Local News

Duke Lacrosse Hearings Stayed Until May 7

Posted January 30, 2007 11:54 a.m. EST
Updated January 30, 2007 7:59 p.m. EST

— Court hearings for the Duke lacrosse case were stayed until May after defense attorneys met Tuesday with the judge and the new prosecutors assigned to the case.

Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith postponed a critical hearing, scheduled for Feb. 5, until May 7. During that hearing, the accuser was expected to testify, and defense attorneys were planning to ask Smith to throw out her photo identification of the defendants.

The meeting, which lasted two hours, was the first time the two sides have met to discuss the case.

After the meeting, defense attorneys Joe Cheshire and Wade Smith said the discussion went well and that they look forward to working with the new prosecutors.

"We are very excited to have professional prosecutors who are willing to sit down and engage us in conversation, who are willing to fairly look at the case," Cheshire said. "That's all we have asked for since the very beginning, so we are excited that we are engaged in the professional process."

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper appointed Mary Winstead and James Coman to the case after Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong asked for a special prosecutor in the case.

Nifong's decision to recuse himself came more than two weeks after the North Carolina State Bar filed an ethics complaint citing dozens of pretrial comments the district attorney made to the media early in the case.

Earlier this month, the State Bar amended its complaint, accusing Nifong of withholding exculpatory evidence and misrepresenting the truth to the judge in the case.

Prosecutors declined to comment on the case Tuesday, but Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a written statement that they would use the time until May to continue reviewing the case.

Reade Seligmann, 20, Collin Finnerty, 20, and David Evans, 23, face first-degree sexual assault and kidnapping charges stemming from an exotic dancer's allegations that she was assaulted by them at an off-campus party in March.

Last month, Nifong dropped rape charges against the three men after the accuser wavered in her account of key details in the case. All three men have strongly proclaimed their innocence.