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Nifong Wins. Will Justice Win, Too?

Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong won reelection in the Democratic primary last night, beating challenger Freda Black by close to 4 percentage points, 45.2 to 41.5. He is running unopposed in November, which is ironic, because if yesterday's primary vote hadn't been closed Nifong almost certainly would have lost:

"We had a lot of irate, irate Republicans who couldn't vote for district attorney," said Mike Ashe, director of the Durham County Board of Elections.

Despite Nifong's assurances that he's acted appropriately thus far, evidence continues to mount that he bungled the investigation and rushed to get indictments against two individuals, at least one of which now appears to have a very solid alibi.

After thoroughly reviewing the case in his column on Monday, esteemed legal analyst Stuart Taylor, Jr. concluded that "accumulating evidence strongly suggests that the charge may well be a lie." He also put Nifong among a group of people - including Duke's professors and administrators - who should be "ashamed of themselves" for the way the case has been handled.

Last night in an interview with Greta Van Susteren, Nifong tried to portray the primary vote as a referendum on his integrity. Hardly. His behavior in this case has been truly disturbing: after giving more than 70 interviews in the immediate aftermath of the accusation where he spoke openly about the case and asserted that the victim was telling the truth, Nifong now won't respond to legitimate questions from either defense attorneys or the media about the various pieces of exculpatory evidence that have come out in this case. Furthermore, despite serious questions about how Nifong and the Durham police botched the identification process (by showing pictures of only Duke players to the alleged victim thereby making any sort of exoneration through misidentification impossible) Nifong indicates he's going to press ahead with a third indictment in the coming days.

Put simply, Nifong is stuck. If he drops the case now, or if it's dismissed or thrown out by a judge in the coming months, Nifong will be disgraced and branded a political opportunist. The only way he can salvage his reputation is to successfully prosecute the case against these boys, and that is an extremely dangerous position for a prosecutor to be in, especially when the evidence continues to build that the whole thing may be a fraud.