Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, undone by flip-flopping witness statements from woman hired as a stripper and dogged by allegations that he made inflammatory statements to the media, asked Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office to appoint a special prosecutor.
The accuser in the Duke Lacrosse assault case had revised her previous statement again. She now believes that one of the former Lacrosse team players did not participate in the assault. She insisted he instead stood by and watched the other two former players, but did nothing himself. The charges of rape against the three former players accused of raping a woman at an off campus party have been dropped last month..
She identified Reade Seligmann as the player who was repeatedly urged to take part in the alleged attack. She told an investigator that he said he could not because he was getting married, the papers said. The new claims by the accuser were made in statements on December 21. In the same statement she acknowledge her inability to recollect the circumstances of her allegations as stated in March.
This lead to the decision to drop the rape charges against the three players after District Attorney Mike Nifong met with the accuser who was at the time pregnant and has since given birth to a girl earlier this month. The accuser felt she could not be certain she was raped at all. In video interview with the accuser of the Lacrosse players conducted earlier last month was sketchy at best when asked to pick the three men in a photo line up.
However, the case did not end with the dismissal of the rape charges alone, and does not end with the new recollections made by the accuser. The three players still face charges of sex crimes and kidnapping. If found guilty they each would faces as many as 25 years behind bars.
The defense team welcomed the dismal of charges signifying the lack of evidence against the accused players last month. Lawyers for Seligmann called for the immediate dropping of all charges against him in light of the accusers new claims, but that is not likely to happen if he is established to have some part in the alleged assault. It is the hope of the defense team to have the entire case thrown out, but they are preparing their clients for the possibly of going to trial just in case.
The other two accused are Colin Finnerty, 19, and the teams former Co- captain David Evans, 23, have adamantly denied the charges. David Evan graduated in May, but Reade Seligmann and Colin Finnerty were suspended at the time of the indictments in April. Finnerty and Seligmann were prohibited from enrollment in the fall semester at Duke University. Since both Seligmann and Finnerty were invited back to attend this semester at Duke to commence the term studies.
The case lacked the evidence of DNA matching or linking the three players to the stripper who attended the party of the Lacrosse players off campus home in March. Newly re-examined DNA samples obtained in December reaffirmed the non-existent presence of DNA within or externally on the accuser taken at the time of the accusations.
The fact that the case has based itself as according the District Attorney Mike Nifong taking the word of the accuser has called into question his conduct through the course of this case. Nifong is also accused of withholding DNA evidence gathered earlier on in the case. He has pursued this case without the standard presence of DNA linking the accused to the stripper. It is decision he was most criticized for.
Nifong believed that the case should move forward based on the word of the accused alone. It is this decision and the continuing changes to the accusers story that called into question the creditability of both District Attorney and accuser. Mike Nifong is said to also believe that the case will go to trial useless the accuser attends the pre-trial case and decides she is unable with all certainty to continue with her allegations.
Nifong who agreed to the calls for his replacement on the case also faces allegations of misconduct. In spite of his being forced to recuse himself, the prosecutor who drove the Dukelacrosse sexual assault case could end up losing much more than the opportunity to try a case he still believes in.
It is clear that the latest developments will no doubt alter the outcome of the trial and the events leading up to it. The one thing that is certain is that many on all sides are liable to be facing lawsuits as a result even the accuser if the trial does not conclude in her favor.
Nifong must now defend himself against ethics charges that could lead to his being stripped of his law license. Should Attorney General Roy Cooper dismiss the case against Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann – and legal experts have said there appears to be little evidence to support the charges – their families might try to sue Nifong.