The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday March 24th

Stop Denying Honor Court's Shortcomings

He questioned whether I still believed in Trinh's innocence, if I still thought he should be acquitted.

Well, I did, I do and he has.

Early last Thursday, the appellate tribunal of the Honor Court dismissed the case, finding that his rights had indeed been violated and he got screwed because of it.

This is the best news I've heard all year. Too bad it came four months later than it should have.

But despite recent calls by the chancellor and other honchos that Honor Court reform is necessary, despite the decision handed down by the tribunal that says plainly that the court goofed, Student Attorney General Taylor Lea stood by the court, acknowledging no wrongdoing. "Our office handled the cases in the most appropriate manner that was possible, and nobody's rights were violated without their consent," she told The Daily Tar Heel.

I'm glad Lea and friends can sleep the slumber of people who don't know the Honor Court is broke. Because they are the only ones not trying to fix it.

As of late, several students who received guilty verdicts are appealing, and this time, some of them aren't taking the Honor Court defense counsels that were passed out the first time.

Enter the Independent Defense Counsel, founded by Billy "The Kid" Hashemi.

Some of you might wonder why we need more defense counsel characters on this campus. Those of you who saw the Mike Trinh trial don't. To refresh and recap, the people who defended Iron Mike couldn't argue themselves out of a paper bag. Before the court clowns deliberated, it was Mike's own words, not his attorney's, that did him a shred of good.

That's why Billy's phone has been ringing more than usual. "All these people had these complaints, and they didn't feel like the best defense was presented," he said.

The Kid told me he started the IDC because the Honor Court made it its business to charge students, not defend them. He wants the system to be more adversarial, more knock-down, drag-out.

And here is the fundamental problem: Honor Court prosecutors work for Taylor Lea. Honor Court chairmen and vice chairmen work for Taylor Lea. And, with your academic career, future jobs, scholarships, internships and graduate schools on the line, your defense counsels work for Taylor Lea. So when they argue for your innocence during a trial, they are questioning the judgment of their boss. Lea told the DTH, "The defense isn't there to get the defendant off."

In response, I suggest defendants give Billy the Kid a call right now because in my book or anyone else's, that's exactly what your defense counsel is supposed to do.

Hashemi said the IDC won't have to report to Lea or pull punches in the courtroom. "We are not at all going to be hesitant to fight charges," he said.

With the latest decision from the appellate tribunal on the screw-ups we got to read about in the paper, the injustice we watched unfold, there's only one thing that really unnerves me.

This was just one case.

Because I think about all the cases the court hears each year behind closed doors, when it doesn't face the scrutiny of columnists, administrators and students.

Check out the Honor Court's Web site. There is a particularly interesting nugget that reads, "The Honor Court represents a common bond between students, faculty and administration, which rests on the solid foundation of trust."

That trust has been breached.

With the impending elections, student body president candidates have jumped at the opportunity to add Honor Court reform to their platforms. At a recent forum, they were eager to put their two cents into the mix.

If you feel the need to vote, cast yours for the candidate who believes in the IDC and who wants to safeguard the true purpose of the Honor Code.

Columnist Ashley Stephenson can be reached at

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