23 October 2006

60 Minutes: Duke rape case, part 6 of 6

(CBS) A nurse who examined the accuser that night reported she was crying, complained of tenderness on her body and in her vagina, and said she also appeared emotionally traumatized. That, the D.A. has suggested, could account for the inconsistent stories she has told about that night. The nurse’s report found “diffuse edema” – or swelling – “of the vaginal walls” – which can be consistent with consensual sex, which she had recently had with her boyfriend. The only “signs of physical trauma” seen on the accuser were three small cuts on her right knee and heel, which as seen in a photograph taken at the party, she appeared to already have before she says she was raped.

Plastic fingernails the accuser was wearing that night were found in the trashcan of the bathroom where she says the rape occurred. DNA that could belong to David Evans – but is not an exact match – was found on those nails. Not a surprise, says Evans, because the trashcan was in his bathroom and was filled with tissues and other items containing his DNA.

In the days and weeks after the attack the accuser went back to the hospital complaining of neck, back and knee pain she claimed was caused by the rape. 60 Minutes obtained a video of her dancing at a strip club two weeks after the alleged attack. The club manager told 60 Minutes that she had consistently performed her routine normally.

The rape allegations still hang heavily over Duke University where, for the past seven months, its new President Richard Brodhead has been trying to heal divisions on campus and in the community. Every move he has made has been scrutinized, including his decision early on to cancel the lacrosse season and fire the coach. He’s also been criticized for not doing enough in the face of protests from students and faculty who presumed the lacrosse team to be guilty.

"From our point of view, this was an evening of highly unacceptable behavior whether or not the rape took place," says Brodhead.

"Were you at all concerned that your students and some members of your faculty were engaged in a rush to judgment? And that their actions might actually throw fuel on the fire?" Bradley asks.

"We had public officials speaking as if it was almost a certainty that this thing had happened," Brodhead replies. "These charges engaged people’s deepest fears, deepest anxieties, and dreads."

Brodhead formed a commission to investigate the behavior of the lacrosse team over the past five years, and he appointed Professor James Coleman to head it.

Coleman found that while many of the players drank alcohol excessively, they had no history of violent or racist behavior. Professor Coleman believes that the three indicted players are victims in this case – victims of an overzealous prosecutor who pandered to the black community in the middle of an election campaign.

"I think that he pandered to the community by saying 'I'm gonna go out there and defend your interests in seeing that these hooligans who committed the crime are prosecuted. I'm not gonna let their fathers, with all of their money, buy you know big-time lawyers and get them off. I'm doing this for you.' You know, what are you to conclude about a prosecutor who says to you, 'I'll do whatever it takes to get this set of defendants?' What does it say about what he's willing to do to get poor black defendants," Coleman asks.

Asked if he thinks the D.A. committed prosecutorial misconduct, Coleman says, "Yes, I mean I think that’s the whole point. And if this case resulted in a conviction, I think there would be a basis to have the conviction overturned based on his conduct. I think in this case, it appears that this prosecutor has set out to develop whatever evidence he could to convict people he already concluded were guilty."

Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans are expected to go on trial next spring. In declaring his innocence, Evans also told us he is haunted by his decision to host a party with alcohol and strippers.

"I was na├»ve, I was young, I was sheltered. And I made a terrible judgment," Evans says. "In five months I’ve learned more than I did in 22 years about life."

"It’s changed my life forever, no matter what happens from here on out. It’s probably gonna be something that defines me my whole life," Finnerty tells Bradley.

"You ever look back on that night and think 'Maybe I should have done something differently?'" Bradley asks Seligmann.

"No," he replies. "Not go to the party? I did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong."

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