Lawyer Demands Investigation Of Duke Lacrosse 'Wanted' Poster
Posted May 28, 2006
Updated January 7, 2007
DURHAM, N.C. — A lawyer for a Duke lacrosse player has asked for a police department internal investigation into a poster and fliersthat he says unfairly implied all 46 team members were guilty of raping a woman hired to strip at an off-campus party.
Alex Charns said the material was distributed before District Attorney Mike Nifong said he had sufficient evidence to indict only three players.
The materials, which offered cash rewards for help in solving the case, "impugned the entire lacrosse team," he wrote in an e-mail to City Manager Patrick Baker and Police Chief Steve Chalmers on May 18 and shared with a Durham newspaper last Thursday.
The material was produced by a nonprofit crime-fighting group, independently of any Durham agency, and no internal investigation is planned, city spokeswoman Beverly B. Thompson said Friday.
Three players are charged with raping the woman at a March 13 team party. Charns declined to say Friday which of the unindicted players he represents.
"How is it that our police force offered to pay money to anonymous witnesses in order to solve a crime that it claimed to know for a fact had occurred? What happened to investigating a crime before a blanket accusation of guilt is made? Wasn't it 'Alice in Wonderland' in which the verdict came before the trial, and the accuser acted as jury and jury?" Charns' e-mail said.
He asked whether the poster was in line with police department rules and whether the department and the city had authorized it.
Thompson and police spokeswoman Kammie Michael said the poster was produced by CrimeStoppers, an independent organization that offers rewards for information about crimes, and was not covered by general rules that apply to many police department activities.
The police department's only connection to CrimeStoppers is a corporal who serves as a liaison officer, Thompson said.
Questions were raised about the first flier, released in early April, and it was amended within a day or so, she said.
CrimeStoppers was not required to have city approval for its press releases or fliers, she said. "We have asked them to forward any press release to us to review," relating to the Duke case or any other crime report, she said.
Charns also demanded to see all e-mails, drafts, memos and chain-of-command authorizations related to the materials.
"I expect a response to my request," he told The Durham Herald-Sun. "The law gives me as a citizen part ownership of these records. They are public records. They don't have to explain things to me, but they certainly have to provide the records."
Charns said Friday that he had received no response to his request, even to acknowledge receipt of the e-mail.
"They have to respond in a reasonable manner, and over a week is not reasonable," he said. He said he is preparing for a trial next week, and afterward will consider "all the options" to pursue his request.
Thompson said Friday afternoon that the city is gathering the information Charns requested, including material from CrimeStoppers, and hopes to have it to him soon.