Local News

2006 Top Newsmakers: Duke Lacrosse Investigation

Posted December 26, 2006 1:51 p.m. EST
Updated December 26, 2006 2:55 p.m. EST

— (April 17) Allegations from a black exotic dancer that she was gang-raped by three white Duke University lacrosse players in March launched the issues of race, privilege, politics and ethics in Durham into the national spotlight.

Three players, David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, were indicted in the months following the allegations but have asserted their innocence through their attorneys, personal statements and national television interviews.

The accusations have essentially polarized the Durham community, prompting defense attorneys to question whether the defendants would be able to receive a fair trial.

Also at issue is Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong. He has come under criticism for the way he has handled the case, as well as his motives for personally prosecuting the case -- the first since he was appointed district attorney in April 2005 -- during an election year. He was elected to the office Nov. 7.

In late December, Nifong dropped rape charges against the defendants, saying he did not have enough evidence to proceed with a rape case but said he plans to take them to trial on first-degree kidnapping and first-degree sexual offense charges.

Amidst mounting local and national scrutiny, Nifong has said he believes a sexual assault did occur and that he believes he can fairly prosecute the case, which could go to trial as early as Spring 2007.