Photos Offer Some Insight About Duke Lacrosse Team Party
Posted April 16, 2006 9:38 a.m. EDT
Updated October 14, 2007 11:37 p.m. EDT
DURHAM, N.C. — One day before possible indictments of some of Duke University men's lacrosse players, defense attorneys stood behind what they have maintained for more than a month: no sexual assault took place during a party at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. in the early-morning hours of March 14.
Attorneys have said that DNA taken from 46 lacrosse athletes failed to match DNA evidence taken from an exotic dancer who says she was raped, sodomized and beaten for 30 minutes by three team members.
In addition, defense attorneys have said that time-stamped photos taken at the party on the night in question prove their clients' innocence. For the first time Sunday, news reporters got a look at the photos, which were taken with a digital camera with an internal time stamp.
Sources said the 19 photos, taken between 11:02 p.m. and 12:41 a.m. by a person they would not identify, matched watches in the photographs.
The first photo, taken at 11:02 p.m., shows young men sitting around and drinking.
Another photo, taken at midnight, is the first picture of the two dancers, including the accuser, who were hired to dance at the party. The accuser is dressed in a pink and white negligee. Attorneys have said that although the women were given at least one drink at the party, they believe the accuser was already impaired when she arrived at the party.
Pictures taken over the next few minutes show the women on top of one another other. The photos also show what appear to be bruises on the accuser's knee. Her right shoe is off, and her press-on nails are missing. The men in the background are sitting back casually watching without much noticeable reaction.
Three minutes after they begin to dance, at 12:03 a.m., the dancers are photographed near the door. Attorneys say they are leaving the party.
More than 25 minutes later, at 12:30 a.m., the accuser is photographed again at the back of the house. She has a purse and her shoe is still missing from her right foot.
Seven minutes later, at 12:37 a.m., the alleged victim is lying on the back stairs. Attorneys have said that they believe she stumbled and fell, which caused some of her cuts and bruises. A tan spot in the photo, they believe, is her purse lying in the back yard.
At 12:41 a.m., attorneys say the accuser gets into the other dancer's car.
There is a gap in the photos from 12:03 a.m. until 12:30 a.m. in which the two dancers were not photographed. Attorneys believe the women were in a bathroom, alone.
One woman, they believe, was changing her clothes during that time, and the accuser may have been painting her fingernails. They believe that because later on, when she fell on the back stairs, there were pink marks on the stairwell.
Another photo does show the accuser about 10 minutes before she left on the stairwell with her mouth open and teeth showing. Defense attorneys say she is smiling, but she is not posing and it is difficult to determine whether she is actually smiling.
Defense attorneys said they had offered to show the pictures to District Attorney Mike Nifong, but he declined to see them.
"As I understand the exchange, as it was reported to me, the DA is not interested in a discussion about our evidence," said defense attorney Bob Ekstrand.
Nifong -- who has come under criticism for both prosecuting the case after DNA results came back negative and for not proceeding with the investigation quickly enough -- has said he believes a sexual assault did occur and that a medical examination of the alleged victim was consistent with a rape.
Just as defense attorneys have said Nifong has not seen their evidence, they do not know what happened after police drove the accuser away.
"Something happened in the interim to cause her to be admitted into the hospital later that morning," Ekstrand said. "And we should be very interested to know what it was."
At 1:22 a.m. on March 14, Durham police received a call from a security guard at a Kroger grocery store located on Hillsborough Road. The guard told the 911 dispatcher that a woman named Kim, believed to be the second dancer at the party, pulled up and was worried about her friend. The guard said the alleged victim did not smell like alcohol, but that she appeared to be drunk.
At about 1:30 a.m., a police officer who responded to the 911 call told a police dispatcher that the woman was drunk, but not in distress. It is not known, however, whether a breathalyzer or any drug tests were conducted.
Adding to the confusion, attorneys said the Kroger security guard told a private investigator for defense attorneys that the second dancer said she merely picked the woman up on the side of the road.
Community Rallies To Pray For Healing
As news reporters got a look at the photos Sunday afternoon, about 100 people gathered for a prayer vigil outside the house where the alleged rape occurred.
The case has inflamed racial tensions in the Durham community. But, although most of the audience was black, Bishop John Bennett of the Church of the Apostolic Revival International said the gathering was more about healing for the entire community.
"This is not a racial protest," Bennett told the crowd, which included people sitting on the stone wall across Buchanan Boulevard that lines Duke's East Campus. "It should not be a question of 'Where are the Afro-American churches?' The question should be, 'Where are the Christians?'"
Bennett criticized authorities for failing to make an arrest nearly a month into the case, describing a cry from the house that "has not been answered." The rally also included prayers for the alleged victim and the accused by members of Bennett's church.
"This is our neighborhood -- all of us," said John Dagenhart, a Durham resident for 28 years and the president of the Trinity Park Neighborhood Association. "This is our city. This is our university across the street, just like Central."
Charges against at least two of the lacrosse team members could come within the next week. Defense attorneys said last week that they expect Nifong to ask a grand jury for charges as early as Monday.
The question that remains for them, however, is which players will be charged.
"The only reason why anyone thinks it's possible is because the DA has said so," Ekstrand said.