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Partial DNA Matches Raise More Questions In Duke Lacrosse Case

Posted May 14, 2006

— Defense attorneys say no conclusive link between DNA evidence and members of the Duke lacrosse team is revealed by a second round of tests. While they consider the results definitive, what do the tests really show?

The report on the second set of DNA tests that was released to defense attorneys late Friday by District Attorney Mike Nifong showed DNA from multiple members of the lacrosse team was found on a press-on fingernail worn by the accuser -- an exotic dancer who performed at a March 13 team party in Durham -- and discarded in the bathroom.

Defense attorneys, however, said the report only contained partial matches to the players' DNA.

When a DNA test is conducted, technicians compare different segments on the DNA. A partial match means that parts of the DNA tested are too blurry to make a conclusive match, but the other parts match so perfectly that the person cannot be ruled out.

According to defense attorney Karl Knudsen, who is not connected to the Duke lacrosse case, the report establishes little.

"The actual results were a little bit unclear," Knudsen said. "There's DNA, and there's DNA. If the DNA had been semen identified to a particular player, that would conclusively establish two things. One, that there was sex, and two, that there was a particular player that participated."

But Knudsen said the DNA could be anything ranging from dandruff to saliva, and that it could be just as compatible with guilt as it is with innocence.

Defense attorneys involved in the case said that the fingernail was found in a trash can, along with cotton swabs, tissue, toilet paper and other items that would carry the DNA of people who used the bathroom.

According to defense attorneys, a key point the report makes is that the accuser had sex with another man who was not a Duke lacrosse player.

Knudsen, however, said that it could be a little less relevant to the case if the unidentified male is a person known to the accuser, because that might mean that the DNA had been there five to six days prior to the alleged incident.

Last month, a grand jury indicted sophomores Reade Seligmann, of Essex Fells, N.J., and Collin Finnerty, of Garden City, N.Y., with rape, kidnapping and sexual assault.

Nifong is expected to use the results from the second round of DNA testing as he brings his case against another Duke lacrosse player before a grand jury on Monday.


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