DURHAM, N.C. — A woman who claims she was raped by three members of Duke University's men's lacrosse team was described as "just passed-out drunk" by one of the first police officers to see her, according to a of radio traffic released Thursday.
The conversation between the officer and a police dispatcher took place about 1:30 a.m. March 14, about five minutes after a grocery store security guard called 911 to report a woman in the parking lot who would not get out of someone else's car.
The officer gave the dispatcher the police code for an intoxicated person. When asked whether the woman needed medical help, the officer said: "She's breathing and appears to be fine. She's not in distress. She's just passed out drunk."
The black woman, a 27-year-old stripper, told police she was raped and beaten by three white men around midnight at an off-campus party thrown by Duke's lacrosse team. The racially charged allegations have led Duke to cancel the highly ranked team's season and accept the resignation of its coach.
Grand Jury Could Hear Allegations Monday
Defense attorneys representing some of the 46 lacrosse athletes, who submitted DNA samples last month to authorities, met with Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong Thursday. They believe Nifong will submit some players' names to the grand jury.
"Obviously, that means three young men who we believe didn't do anything are going to be charged with extremely serious felonies," said Durham defense attorney Kerry Sutton.
The lacrosse athletes have maintained that there was no sex and no assault at the party. DNA test results released Monday back up the denial. None of the 46 samples, defense attorneys said, matched any evidence authorities took from the victim or the house where the alleged assault happened.
Nifong, who is running for election in May, bases his belief that a crime occurred on the alleged victim's medical exam, which court documents state found injuries consistent with rape and sexual assault.
Typically, the grand jury, comprised of 18 anonymous citizens, is presented evidence by the lead investigator and only hears the prosecution's side of the case. In this situation, jurors will likely read the victim's statement, see the hospital report and view pictures of possible injuries.
The jurors must then decide whether there is enough evidence to pursue charges against the accused.
Sutton worries that all the media exposure and public protests will weigh heavily on the jurors' decision.
"Would they be swayed by seeing coverage on-air of neighborhoods up in arms and the N.C. Central campus up in arms? Does that sway them? I think they're human, and it probably would," Sutton said.
Other than a forum this week at North Carolina Central University and a district attorney candidates forum Wednesday night, Nifong has not spoken publicly about the case. He has not granted a substantive interview in more than a week, even declining to clarify remarks he made at the N.C. Central forum that left some defense attorneys confused about where the case stands.
For example, Nifong said at the forum "there was no identification of any member of that lacrosse team until last week." But it was uncler whether he was referring to a positive identification made by the alleged victim, or the release of a search warrant that included an e-mail sent by a lacrosse player, who was identified in the warrant.
Defense attorney Bill Thomas said earlier this week that Nifong's case is without merit, citing the DNA results and information that a second dancer at the party on the night in question is not backing up the rape allegation.
There has been no official word on whether Nifong intends to present the allegations Monday. His next opportunity would come two weeks later.