15 December 2006

Bombshell update in the Duke lacrosse case...UPDATED WITH CORRECTION FROM WRAL-TV

As many of my Friends of Blog (FOB) will attest, I have (and have posted) some very strong opinions about the judicial and media roller coaster that has become the Duke University lacrosse team alleged rape case. For awhile here I was posting fairly regularly about the whole affair...until I was contacted offline from someone who claimed they were 'covering' the story and had happened across my and some other locals' blogs and wanted to incorporate our viewpoints. Initial emails were pleasant enough, but it soon became apparent that this 'journalist' (Jack Marx of the SMH and Nancy Grace from Headline News would have been proud of this one...and I've lost all respect for both after they've decided recently to be the stars of their own 'reporting') had a certain 'angle' to tell...locals (and especially my) viewpoint be damned. So I refused to correspond any longer with this person. I did, however, continue to post some updates.

I posted here at least until I read an article that incorporated (non-credited, of course) my and about 3 others' local bloggers opinions and twisted them around to 'fit a conclusion' that I did not support. After some angry (but unanswered) letters to the Editor, I realized I couldn't stop to what I consider almost total plagiarism and non-credit for my opinion. Nothing new, I know, to the web, but it's a little different if it's happening to you personally, I guess. People will believe what they want to believe (especially when it comes to race, money, and the South) in this country, and unfortunately there are far too many 'media' types these days to give the people exactly what they want...instead of questioning, clarifying or perhaps changing those beliefs. I'm not a professional journalist by any means and have never pretended to be so here, but I remember enough from my days in radio, yearbook and newspaper classes to know when someone else is being lazy and 'molding' a story, regardless of the facts, to fit a certain predetermined mindset. I, luckily, did not deal long with this person...but I know 2 others who unfortunately did. Like me, they learned that what this 'reporter' was doing was not journalism, but instead propaganda.

In the time since I last posted updates, I have had several readers ask me for any current news on the case. I have not gone into the lengthy explanation as above (in many cases, the emails were still going on so I didn't have a good 'read' on this person yet), but did refer those curious readers to sites like Raleigh's News and Observer newspaper...a local paper that has tried to keep up with the events and not overly sensationalize, and compartmentalize, events into a race, sex, and money soap opera. To get a quick recap, go to their link here. To say this whole saga...multiple DNA tests, 'unrevealed' evidence to the defense, conflicting witness statements, an attempted recall effort against District Attorney Mike Nifong, many others... has become something akin to a 1970s prime-time miniseries may be a grave understatement. Just in case anybody missed the memo: in high profile legal cases there are now always two venues...in the press and in the courts. And everybody, guilty and innocent alike, gets convicted in the court of the media.

However, breaking news this morning from local CBS affiliate WRAL-TV (Channel 5) will, I suspect, blow this whole investigation back up onto the front burner again (ed: read BOTH articles below, the afternoon update is damning of the DNA evidence handling and also has a correction to the status of the alleged victim's pregnancy). And while I'd like to think some journalists will take the professional route and not degrade this news into a 'who's the baby's daddy?' attack...after personal experience just on this humble blog, I'm pretty sure I know better.

And the drama will continue, for no other reason than it sells.

(from WRAL-TV's web site):

Duke Lacrosse Accuser Gives Birth

Posted: Dec. 14 5:56 p.m.
Updated: Today at 5:54 a.m.
Chapel Hill — WRAL's Julia Lewis has confirmed that the accuser in the Duke lacrosse case gave birth late Thursday at UNC Hospitals.

Her pregnancy had not been public knowledge until now.

When WRAL called her boyfriend's home Thursday evening, the person who answered the phone had no comment and then hung up.

The 27-year-old gave birth nine months after she alleges she was raped by three Duke University lacrosse players at a March 13 team party.

After the party, she was taken to a local hospital to be examined.

A defense attorney tells WRAL that a test taken at the hospital showed that she was not pregnant at the time of the party and that she was given emergency contraception commonly referred to as the morning-after pill.

The suspects in the case -- David Evans, 23, Collin Finnerty, 20, and Reade Seligmann, 20 -- have denied the allegations.

This week, attorneys in the case filed a motion in which they said male DNA from multiple sources was found on the accuser, but none from their clients. In another motion, they ask that the judge presiding over the case throw out the photographic lineup in which she identified the defendants, saying the IDs were the result of a "tainted procedure."

