Local News

Paternity Test Ordered in Duke Lacrosse Rape Case

Posted December 15, 2006 9:48 a.m. EST
Updated December 16, 2006 2:21 a.m. EST

— The judge presiding over the the Duke University lacrosse rape case on Friday approved a paternity test for the three indicted players and the accuser.

WRAL confirmed Thursday that the accuser is pregnant and was admitted to a University of North Carolina hospital. WRAL also reported that she had delivered the baby Thursday night based on information from sources who have been reliable in the past. This time they were incorrect. WRAL has since learned that the accuser is not due to deliver until February.

Defense attorney Joseph Cheshire said a test taken at the hospital after the alleged rape showed that she was not pregnant at the time of the party. The attorney also said she was given emergency contraception, commonly referred to as the morning-after pill.

"It's impossible for any of these young men to have fathered that child because none of them ever touched her," Cheshire said after the court hearing.

Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong didn't oppose the paternity test, saying he has no reason to believe that any of the players is the father of the woman's child.

The paternity issue was the latest in a series of moves before a packed courtroom Friday. Players Reade Seligmann, 20, Collin Finnerty, 20, and David Evans, 23, appeared in court together for the first time and were joined by their families, lacrosse coach John Danowski, former coach Mike Pressler and scores of Duke students.

Cheshire said the players appreciated the show of support. "The joy that was in their hearts and in our hearts was palpable," he said.

The defendants said nothing as they made their way through a crowd of news media. Kevin Finnerty, however, said his son needed to be there.

"He's a big boy. These are serious charges. He's interested to be here," Finnerty said.

The accuser's father also was in the courtroom, but he did not make any comments.

The woman, a North Carolina Central University student, told police she was beaten and raped by three lacrosse players while performing as a stripper at a March 13 team party. Seligmann, Finnerty and Evans were later indicted on kidnapping and rape charges, but they have denied any wrongdoing.

Also Friday, the director of a private lab that tested DNA samples in the case testified about the testing procedures and the report the lab delivered to Nifong's office.

Defense attorneys maintain that report was incomplete. They said the full report showed DNA samples from several men were found on the woman and her underwear, but none of the genetic material matched any of the players. Their motion also said that some of the lab director's own DNA contaminated the sample.

Brian Meehan, director of DNA Security, said his lab didn't try to withhold information. He said he and Nifong agreed not to release the full report to protect the privacy of lacrosse players who weren't implicated in the case. But he acknowledged that the decision violated the lab's policies.

Cheshire criticized the DNA report, saying the partial report denied the players a chance to prove their innocence.

"They decided they would only report what was a match and wouldn't report what wasn't a match," he said. "We are extremely troubled by that."

But Nifong said he and Meehan did nothing wrong by limiting the scope of the report.

"There was no attempt to hide anything the way the report was done. If anything, we were trying to be fair to all the people who were not going to be involved in this case," he said.

Judge Osmond Smith also sealed the military and medical records of the accuser. In closed-door meeting with prosecutors and defense attorneys, Smith ruled that the defense could review the files but that the information wouldn't be made public.

Defense attorneys also asked Smith to move the trial out of Durham. They said Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong has polarized the local community with comments he made during the initial stages of the investigation.

Before any arrests were made, Nifong publicly stated that a crime had been committed. Minority groups supporting the accuser later held protest marches in Durham.

"This case, in this community, has torn it apart," defense attorney Jim Cooney said. "It will simply be impossible, if you could find an impartial jury, for that impartial jury to deliberate fairly.

"Everyone -- the accuser, these young men and the community -- are entitled to a verdict we can all have confidence in," Cooney said.

Defense attorneys also asked Smith in a motion filed this week to throw out the photographic lineup in which the accuser identified the defendants. The photo identifications of the Duke players resulted from a "tainted procedure" and were unreliable, a defense motion said.

Nifong had directed that the identification procedure use only photos of the white members of the team who were at the party and that police arrange the photos in a PowerPoint presentation for the woman to view, attorneys said. But the woman also identified players who weren't at the party.

"It's pretty clear the procedure used were flawed," Cheshire said. "There's nothing there. I think this is a false accusation, and I think this whole case ought to go away."

The next pretrial hearing in the case is scheduled for the week of Feb. 5.