Local News

Report: Police Notes Bolster Prosecution Of Duke Lacrosse Case

Posted August 25, 2006
Updated January 7, 2007

— Notes made by a Durham police sergeant investigating a rape allegation against Duke University lacrosse players support criminal charges filed against three players in the case, a published report said Friday.

Two New York Times reporters reviewed more than 1,800 pages of evidence that Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong turned over to lawyers representing the three players. Although the reporters found inconsistencies and gaps in the prosecution's case, they said notes taken by Sgt. Mark Gottlieb are part of "a body of evidence to support (Nifong's) decision to take the matter to a jury."

A 27-year-old North Carolina Central University student told police that three lacrosse players beat and raped her during a March 13 team party at an off-campus house, where she was performing as a stripper. Dave Evans, who graduated from Duke in May, and juniors Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty have been charged with kidnapping, rape and sexual offense in the case.

Thirty-six pages of typed and handwritten notes from Gottlieb were turned over to defense attorneys on July 17, part of the last of three batches of evidence shared as part of pretrial discovery.

Defense attorneys have argued that written medical reports don't support the rape allegation. But a nurse's oral description of injuries the night of the alleged attack are consistent with a rape, and Gottlieb wrote that the accuser appeared to be in extreme pain when he interviewed her two days later and that signs of bruises were emerging, the Times reported.

The defense also has argued that the accuser gave different versions of the events of March 13. However, the files show that aside from two brief early conversations with the police, she gave largely consistent accounts of being raped by three men in a bathroom, the Times reported.

The accuser's description of her attackers, as noted by Gottlieb, also closely correspond to the three players charged, according to the newspaper. The defense had revealed earlier that notes taken by another Durham police investigator said the woman described all three as chubby, while Finnerty is lanky.

Police notes also indicate the the accuser said she had one or two large-size beers before the party and had taken Flexeril, a muscle relaxant, which might have contributed to her inebriated condition later when officers first encountered her and thought she was drunk.

Defense attorney Joseph Cheshire, who represents Evans, told the Times that Gottlieb's report was a "make-up document" that was "transparently written to try to make up for holes in the prosecution’s case."

Gottlieb had told defense lawyers that he took few handwritten notes and had relied on his memory and other officers' notes to write entries in his chronological report of the investigation, Cheshire said.

Defense attorneys declined to comment Friday on the Times report. A judge last month warned attorneys for both sides against leaking information about the case.

"I don't want to get into any of those things. I don't think that's something I should do," attorney Wade Smith said.

Nifong and defense attorneys met with Superior Court Judge Osmond Smith for an hour Friday morning to discuss the case. Smith, who was appointed last week to handle all aspects of the case, set a Sept. 22 hearing for pretrial motions and issued an order barring cameras and recorders from the courtroom for all pretrial hearings.
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