Local News

1 Year Later, All is Quiet in Duke Lacrosse Case

Posted March 13, 2007 3:15 p.m. EDT
Updated March 13, 2007 7:55 p.m. EDT

— Nearly a year ago, the public outcry surrounding the Duke University lacrosse sexual assault case was deafening.

Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong rarely seemed to turn down an interview. Defense attorneys for the three indicted players held impromptu news conferences on the courthouse steps. And an outraged community spoke out before a national audience.

These days though, the district attorney, the defense and the community are keeping relatively quiet.

"I think people are just ready for it to be over," Durham Mayor Bill Bell said Tuesday, on the anniversary of an off-campus party in which the accuser, a 28-year-old exotic dancer, alleged that three players locked her in a bathroom and attacked her.

The players, Reade Seligmann, 21, Collin Finnerty, 20, and David Evans, 23, were each indicted on charges of first-degree rape, sexual assault and kidnapping. All three men denied the charges -- and speaking publicly on the day of his arrest, Evans called them "fantastic lies."

Months later, Nifong dropped the rape charges after the accuser wavered in key details of her story. He later recused himself from the case, handing it over to special prosecutors with the North Carolina Attorney General's Office.

Although the legal case lingers (special prosecutors are reviewing the evidence) Bell said the city and the university have moved forward in the past year.

"I have do doubt in my mind this community is going to get through it," Bell said. "Hopefully, we'll be better for it, and hopefully there've been lessons learned."

In the past year, the number of off-campus incidents involving Duke students has dropped dramatically.

"The student leadership here was quite remarkable, reminding other students: Don't do stupid things," said John Burness, Duke's senior vice president for public affairs,

Many people who live in Trinity Park -- where the alleged sexual assault occurred in the early-morning hours of March 14 -- including Duke professor Richard Schmalbeck, say they've noticed a difference.

"There've been problems with one or two late-night noise events, but it used to be something every weekend," Schmalbeck said."It's calmed down quite a bit."

And although Duke leaders don't think this one event will define the university, they're not sure what, if any kind of lasting effect it will have.

"Ultimately, the test of the university and the way we're perceived will be 2 to 5 years from now when people look back and say, 'Did Duke do the right thing?'"