Local News

Durham PD: Photo Lineup Wasn't Meant to ID Defendants

Posted May 11, 2007 7:16 a.m. EDT
Updated May 12, 2007 9:45 a.m. EDT

— A report by the Durham Police Department found no wrongdoing by investigators in the Duke lacrosse case and addressed, in detail, a photo lineup in which the accuser identified her alleged attackers.

The report comes exactly one month after North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper threw out the case against former Duke University lacrosse players David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann and declared them innocent.

For more than a year, the three stood accused of raping and sexually assaulting an exotic dancer, Crystal Gail Mangum, during a March 13, 2006, lacrosse party.

The report said that Durham police worked with Mangum on six prior lineups according to police procedure -- none in which she identified any of her alleged attackers.

The intent of the April 4, 2006, lineup was not to have Mangum identify her alleged attackers but to help her recall who was at the party, according to the report. Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, the report said, suggested showing Mangum all the photographs.

"Given the ultimate use of the results of showing the witness those pictures on that day, we regret the inadvertent creation of the opportunity to perpetuate false charges against these individuals," Durham City Manager Patrick Baker wrote in a letter to Mayor Bill Bell and the City Council.

"The process was a flawed process," Baker told WRAL.

Evans' attorney, Brad Bannon, criticized the police department's finding, calling it "the ultimate dichotomy."

"They're saying: 'We really weren't using this to develop information to charge people, but we used this as the only information to charge people,'" he said. "It really begs an independent inquiry. Someone outside the Durham Police Department needs to investigate the Durham Police Department's handling of this case.

"Everyone who has touched this case has said that it was wrong from beginning to end, but there's no one held accountable for it being wrong. So, how can it be wrong and no one be wrong?"

Baker told WRAL that he doesn't think an outside investigation is necessary. He also said he was not concerned about a possible lawsuit against the city, even though other City Council members expressed that concern to WRAL.

The police department report also addresses two other concerns: the roles and responsibilities of the department and investigators' efforts to uncover exculpatory evidence.

Nifong was not in control of investigating the case, and police worked with prosecutors and independently to collect evidence, the report said.

"We were in charge of investigation -- both when we worked with the district attorney's office and when we were assisting the special prosecutors in their case," Baker said.

In part, the police department's efforts to gather evidence from the defense was hampered because of Nifong's relationship with defense attorneys, the report said. It suggested that, had there been a better relationship, the case would have been resolved much quicker.

The relationship, Baker wrote, "was not conducive to an efficient and thorough review of the facts of this case."

"What strikes me is how efficiently the defense team and the special prosecutors worked once the case got over to the Attorney General's Office," Baker told WRAL. "It seemed like there was a single-minded attention to getting to justice as quickly as possible."

Before Nifong recused himself from the case in January, defense attorneys routinely complained the DA was unwilling to consider evidence they said proved their clients were innocent.

Baker said the defense made no such offer to police.

"While I have seen media accounts suggesting the defense counsel made numerous attempts to present the district attorney with their exculpatory evidence, no such attempt was made … to present this information to the Durham Police Department despite numerous requests and opportunities to do so," he wrote.

Seligmann's attorney, James Cooney, said Friday that the claims were "simply not true."

"Seligmann provided an alibi in writing to the police and had evidence to back it up," he said. "Dave Evans had time-stamped photos of the dancer at the home that night that also backed Seligmann’s alibi. Also, there was DNA from 46 players.”

Bannon, who uncovered the fact that none of the DNA evidence matched any member of the Duke lacrosse team, also disputed Baker's position that defense attorneys provided no exculpatory evidence.

"It's not the failure of the defense attorney to provide information to the state. It's the failure of the state to investigate Crystal Mangum or her background," he said.

Other defense attorneys involved in the case were not immediately available for comment. Duke University also had no comment.

Nifong was unavailable for comment because he was on vacation, his assistant Candy Clark told The Associated Press. But his attorney, David Freedman, said, "I don't read this report to be critical of Mr. Nifong."

In April, Cooper portrayed Nifong as a “rogue” prosecutor guilty of “overreaching” and that he rushed the case, failed to verify Mangum's allegations and pressed on despite the warning signs.

Next month, Nifong will stand trial on North Carolina State Bar ethics charges that he tried to withhold exculpatory DNA evidence from the defense and that he made damaging statements to the media about the defendants.

If he's found to have violated ethics rules, he could be disbarred.