Local News

New Prosecution Approaches Lacrosse Case Differently

Posted March 23, 2007 6:39 p.m. EDT
Updated March 23, 2007 7:32 p.m. EDT

— Special prosecutors with the North Carolina Attorney General's Office have taken many steps in the Duke lacrosse sexual assault investigation that Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong never did in his nine-month handling of the case.

They have poured over the evidence -- nearly 6,000 pages of documents and dozens of interviews -- for two months now. And unlike Nifong and defense attorneys associated with case, James Coman and Mary Winstead have not spoken to the media, but have chosen to meet privately with defense attorneys.

When a decision on whether to proceed with the case will come is not publicly known, but some family members of the accused -- David Evans, Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty -- have told other media outlets they believe a decision could come sometime next week.

The attorney general's office, however, will only say prosecutors are in the final stages of reviewing the investigation.

But where does the case stand, and are the actions of the special prosecutors -- James Coman and Mary Winstead -- typical?

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill law professor Joseph Kennedy says yes.

"In a high-profile investigation like this, they assume the very first action on the case will be seriously scrutinized," he said.

Sources tell WRAL that special prosecutors spent this week wrapping up interviews with several lacrosse players not charged in the case. In the past week, sources say they have also talked to the sexual assault nurse who first examined the accuser and they toured the house at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd.

Presumably, the defense has presented its evidence and the alibis of the accused -- such as defendants' cell phone records and ATM photos of Seligmann, which his attorneys say were taken during the time the accuser said she was attacked.

Defense attorneys say those types of meetings never happened with Nifong.

The special prosecutors met with him in early February. After that, they interviewed the accuser and have questioned her at least twice in the past month.

Kennedy said that with the case based on her testimony, multiple meetings is not unusual.

"Given some of the questions raised about the accuser's story, they're probably trying to resolve any sort of ambiguity or contradictions," he said. "And secondly, make an overall determination if the person would come across credible in the courtroom."