Local News

DA's Handling of Duke Rape Case Attracts More Criticism

Posted December 18, 2006 5:36 p.m. EST
Updated December 18, 2006 9:43 p.m. EST

— A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill law professor said Monday he also believes there should be an investigation of Mike Nifong's management of the Duke lacrosse rape investigation.

"I think the best course of action, at this moment, is for Mike Nifong to remove himself from this case or for him to be removed," said University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill law professor Joe Kennedy.

The statement comes after Rep. Walter Jones, R-North Carolina, last week, sent a letter to the Department of Justice asking for a federal investigation into possible prosecutorial misconduct and to determine whether the defendants' civil rights were violated.

Kennedy said that Jones' request seemed overblown to him until allegations later arose that Nifong and a lab director purposely withheld DNA results showing none of the charged players' DNA was found on or in the accuser's body.

He said the allegations create a serious conflict of interest.

"I think his actions with respect to nondisclosure of this DNA information needs to be investigated," Kennedy said.

Nifong denied that he tried to hide anything and told WRAL Monday that he is not concerned about the mounting criticism of him. He said he thinks he can fairly prosecute the case.

According to Garry Frank, president of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, however, other district attorneys have also expressed concerns about Nifong's conduct.

"It's premature to comment while the court is still contemplating," Frank said. "I think the conference will address this at some point."

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Sunday that a Nifong probe is possible but declined to comment any further on the matter.

On Monday, Duke University President Richard Brodhead said that the case "will be on trial just as much" as the defendants.

In a statement released by the university, Brodhead said the defendants should be presumed innocent as the case pushes toward a possible spring trial date.

It was the latest blow to Nifong's case against Reade Seligmann, 20, Collin Finnerty, 20, and David Evans, 23 -- whose lawyers have maintained their innocence since they were indicted in the spring on charges of rape, sexual assault and kidnapping.

"As I told Ed Bradley during a '60 Minutes' interview last summer, given the concerns that have been raised, when it goes before a judge and jury the DA's case will be on trial just as much as our students will be," Brodhead said. "In the meanwhile, as I have said before, our students must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise."