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City Council Approves External Durham Police Probe

Posted June 1, 2007

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— Durham's City Council on Friday approved the mayor's proposal for a 12-member panel to conduct an independent review into the police department's handling of the Duke lacrosse investigation.

The panel, to be headed by former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Willis Whichard, will consist of a diverse group of individuals: four law enforcement officers, citizens, defense attorneys, a prosecutor and a representative of a local rape crisis center.

Retired Chapel Hill police Chief Gregg Jarvies, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Chief Darrel Stephens, Winston-Salem Chief Patricia Norris and High Point Chief Jim Fealy were named to be a part of the panel Friday.

Council members have until next week to submit recommendations to complete the panel.

“By June 8, the committee should be complete, and we’re hoping to make the committee as diverse and as broadly diverse as humanly possible," Councilman Howard Clement.said.

Mayor Bill Bell said he wants the panel to begin its work by June 18 and hopes it can conduct the review within 30 to 60 days.

"We don't want to rush to judgment on this," Bell said. "We want to afford the committee adequate time to do the work to get the truth out."

Bell and at least three other council members started calling for the review almost immediately after the police department's internal report, which was publicly released on May 11.

Bell said that report lacked focus and left questions unanswered about the yearlong criminal investigation of rape and sexual assault charges against David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann.

Police chief Steve Chalmers has said he supports the review, but has also defended his department's handling of the case.

Council members voted 6-1 last week in favor of the review last week and met Friday to discuss details of the review, including its scope, its cost and whether the panel will have power to subpoena witnesses and have them testify under oath.

"I think it's important for us to be able to get to the truth," Councilman Mike Woodard said. "And if subpoenas and putting people under oath helps us get to that, then I think it's something we need to give this committee the power to do."

Specifically, Council members want to know if investigators followed police procedures or if they were following orders from District Attorney Mike Nifong, who himself, faces ethics charges related to the lacrosse case.

"One basic question is why did three Durham residents have to go to Raleigh and to the Attorney General's office to get justice?" Councilman Eugene Brown wrote in a four-page letter that poses questions about the case to the panel.

"It's really an embarrassment that we're going through this and that we have to do this process," Brown said. "It's painful, but the truth is sometimes painful, and it needs to come out."

21 Comments

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  • gjp032 Jun 3, 2007

    But shame on you the PD/DA's office for doing certain things to appease the African American community. It is the job of public figures to be IMPARCIAL. Yes it would have been a unpopular decision to not arrest anyone, but was it fair on how this case unraveled. If I lived in the city of Durham/Durham county I'd be rasing you know what. Good luck you/all over there.

  • gjp032 Jun 3, 2007

    It is reasons like this that the City of Durham and the DPD has a less than desireable reputation. It is time that someone takes some responsibility here, and I think it should be Chief Chalmers, Mayor Bell and the city manager. Obviously the Durham's DA's office won't. If the city tries to pawn the responsibilty off on the DA's office SHAME ON YOU. The POLICE department is responsible for the investigation. Of course in high profile and serious cases the PD and DA's office will confer with one another. If the DA's office reuquested the PD to do follow-up investigation the PD should have enough common sense to know right from wrong. After seeing this "event"take place I am sure glad I am a resident of Wake County/City of Raleigh. At least I know the leaders here have SOME common sense. This event was a no win situation for the City of Durham. If they didn't arrest the African American community would have been "up in arms". Obviously the PD/DA's office was feeling the pressure.

  • Athena Jun 3, 2007

    Most of the Innocence Project cases were people released after DNA proved they were innocent. Read their cases. Unless you call DNA evidence a loophole, well . . . what more can I say? Of course, the question is: Is it acceptable for an innocent person to spend 10 years in prison? Or 18 years? Or how about 27? So as you're locked down in your cell, you can always comfort yourself with the fact that a jury of your friends and neighbors found you guilty.

  • superman Jun 2, 2007

    The innocence project just finding people that are guilty and then finding a loop hole to release them. Remember the evidence was heard by 12 of your friends and neighbors and they declared them juilty. The DA and the persons lawyer were in court-- so the judge and the jury heard both sides of the story. And remember the thing that helped OJ the most was the glove didnt fit.

  • sfo49er Jun 2, 2007

    You Watch. They'll make a movie of this by next year.

  • RonnieR Jun 2, 2007

    One thing that theyneed to check on is why did DPD take the
    case they had concurrent jurisdiction with Duke Public Safety.
    I would have let them handle it since CGM was so unreliable.

  • choppa Jun 2, 2007

    When I'm long dead my great great grandchildren will say "oh no, not another story about the Duke lacrosse case".

  • shine Jun 2, 2007

    Beat a dead horse and find out what the results are. This is really aged.

  • 1WakeCitizen Jun 1, 2007

    City of Durham - if there is any money left over when this investigation is complete - please send some to the Wake County commissioners so they can investigate that new human services director - before he runs that agency into the ground. talk about needing an investigation!!!!

  • Athena Jun 1, 2007

    Commenting on sarivers99's post - you are so right! I'm thinking, "omygosh, how did I miss that?" I wonder who should do the investigation of the investigation of the investigators? Maybe Inspector Clouseau? Also, another little tidbit: I've been looking at theinnocenceproject.org (they just freed their 200th innocent person from prison)and am amazed at how often DA's, police investigators, and crime labs have been caught in various forms of misconduct. How do they sleep at night?

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