Duke probe still `very active'

Despite negative DNA results, prosecutor says he won't drop case

April 12, 2006|By JEFF BARKER | JEFF BARKER,SUN REPORTER

Despite a lack of DNA evidence to this point, the investigation into an alleged gang rape by three members of the Duke University men's lacrosse team "is proceeding the way a case should proceed" and isn't being dropped, the chief prosecutor said yesterday.

Durham County (N.C.) District Attorney Mike Nifong said he is still assembling and evaluating evidence in the case of a March 13 off-campus party at which an exotic dancer alleges she was raped in a bathroom by three men.

"There have been people who have said that I should have given this case up a long time ago, and there are people who have said that I should already have indicted," Nifong told a North Carolina Central University forum.

"The fact is that this case is proceeding the way a case should proceed. I am trying to determine exactly what the evidence is that we have to proceed on and to assemble that evidence before anyone is charged. I assure you by my presence here, this case is not over," Nifong said.

Defense attorneys said Monday that they had received the results of court-ordered tests showing no players' DNA on or inside the woman who alleged she was raped. The lacrosse team's captains had said in a statement two weeks ago that the DNA results would "demonstrate that these allegations are absolutely false."

But Nifong suggested that some DNA results were still outstanding. Asked at the forum by a student whether there were different types of DNA tests that can be administered, he replied that there were. Without elaborating, he added that he was still awaiting the results of some tests.

Asked about Nifong's statement afterward, Durham police spokeswoman Kammie Michael said only: "It's still a very active investigation."

Nifong said there is more to a case than DNA tests. A 1978 graduate of the University of North Carolina School of a Law, he said prosecutors have done without DNA evidence for most of the years he's been practicing.

Defense attorneys have suggested the lack of DNA matches supported their clients' innocence.

The forum, broadcast on the Internet by Durham-area network television affiliates, was hosted by North Carolina Central, a historically black institution where the alleged rape victim is a student.

The woman told police she was forced into a bathroom during a lacrosse team party on the edge of campus and raped by three men, according to police records. Police have also investigated whether the woman was subjected to racial taunts. Duke canceled the rest of the team's season and coach Mike Pressler resigned. Demonstrators have periodically rallied at or near Duke, demanding justice for the accuser.

The case has racial undertones because the woman is black and 46 of the 47 players are white.

Some students at the forum seemed impatient that the investigation seemed to be moving slowly. One questioner said she believes evidence may have been tampered with because the alleged victim was examined at a Duke medical facility that could have been trying to protect the university's image.

"Your comments ... are exactly what this case does not need right now," Nifong said. He said he could jeopardize the case by rushing forward with incomplete evidence. "I don't want to arrest the wrong person in any case," Nifong said.

The forum was also attended by North Carolina Central Chancellor James H. Ammons, Durham Mayor William V. Bell and student leaders from Duke and North Carolina Central.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.