Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?
Mike Nifong is obviously in trouble, and he deserves to be. But the tricky question, that will likely determine the extent of his punishment, is what was he thinking.
In general, prosecutors have a lot of leeway, because we don't want them to be constantly second-guessing themselves. As long as they act within certain ethical rules, they're immune from prosecution. But Nifong went so far that the question isn't just ethical breaches, but criminal activity.
There's an entire pattern of questionable actions. Outrageous statements, public and private. Refusing to consider exculpatory evidence. Not releasing exculpatory evidence. Odd investigative techniques. The dishonest lineup. And so on.
What matters a lot in judging Nifong is was he consciously railroading the accused, or did he honestly believe they should be tried? Usually, lawyers on either side of a case identify with their clients and interpret everything in that light. (In theory, prosecutors are supposed to see that justice is done, not that defendants are convicted, but everyone knows it doesn't always work that way.) Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I'll assume the prosecutor honestly believes he's seeking justice. But Nifong's actions were so extreme, and there are such obvious ulterior rmotives, that I don't think I can give him the benefit of the doubt.