Local News

Duke Lacrosse Grand Jurors Could Be Punished for Speaking Out

Posted February 7, 2007 7:13 p.m. EST
Updated February 8, 2007 12:34 p.m. EST

— Two former members of the grand jury that indicted three Duke lacrosse players could be charged with contempt for talking about the case.

This all comes as Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong faces his own State Bar trial for talking too much to the media early in the case.

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando F. Hudson Jr. said he could not believe it when he heard the two grand jurors on an ABC Television program talking about the Duke lacrosse case Tuesday morning.

"It was pretty clear to me that the jurors are in violation of North Carolina law," Hudson told WRAL on Wednesday.

Last spring, the grand jury listened to Durham detectives lay out evidence in the case in which an exotic dancer claimed to have been raped by three members of the lacrosse team during an off-campus party for which she had been hired..

Members then chose to indict Collin Finnerty, Reade Seligmann and David Evans on charges of rape, sexual assault and kidnapping. Nifong subsequently dismissed the rape charge against each of the three.

When grand jurors are sworn in, Hudson noted, they are given clear instructions regarding secrecy.

The judge called the grand jury process the most sacred in the judicial system.

"I'm thinking about doing something because it is a very serious violation of the court's orders," Hudson explained.

The judge would not talk about details about what he might do, but he said grand jurors who discuss a case can be charged with contempt of court, a  misdemeanor offense that can carry up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The two jurors did not show their faces during the interview. Hudson said that could make it difficult to identify them, but he said he could call in all the grand jurors from that session and put them under oath to find out who talked.

Last month, Nifong asked the state attorney general to take over the case, and two prosecutors from that office are now in charge.

Defense attorneys met with the prosecutors Wednesday, their second session in as many weeks after having had no meetings with Nifong. They would not disclose what was discussed.