James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, June 18, 2007

Is It Just To Kick A Man When He's Down?

Is it right to rejoice at Mike Nifong's turmoil? Is it wrong to feel bad for him?

I don't know if any holder of public office has so disgraced himself in the performance of his public duties as the prosecutor in the Duke rape case. His actions were worse than most cases of ethical misconduct like bribe-taking. He deserves whatever penalties the judge may impose on him.

And he should be named as a defendant in any civil suits his victims may file against Durham County and other state and local agencies. The defendants deserve to be compensated for all of their legal expenses, and a lot more for the suffering Nifong caused. Nifong should be personally held liable, even if he can't afford to pay what the courts says he should owe.

And, as a lawyer for one of the victims says, this isn't "mean-spirited and kicking a man when he's down." It is merely holding a man accountable before the law.

That said, I do not rejoice at the shame and suffering Nifong is now going through, even though he brought it all on himself. I do feel bad for him. I hope he'll be forgiven by his victims and be able to live the rest of his life in quiet obscurity - after this legal ordeal is over. And if he pleads "no contest" to whatever criminal and civil action that comes against him, the more likely this can happen.

But in any case, before his "debt" can be "forgiven," as the Lord's Prayer goes, it must be established that there's actually a debt, as a court of law can establish. It must also be established that agents of the sovereign must be held to account for breaking the law.

So it's not a matter of rejoicing at Nifong's ordeal. It is nothing personal. But he must be brought to justice. Mercy, if it is given, can be bestowed only after justice is established. Mercy before justice isn't mercy at all, it is just letting somebody get away with it.

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