Local News

Judge: Defense Polling OK In Duke Lacrosse Case

Posted October 13, 2006 10:37 a.m. EDT
Updated January 7, 2007 11:22 a.m. EST

— A judge on Friday refused to force attorneys representing three Duke University lacrosse players on rape charges to turn over the results of a poll of Durham residents.

Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong had filed a motion last month calling for an immediate stop to telephone surveys of potential jurors and labeling the questions a "thinly disguised attempt to influence the opinions of respondents."

Nifong said he became aware of the poll after his wife was called by an opinion-research firm that wanted to gauge her attitudes about the Duke case.

A 27-year-old woman has told police that she was beaten and raped by three Duke lacrosse players on March 13 while she was performing as a stripper at an off-campus team party.

Juniors Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty and 2006 graduate Dave Evans have been charged with kidnapping and rape in the case. They have denied any wrongdoing and plan to tell their side of the story to "60 Minutes" correspondent Ed Bradley.

The show will air at 7 p.m. Sunday on WRAL.

Judge Osmond Smith said any phone surveys conducted by the defense were designed to help develop a trial strategy and were privileged information that attorneys don't have to turn over to Nifong.

"The questions do not appear to be designed to influence the opinions of the respondents, but more to determine what the opinions are, or would be, under a given set of circumstances," Smith wrote. "The effects and influences exposed or created by the polling can be dealt with readily and appropriately in jury selection, just as in dealing with any other matters of pre-trial publicity."