Local News

Duke Holds Public Prayer Service As Attorneys Ask For Report

Posted April 12, 2006 12:36 p.m. EDT
Updated December 9, 2006 2:30 p.m. EST

— Allegations that three Duke lacrosse athletes raped and beat an exotic dancer at a party last month were the focus of a public prayer service held on the university's campus Wednesday afternoon.

The interfaith vigil came as the public watches and waits as Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong's proceeds with the criminal investigation, despite DNA results that do not match evidence from the alleged victim.

During a public forum Tuesday on the campus of North Carolina Central University -- where the alleged victim is enrolled -- Nifong suggested that the accuser was able to identify at least one of her alleged attackers.

Defense attorneys on Wednesday asked for a copy of a photo report that details who the accuser identified as one of her attackers. Nifong sent letters to the lawyers on Wednesday, telling them he hoped to have that report to them by next week.

Nifong, who is a candidate in next month's Durham County district attorney race, however, has publicly stated that he believes some sort of sexual assault on the alleged victim did occur. The absence of DNA, he said on Tuesday, just means none was left behind, adding that was common in about 75-80 percent of all sexual assaults.

Defense attorneys representing the 46 Duke lacrosse athletes said on Monday that they hoped Nifong would consider dropping the case and that the DNA results prove that no sexual assault occurred on the night of March 13 or in the early-morning hours of March 14.

"Lab analysis will demonstrate to the public, to Mr. Nifong, to the grand jury that the accuser in this case is not telling the truth," said defense attorney Bill Thomas.

Nifong was one of five panelists at Tuesday's forum, where dozens of people expressed their concerns and opinions about the rape investigation, as well as the responses of authorities and the media.

"I have heard that there were race riots, that there were going to be race riots," said one student. "The tension is so thick you can cut the air with it. It is totally untrue."

Some people also went head-to-head with Nifong, who has come under fire for his seemingly slow response to the allegations.

"This young lady has identified the three men who have raped her," said one woman, Victoria Peterson.

"I will tell you, right now, that your information is incorrect," Nifong fired back. "And I will also tell you that your comments in this case are exactly what this case does not need right now."

The DNA that was sent to a private lab could be back within a week. There is some speculation that Nifong will submit the case to a grand jury on Monday.