Defense Attorneys: DNA Testing Finds No Match in Duke Lacrosse Case

Defense Attorneys: DNA Testing Finds No Match in Duke Lacrosse Case

DURHAM, N.C.

      In the latest twist to the rape allegation that has rocked Duke University, DNA swabs taken from 46 lacrosse players failed to match evidence collected from a woman who claims she was raped at a team party, defense attorneys say.

      “No DNA from any young man tested was found anywhere on or about this woman,” defense attorney Wade Smith said Monday.

      The alleged victim, a 27-year-old student at a nearby college, told police she and another woman were hired to dance at the party. The woman told police that three men at the party dragged her into a bathroom, choked her, raped her and sodomized her. The allegations led to days of protests on and off the Duke campus.

      Authorities ordered 46 of the 47 players on Duke’s lacrosse team to submit DNA samples to investigators. Because the woman said her attackers were White, the team’s lone Black player was not tested.

      No charges have been filed in the case, but Nifong has said he believes a crime occurred at the March 13 party, and that he doesn’t necessarily need DNA evidence to prosecute.

      Attorneys for members of the lacrosse team hoped the DNA results would convince Nifong that their clients did not sexually assault the exotic dancer. According to court documents, only lacrosse team members were at the party.

      “He is a man with discretion,” Smith says of the decision facing Nifong on whether to bring charges. “He doesn’t have to do it, and we hope that he won’t.”

      Robert Archer, whose son, Breck, is a junior on the team, says that while it’s Nifong’s prerogative to pursue the case if he so chooses, it would be a waste of time.

      “I know the kids on the team, and I know they’re innocent. We knew it from the start,” Archer says.

      Court experts not connected with the Duke case cautioned that the DNA results could make prosecution difficult, but not impossible.

      There’s an old saying that the absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence,” says Peter Neufeld, co-founder and co-director of the Innocence Project.

      Neufeld, who specializes in using DNA to free wrongly convicted prisoners, says it’s still possible that the woman could have been assaulted. A doctor and forensic sexual assault nurse examined the woman and found evidence consistent with a rape having occurred, police documents show.

      Loyola University Law School professor Stan Goldman agrees that DNA evidence is not necessary to win a conviction. But he ads that Nifong would have a lot to overcome without it.

      “In this day and age, it’s the ‘CSI’ effect,” he says, referring to the popular “Crime Scene Investigation” series on TV. “If you don’t find the evidence, then maybe it’s not the guy. In ‘CSI,’ they always find the evidence.”

      Defense attorney Bill Thomas says authorities found none of the alleged victim’s DNA in the bathroom where she told police she was attacked. “Our experts tell us that being gang-raped by three men would leave DNA material to be examined,” Thomas says.

      But Neufeld disagrees: “The truth is if you speak to crime lab directors, they will tell you that in only a relatively small number of cases is there any DNA evidence.”

      Goldman says the failure to find any matching DNA evidence, is “not the end of the case, but it’s kind of damning to the prosecution case.”

      “Isn’t the absence of DNA evidence, given the way the victim has described the crime, in and of itself almost enough to raise a reasonable doubt?” asks Goldman. “That’s all the defense has to do.”

— Associated Press



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