21 October 2006

60 Minutes: Duke rape case, part 4 of 6

(CBS) Roberts says the three indicted players never used racial epithets. The three players fear they will be punished unfairly for the sins of some of their teammates.

"If that comment was said, it's disgusting. And there's no way I can defend that. You know, that's a horrible thing for anyone to say. It's just, I couldn't even imagine saying it and, I'm not gonna be accountable for, you know, another person's, you know, unbelievably horrible remarks. I won't. I won't, you know, accept responsibility for that, 'cause I would never do it myself," Seligmann says.

Seligmann says he also won’t accept responsibility for a rape he didn’t commit. And he says he can prove it.

Faced with a claim from a black woman that she had been brutally attacked and sexually assaulted at a party of white Duke lacrosse players, the Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, in the midst of a tough election campaign, aggressively moved to build his case. Evidence was collected, there were tests and photo lineups and three players who were at the party were indicted. Many people at Duke, in Durham and around the country were quick to judge the players, believing that the team was covering up a crime.

But based on 60 Minutes' six-month review of the case file, it appears that standard police procedures were violated and evidence disregarded – evidence that may have pointed toward the players’ innocence.

From the beginning, David Evans says he did everything he could to cooperate with authorities – starting soon after the party when Durham police turned up at his house with a search warrant and rousted him from his sleep.

"It was scary. I woke up from a nap to ten police officers in my living room with a search warrant," he recalls. "As they read the search warrant I went through every part of it – told 'em where they could find things and that we'd fully cooperate and answer any questions they had."

Asked what he thought would happen next, Evans says, "I'd done everything that I thought I could do. I put my faith in the legal system and told them what happened. I gave my statement. I offered to take a polygraph, I gave my DNA over. I don't know what else I could do."

Still, investigators believed the entire lacrosse team had something to hide. So, the district attorney’s office asked a judge to order all 46 white players to provide their DNA – there was one black player on the team. Prosecutors promised it would “immediately rule out any innocent persons and show conclusive evidence as to who the suspects” were.

Collin Finnerty says the players were happy to oblige and says they weren't nervous.

"I mean, we were kinda, I mean, shocked by the fact that we – that we had to actually go to a police station to give DNA. But everyone – we were told it would help to clear everything up. So we were happy to go," Finnerty explains.

They were even happier when the results came back: there was no match. No DNA from any member of the lacrosse team was found on or inside the accuser or on her clothing. Reade Seligmann thought the case would now be closed, but he was wrong.

"It’s so frustrating because that was an opportunity for us to exonerate ourselves, and we were told that," he says. "We trusted that you know if we cooperated, we would, you know, those that were innocent would be shown to be innocent. And that's just, it didn't play out that way."

District Attorney Mike Nifong, who had declared that DNA would be the crux of his case, played down the results, speculating that the absence of DNA meant that the attackers may have used condoms, although the accuser had already stated that there were “no condoms used”, and that at least one of her three attackers had ejaculated inside her. Although it was a major setback for his case, the D.A. said he was undeterred.

"For most of the years I’ve been doing this we didn’t have DNA. We had to deal with sexual assault cases the good old-fashioned way – witnesses got on the stand and told what happened to them," Nifong stated.

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