Local News

Attorneys: No Conclusive Ties To Duke Players In Second DNA Report

Posted May 12, 2006
Updated January 7, 2007

— A defense attorney in the Duke University lacrosse investigation said Friday that a second round of DNA test results shows a partial match to members of the team on one item, but no "conclusive match" between the accuser and any player.

Attorney Joseph Cheshire, who represents a team captain who has not been charged, said at an early evening press conference that secondary DNA testing showed genetic material from a "single male source" was found on a vaginal swab taken from the accuser. However, the material was linked to an unidentified male who, according to Durham Police, was not a lacrosse team member.

"In other words, it appears this woman had sex with a male," said Cheshire, who spoke at a news conference with other defense attorneys in the case. "It also appears with certainty it wasn't a Duke lacrosse player."

Cheshire also said that the partial match to Duke lacrosse team members was from a sample taken from a fake fingernail found in a trash can inside the home where the accuser alleges the rape took place during a party on March 13. But it was not the two men who have charged with rape, kidnapping and sexual assault in the case.

Along with the fingernail, the trash can contained cotton swabs, tissue, toilet paper and other items that would carry the DNA of people who used the bathroom, Cheshire said.

District Attorney Mike Nifong began distributing a second round of DNA test results to defense attorneys in the Duke lacrosse investigation late Friday afternoon.

As reported Thursday, the results show a partial DNA match with one of the lacrosse players who has not yet been charged.

The private lab tested fingernails, hair samples and other potential pieces of evidence. The report contained scientific data, which defense attorneys began reviewing Friday afternoon to determine if any other matches involving the alleged rape are apparent. Defense attorneys said the first round of DNA results did not show a match.

The dancer, a 27-year-old black student at nearby North Carolina Central University, told police she was raped and beaten for a half-hour by three white men at the party. A grand jury has charged sophomores Reade Seligmann, of Essex Fells, N.J., and Collin Finnerty, of Garden City, N.Y., with rape, kidnapping and sexual assault.

After the first round of tests came back from a state crime lab without a match, Nifong said that in 75 to 80 percent of all sexual assault cases, there is no DNA evidence. In those cases, prosecutors had to proceed "the good old-fashioned way. Witnesses got on the stand and told what happened to them," he said last month.

But Stan Goldman, a Loyola Law School professor and former Los Angeles County public defender, said he would be surprised if Nifong went ahead with the case unless "they really have something significant that they are not revealing to us," such as a lacrosse player willing to testify he saw a rape.

"There has got to be some really good prosecution explanation as to why the DNA evidence does not exist and why someone else's would be there," Goldman said.

Cheshire said the fact that the players turned over the fingernail shows they had nothing to hide.

"Is that consistent with someone that knowledgeably and knowingly committed a rape?" Cheshire said. "That they would leave fingernails that were ripped off a person in a violent struggle in their trash can after they're told there's an investigation and that police were going to come to their house, and when the police do, they give them the fingernails?"

According to a search warrant executed on March 16, police recovered five fingernails from the house, but it was unclear where those fingernails were found or whether they included the one containing DNA.

"Let's wait and see the fingernails and see if they match up to the way she describes the attack took place," Cheshire said.

Nifong has said he hoped to charge a third person, and he could do so as early as Monday at the next meeting of the Durham County grand jury.

"I'm not going to comment on whether I think it'll be my client or not," Cheshire said. "I hope it is none. It'll simply be accusing another innocent person."

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