Local News

Initial DNA Test Results May Not Tell Whole Story, DA Says

Posted May 3, 2006
Updated December 9, 2006

— Within the next couple of weeks, a second set of DNA test results could be back and a third Duke lacrosse player could be indicted in connection with rape allegations made by an exotic dancer, Mike Nifong said on Wednesday.

One day after he held off opponents in the Democratic primary election to remain district attorney, it was back to business for Durham County's lead prosecutor.

Nifong has been at the center of a media storm surrounding allegations that the 27-year-old woman was raped and beaten by three members of Duke University's men's lacrosse team at a party in March.

Members of the Durham community, as well as defense attorneys representing lacrosse players, have criticized Nifong, saying he spoke too soon and too publicly about key facts in the investigation, and that he was pushing the investigation forward for political gain.

In recent weeks, however, Nifong has remained relatively silent about the investigation, but told WRAL on Wednesday that he feels as strongly about prosecuting the case now as he did when the allegations were first made.

"I'm confident a sexual assault took place in that house," Nifong said, echoing a statement he made earlier on in the investigation. "If I didn't believe her, then I would not be basing any of my decisions on what she said."

Last month, defense attorneys publicly stated that DNA samples taken from 46 Duke lacrosse athletes cleared the players, but Nifong hinted on Wednesday that there may be more to the DNA tests than defense attorneys are sharing.

"My guess is that there are many questions that many people are asking that they would not be asking if they saw the results," Nifong said.

WRAL has asked defense attorneys to share information on the DNA results, but they have declined the request. Nifong cannot release the DNA results because doing so would be against state policy, he said.

"They're not things that the defense releases unless they unquestionably support their positions," Nifong said. "So, the fact that they're making statements about what the reports are saying, and not actually showing the reports, should in and of itself raise some red flags."

Shortly after Nifong received the DNA test results from the State Bureau of Investigation, he ordered a second set of more sophisticated tests at a private laboratory because the SBI crime lab is not certified to perform them. Nifong said on Wednesday that the tests were ordered because the SBI suggested them.

Nifong also spoke of reaction to the case, saying much of what has been published has been negative. He said much of that reaction is not based on fact and pointed to details of recent legal filings filed by defense attorney Kirk Osborn.

"By leaking things out like this, they can keep the case in the headlines -- see all these trucks that are still around here waiting for something to happen -- and kind of frame the case their own way," Nifong said. "And say things like, 'according to my timeline' -- which of course, they don't know what my timeline is."

Last week, Osborn -- who represents Reade Seligmann, one of two players charged with rape -- filed paperwork with the court in an attempt to discredit the accuser's story by saying she has a history of reporting sexual violence without following through on the claims.

Last week, reports surfaced that the dancer reported, in 1996, that she had been gang-raped by three other men. No charges were filed, however, and the case was not pursued.

And on Monday, Osborn filed several motions, including one that called for Nifong to recuse himself from the case. Osborn wrote that Nifong has ignored facts that will clear Seligmann, such as time-stamped photos of the party, cell phone records and ATM surveillance photos.

Osborn also charged that the photo lineup that the accuser used to identify Seligmann, 20, as well as Collin Finnerty, 19, was unconstitutional and that Nifong encouraged Durham police to violate departmental policy regarding the lineups.

Osborn wants the lineup suppressed if the rape case goes to trial, which, according to Nifong could be as early as the fall. He said, however, with all the motions that are expected to be filed in the case, an actual trial date could be next spring.

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