At the time of the alleged incident, the woman, a divorced mother of two, had worked for an escort service to help support her children and to pay for classes at North Carolina Central University.

* Reporter: Julia Lewis
* Web Editor: Kelly Gardner


Paternity Test Ordered in Duke Lacrosse Rape Case

Posted: Today at 9:48 a.m.
Updated: 25 minutes ago

Durham — The judge presiding over the the Duke University lacrosse rape case on Friday approved a paternity test for the three indicted players and the accuser.

WRAL confirmed Thursday that the accuser is pregnant and was admitted to a University of North Carolina hospital. WRAL also reported that she had delivered the baby Thursday night based on information from sources who have been reliable in the past. This time they were incorrect. WRAL has since learned that the accuser is not due to deliver until February.

Defense attorney Joseph Cheshire said a test taken at the hospital after the alleged rape showed that she was not pregnant at the time of the party. The attorney also said she was given emergency contraception, commonly referred to as the morning-after pill.

"It's impossible for any of these young men to have fathered that child because none of them ever touched her," Cheshire said after the court hearing.

Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong didn't oppose the paternity test, saying he has no reason to believe that any of the players is the father of the woman's child.

The paternity issue was the latest in a series of moves before a packed courtroom Friday. Players Reade Seligmann, 20, Collin Finnerty, 20, and David Evans, 23, appeared in court together for the first time and were joined by their families, lacrosse coach John Danowski, former coach Mike Pressler and scores of Duke students.

Cheshire said the players appreciated the show of support. "The joy that was in their hearts and in our hearts was palpable," he said.

The accuser's father also was in the courtroom.

The woman, a North Carolina Central University student, told police she was beaten and raped by three lacrosse players while performing as a stripper at a March 13 team party. Seligmann, Finnerty and Evans were later indicted on kidnapping and rape charges, but they have denied any wrongdoing.

Also Friday, the director of a private lab that tested DNA samples in the case testified about the testing procedures and the report the lab delivered to Nifong's office.

Defense attorneys maintain that report was incomplete. They said the full report showed DNA samples from several men were found on the woman and her underwear, but none of the genetic material matched any of the players. Their motion also said that some of the lab director's own DNA contaminated the sample.

Brian Meehan, director of DNA Security, said his lab didn't try to withhold information. He said he and Nifong agreed not to release the full report to protect the privacy of lacrosse players who weren't implicated in the case. But he acknowledged that the decision violated the lab's policies.

Cheshire criticized the DNA report, saying the partial report denied the players a chance to prove their innocence.

"They decided they would only report what was a match and wouldn't report what wasn't a match," he said. "We are extremely troubled by that."

But Nifong said he and Meehan did nothing wrong by limiting the scope of the report.

"There was no attempt to hide anything the way the report was done. If anything, we were trying to be fair to all the people who were not going to be involved in this case," he said.

Judge Osmond Smith also sealed the military and medical records of the accuser. In closed-door meeting with prosecutors and defense attorneys, Smith ruled that the defense could review the files but that the information wouldn't be made public.

Defense attorneys also asked Smith to move the trial out of Durham. They said Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong has polarized the local community with comments he made during the initial stages of the investigation.

Before any arrests were made, Nifong publicly stated that a crime had been committed. Minority groups supporting the accuser later held protest marches in Durham.

"This case, in this community, has torn it apart," defense attorney Jim Cooney said. "It will simply be impossible, if you could find an impartial jury, for that impartial jury to deliberate fairly.

"Everyone -- the accuser, these young men and the community -- are entitled to a verdict we can all have confidence in," Cooney said.

Defense attorneys also asked Smith in a motion filed this week to throw out the photographic lineup in which the accuser identified the defendants. The photo identifications of the Duke players resulted from a "tainted procedure" and were unreliable, a defense motion said.

Nifong had directed that the identification procedure use only photos of the white members of the team who were at the party and that police arrange the photos in a PowerPoint presentation for the woman to view, attorneys said. But the woman also identified players who weren't at the party.

"It's pretty clear the procedure used were flawed," Cheshire said. "There's nothing there. I think this is a false accusation, and I think this whole case ought to go away."

The next pretrial hearing in the case is scheduled for the week of Feb. 5.

Reporters: Julia Lewis, Ken Smith
Photographer: Don Ingle
Web Editor: Matthew Burns

No comments: