Former Duke Prosecutor Nifong Disbarred

During closing arguments Friday, attorney Doug Brocker of the North Carolina State Bar said Nifong engaged in a "systematic abuse of prosecutorial power and discretion in the Duke Lacrosse case."

"Mr. Nifong did not act as a minister of justice, but as a minister of injustice," Brocker added.

Brocker argued that the central motive for Nifong's decision to prosecute the case was winning a tightly contested election for district attorney. Just after the first indictments in the case, Nifong won a May 2 Democratic primary by a margin of 3 percent.

In his closing statements, Nifong's attorney Dudley Witt admitted that Nifong committed "egregious mistakes" but said his "was not intentional conduct."

Witt also denied Nifong's use of the case to further any political agenda. He specifically cited Nifong's lack of experience in dealing with the media and argued that Nifong didn't realize until December 2006 that the withheld DNA was significant to the case.

Ann Fawcett, a friend of the Nifong family who attended the trial, called him "an honorable man of great integrity."

Nifong's nearly-30-year career as a prosecutor ended over the Duke Lacrosse case. During his testimony Friday, Nifong tearfully announced that whatever the bar's choice of punishment he intended to step down as Durham County district attorney.

"My presence as the district attorney in Durham is not furthering the cause of justice," Nifong said. "It is not fair for the people in my community to be represented by someone who is not held in high esteem by either the members of the community or members of the profession."

Nifong also apologized to the three indicted lacrosse players and their families.

But defense attorney Cheshire dismissed Nifong's contrition as contrived and insincere.

Nifong led the prosecution of three Duke Lacrosse players for rape and sexual assault. The case began in March 2006 when woman hired to strip at a team party accused three players of attacking her in a bathroom. In the months that followed, the case fell apart, riddled by a lack of evidence and an accuser who changed her story repeatedly.

From the early days of the case, Nifong was widely criticized for his handling of the matter. On Friday, Nifong admitted to many mistakes.

"I think clearly some of the statements I made were improper," Nifong said, admitting that his comments about the case violated the rules of professional conduct. "I take responsibility for the things I have done in this case."

Nifong also admitted that he should have given defense attorneys all available DNA evidence months earlier than he did. He added that despite her changing story, Nifong never pushed the accuser to explain the inconsistencies in her version of events.

By getting disbarred, Nifong lost not just his law license, but his livelihood. Unable to practice law, it's unclear what kind of work, if any, Nifong will do next.

But wherever he goes, Nifong expects the words "Duke Lacrosse" will follow him.

"I will go to my grave being associated with this case," said Nifong. "That's okay. ... I took the responsibility on myself."

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