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Attorney General's Statement on Dropping Duke Lacrosse Case

Posted April 11, 2007

Statement from North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper on the Duke University lacrosse rape case.

Good afternoon, everyone.

On January 13 of this year, I accepted the request of the Durham district attorney to take over three Durham cases. At the time, I promised a fresh and thorough review of the facts and a decision on the best way to proceed. I also said that we would have our eyes wide open to the evidence, but that we would have blinders on for all other distractions. We've done all of these things.

During the past 12 weeks, our lawyers and investigators have reviewed the remaining allegations of sexual assault and kidnapping that resulted from a party on March 13, 2006, in Durham, North Carolina

We have carefully reviewed the evidence collected by the Durham County prosecutor's office and the Durham Police Department. We have also conducted our own interviews and evidence gathering. Our attorneys and SBI (State Bureau of Investigation) agents have interviewed numerous people who were at the party, DNA and other experts, the Durham County district attorney, Durham police officers, defense attorneys and the accusing witness on several occasions. We have reviewed statements given over the past year, photographs, records and other evidence.

The result of our review and investigation shows clearly that there is insufficient evidence to proceed on any of the charges. Today we are filing notices of dismissal for all charges against Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans.

The result is that these cases are over, and no more criminal proceedings will occur.

We believe that these cases were the result of a tragic rush to accuse and a failure to verify serious allegations. Based on the significant inconsistencies between the evidence and the various accounts given by the accusing witness, we believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges.

We approached this case with the understanding that rape and sexual assault victims often have some inconsistencies in their accounts of a traumatic event. However, in this case, the inconsistencies were so significant and so contrary to the evidence that we have no credible evidence that an attack occurred in that house that night.

The prosecuting witness in this case responded to questions and offered information. She did want to move forward with the prosecution.

However, the contradictions in her many versions of what occurred and the conflicts between what she said occurred and other evidence, like photographs and phone records, could not be rectified.

Our investigation shows that:

The eyewitness identification procedures were faulty and unreliable. No DNA confirms the accuser's story. No other witness confirms her story. Other evidence contradicts her story. She contradicts herself. Next week, we'll be providing a written summary of the important factual findings and some of the specific contradictions that have led us to the conclusion that no attack occurred.

In this case, with the weight of the state behind him, the Durham district attorney pushed forward unchecked. There were many points in the case where caution would have served justice better than bravado. And in the rush to condemn, a community and a state lost the ability to see clearly. Regardless of the reasons this case was pushed forward, the result was wrong. Today, we need to learn from this and keep it from happening again to anybody.

Now, we have good district attorneys in North Carolina who are both tough and fair. And we need these forceful, independent prosecutors to put criminals away and protect the public. But we also need checks and balances to protect the innocent. This case shows the enormous consequences of overreaching by a prosecutor. What has been learned here is that the internal checks on a criminal charge - sworn statements, reasonable grounds, proper suspect photo lineups, accurate and fair discovery - all are critically important.

Therefore, I propose a law that the North Carolina Supreme Court have the authority to remove a case from a prosecutor in limited circumstances. This would give the courts a new tool to deal with a prosecutor who needs to step away from a case where justice demands.

I want to thank everyone in the North Carolina Department of Justice. I want to thank our investigators, our SBI agents and especially attorneys Jim Coman and Mary Winstead for their hard work in this matter.

I'll take some of your questions now.

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  • superk Apr 11, 2007

    Too little, Too late. It is good for the young men that the charges have finally been dropped, however, as is often the case in mistaken charges,it may take years, and hopefully not their lifetimes, for this to be forgotten by any and all with whom these young men will come into contact.

    I encourage them to keep their heads held high, and to think about the so called "good time parties" they attend. Hopefully a lot of young people will learn from this that they should consider the consequences of being in attendance at such gatherings in their own futures. Not everyone is destroyed by such things, but you never know when something like this can happen.

  • sherrybastion Apr 11, 2007

    I think Roy Cooper's statement was very well written and fair to all parties involved. He did not slander anyone in the process and eloquently detailed the process that led to the Department of Justice's conclusion.

    I, for one, am so pleased that this case is over and that the three men and their families who have endured so much these past few months are able to move on with their lives without the cloud of uncertainty hanging over their heads.

    I would hope that everyone agrees that justice was served in this case and there are no lingering doubts regarding their innocence.

  • FonziBeWithYou Apr 11, 2007

    Jesse Jackson and the Black Nationalist Group will now ever so conveniently "forget" they backed her to start with. The only reason they supported her to start with was to get publicity for themselves and to fuel the neverending racial issues that still exist in America today.

    I just hope she learned her lesson and I hope Nifong has learned his. Maybe these boys can now carry on with halfway normal lives.

    However, I would love to see her name and photo published, so she can see how it feels.

  • jenday Apr 11, 2007

    Not a surprise, but a long time coming. I hope the media will let those three boys put this behind them.
    Nifong will reap what he sowed and the accuser will have to live with her decisions.
    I believe justice has been served.

  • Smiling Apr 11, 2007

    Well done.....it's been a long time coming.

    Will Jesse Jacksons organization continue to pay her tuition???? Will the Black Nationalist Group continue to back the false accuser?? Just wondering.

    I hope these 3 young men have wonderful lives from here on out, they deserve nothing but the best.