July 30, 2008

SAW AN EXCELLENT PANEL THIS EVENING ON THE DUKE LACROSSE RAPE HOAX, featuring K.C. Johnson (author of Until Proven Innocent, with Stuart Taylor), James Coleman, Mike Gerhardt, Lyrissa Lidsky, and Angela Davis (no, not that Angela Davis), author of Arbitrary Justice: The Power of the American Prosecutor, which I bought on Kenneth Anderson’s recommendation and which is excellent, especially as a companion to K.C.’s book. The discussion was excellent and very fair. Lots of talk about what Nifong got wrong, plus the important point that the kind of misconduct for which Nifong was disbarred and punished is committed regularly by prosecutors who almost always get off scot-free even when it’s exposed. We really need a better mechanism for policing prosecutorial misconduct, and it’s not clear what that should be — independent audits of cases by a sort of inspector general? I’m not sure.

I disagree, though, with the idea that replacing elected prosecutors with appointed prosecutors would fix the problem. As with elected vs. appointed judges, it doesn’t get rid of the politics, just make it less transparent. And I suspect that situations like that obtaining in Britain, where burglars face little risk of prosecution while homeowners who defend their homes against burglars are targeted by authorities, couldn’t possibly prevail in a system of elected prosecutors.