Duke team has gone 'from hell and back'
April 11: Former Duke lacrosse player David Evans says that the team has “gone from hell and back,” during a news conference, after it was announced that all charges were dropped in the rape case.
Evans, Seligmann and Finnerty were indicted last spring on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual offense after the woman told police she was assaulted in the bathroom at an off-campus house during a March 2006 team party where she had been hired to perform. Nifong dropped the rape charges in December after the accuser said she was no longer certain she had been penetrated.
Cooper offered no explanation for why the woman told such a story and would not discuss her mental health. However, he said no charges will be brought against her, saying she “may actually believe” the many different stories she told.
“We believe it is in the best interest of justice not to bring charges,” he said.
The accuser’s whereabouts were not immediately known. The Associated Press generally does not identify accusers in sex-crime cases.
Seligmann thanked his lawyers for sparing him from 30 years in prison for a “hoax” and complained that society has lost sight of the presumption of innocence.
“This entire experience has opened my eyes up to a tragic world of injustice,” he said.
Finnerty’s attorney, Wade Smith, told CBS Thursday that television reporter Ed Bradley’s interview with the players on “60 Minutes” had helped the world see the three as human beings. Others criticized the media for not pressing Nifong for evidence.
Nifong withdrew from the case in January after the North Carolina bar charged him with making misleading and inflammatory comments to the media about the athletes under suspicion. The bar later added more serious charges of withholding evidence from defense attorneys and lying to the court.
Among other things, Nifong called the athletes “a bunch of hooligans” and declared DNA evidence would identify the guilty. He was also accused of withholding the results of lab tests that found DNA from several men — none of them lacrosse team members — on the accuser’s underwear and body.
Portraying Nifong as a “rogue prosecutor,” Cooper called for the passage of a law that would allow the North Carolina Supreme Court to remove a district attorney where justice demands it. He declined to say whether he believes Nifong should be disbarred.
When asked about the prospect of filing some sort of civil suit against Nifong, defense attorneys didn’t rule it out.
“There’s almost always been almost absolute immunity for anything a prosecutor says in court,” said Stan Goldman, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “Those rules are usually off the table when we’re talking about faking evidence or conspiring to hide evidence.”
Duke suspended Seligmann, 21, of Essex Fells, N.J., and Finnerty, 20, of Garden City, N.Y., after their arrest. Both were invited to return to campus this year, but neither accepted. Evans, 24, of Bethesda, Md., graduated the day before he was indicted in May.
Former Duke lacrosse coach Mike Pressler, who resigned under fire and is now lacrosse coach at Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., said he was convinced early on that his former players were innocent.
“Two days after this happened, I knew what the truth was,” he said. “When you say you believe in somebody, when you say you believe the truth, you stand by them.”
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'A tragic rush to accuse'
April 11: North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper drops the case against 3 ex-Duke lacrosse players accused of sexual assault.
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