Unholy Alliances

Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong goes before the North Carolina State Bar this week to defend his conduct that led to indictments against three Duke lacrosse players for rape. In April, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced that all charges against the three lacrosse players had been dropped and that “based on the significant inconsistencies between the evidence and the various accounts given by the accusing witness, we believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges.” Cooper took the unusual step of sharply criticizing Nifong: “This case shows the enormous consequences of overreaching by a prosecutor.” The case also highlights the unholy alliance between forensic scientists and police and prosecutors. Most people, and juries, consider forensic scientists objective, scientific, and neutral authorities on crucial scientific evidence that frequently makes or breaks a prosecution. But as Roger Koppl, author of a forthcoming Reason Foundation study, notes:

DNA is no magic bullet of truth when the testers are aligned unambiguously with the prosecution. During the testimony in which it was revealed that Nifong and [Brian] Meehan, director of the private DNA lab Nifong used, had agreed to hide the DNA evidence, Meehan referred to Nifong as “my client.” Instead of serving the truth, Meehan’s forensics lab was helping its “client,” the prosecutor.