in the Duke sexual assault case has been hit with ethics charges by the North Carolina Bar Association.

The bar association opened an investigation of Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong last March shortly after the case began.
"It's hard for me to imagine how he can be effective as an advocate, with either the court or a future jury, when he has ethics charges pending against him ... concerning his conduct of this very same case," said Joseph Kennedy, a University of North Carolina law professor.

The North Carolina bar filed the ethics charges Thursday, accusing District Attorney Mike Nifong of violating four rules of professional conduct by making misleading and inflammatory comments about the athletes under suspicion.

Kennedy said Nifong should recuse himself, but added that the judge overseeing the case could also order his removal. The ethics charges carry penalties that range from admonishment to disbarment.

The bar said it opened a case against Nifong on March 30, a little more than two weeks after a 28-year-old woman hired to perform as a stripper at a lacrosse team party said she was gang-raped.

The rape charges against the three students were dropped earlier this month.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Live puppy OK'd for trial

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Prosecutors won the right Monday to use a live puppy in a demonstration of how another dog suffered before it was stuffed into a searing hot gas oven and killed.

Laura Janssen, the prosecutor, argued that a live demonstration would show how a real dog would react. She said her expert on dog behavior would stop short of any real cruelty.

"It helps the jury to understand," Janssen said.

The puppy pulled from the Fulton animal shelter on Tuesday would be a stand-in for one that was doused with paint, burned, hog-tied with duct tape and then died futility struggling inside a gas oven.

Two brothers, Justin and Joshua Moulder, are on trial in Fulton Superior Court for animal cruetly as well as breaking into and trashing the community center of Englewood Manor apartments in Atlanta.

Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore agreed Monday to allow the dog demonstration over the objections of defense lawyers who argued that trotting out a cute puppy would prejudice the jury.

"This is clearly just an attempt to inflame the jury," said Kevin Schumaker, the lawyer for Joshua Moulder.

Testimony resumed Monday with a series of police witnesses who kicked off the second week of the trial.

The early session witnesses included an Atlanta police supervisor, a crime scene technician and a police sergeant who were all called to the apartments Aug. 21.

They all said they found the apartment community center trashed — computers smashed, books strewn about, paint splattered around and other vandalism — as well as a small puppy that had been duct-taped and gruesomely killed inside the center's gas oven.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Supreme Court to hear arguments in latest race issue

From AP:
WASHINGTON - Pro-affirmative action demonstrators bearing "Fight For Equality" placards descended on the Supreme Court Monday as justices prepared to hear fresh arguments in cases testing when race may be used as a basis for assigning students to public schools.

Parents in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle are challenging school assignment plans that factor in a student's race in an effort to have individual school populations approximate the racial makeup of the entire system. Federal appeals courts have upheld both programs.

On the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court, several hundred of pro-affirmative action demonstrators marched in a brisk wind to dramatize their issue. A parent-teachers group from Chicago and several civil rights groups were among those sponsoring the demonstration.

Demonstrators chanted "Equal education, not segregation" and "We won't go to the back of the bus, integration is a must." Some held signs that read "Stop racism now." Among the crowd were representatives of the
National Organization for Women, the NAACP and students from Howard University.

"It's ridiculous to separate us. We worked hard to get everyone together. Why separate us now?" said Jade Johnson, 15, of Washington D.C., who attends Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School in the district. Johnson said she came to the demonstration instead of going to school.

Though outnumbered, there were some in the crowd from the other side.

"Regardless of how well-motivated, allowing the state to engineer racial mixing only creates racial stereotypes and increases racial tension," said Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, a public interest law firm. "The court needs to put an end to state-mandated tinkering with race."

The school policies in contention are designed to keep schools from segregating along the same lines as neighborhoods. In Seattle, only high school students are affected. Louisville's plan applies systemwide.
From a NY Times editorial:
The Louisville and Seattle plans are precisely the kind of benign race-based policies that the court has long held to be constitutional. Promoting diversity in education is a compelling state interest under the equal protection clause, and these districts are using carefully considered, narrowly tailored plans to make their schools more diverse.

It is startling to see the Justice Department, which was such a strong advocate for integration in the civil rights era, urging the court to strike down the plans. Its position is at odds with so much the Bush administration claims to believe. The federal government is asking federal courts to use the Constitution to overturn educational decisions made by localities. Conservative activists should be crying “judicial activism,” but they do not seem to mind this activism with an anti-integration agenda.

If these plans are struck down, many other cities’ plans will most likely also have to be dismantled. In Brown, a unanimous court declared education critical for a child to “succeed in life” and held that equal protection does not permit it to be provided on a segregated basis. It would be tragic if the court changed directions now and began using equal protection to re-segregate the schools.