The Duke University
Gang Rape Scandal
In the un-humbled opinion of one, Poetic Justice...
In a case that has ignited campus protests and stirred racial tension in Durham, North Carolina,
a woman has accused several students of gang rape. The woman is Black. The men she accuses are White. She is a student at N.C. Central University, a historically Black college near Durham's inner city -- the accused attend school on the prestigious private campus of Duke University.
On the night of March 13th, 2006, the 27-year-old woman, who had been hired as an exotic dancer at a lacrosse team party, told police that three of the men beat, choked and raped her in the bathroom at the house. All of the team members strongly denied the allegations.
Mike Nifong, Durham's District Attorney, is confident that a rape occurred, and he's certain it was a racially motivated crime. "The circumstances of the rape indicated a deep racial motivation for some of the things that were done," said Mr. Nifong. "It makes a crime that is by its nature one of the most offensive and invasive -- even more so."
During several media interviews, Nifong claimed that the 46 members of the No. 2 ranked team were "united in silence" and had refused to talk with investigators. He got a judge to order DNA samples from every White Duke lacrosse player to determine who the rapists were. As for those players guilty of adhering to a code of silence, Nifong warned he might bring aiding-and-abetting charges.
On April 5, lacrosse coach, Mike Pressler resigned. Duke President Richard Brodhead suspended the team until an investigation into the rape allegations is complete. It likely never will be. The question of who was to blame for the gang rape has transformed into a question of whether it took place at all.
An emergency room physician and a sexual assault nurse specialist examined the woman on the night of the incident and medical records and interviews that the police obtained by subpoena showed the woman had injuries consistent with being raped and sexually assaulted, according to The New York Times.
Police took DNA samples with a cheek swab from 46 of the lacrosse team's 47 players. The 47th player, the only black member of the team, did not have to provide DNA because the dancer said her attackers were white.
The initial DNA tests came back negative. According to defense attorneys, the tests failed to link any of the players to the alleged incident. None of the men's DNA was found on the woman's body, her clothing or belongings.
"This test clears these young men conclusively," Durham lawyer Bill Thomas said. "It is our hope that none of these young men will have to face criminal charges resulting from these allegations."
Defense attorneys say a second woman, also Black and also hired out of a "dance service," will support the team member's version of events that no rape took place during the off-campus party.
The lacrosse team's lawyers additionally have photographs they say will show that the accuser had cuts, bruises and other injuries when she arrived at the house party, and that time-stamped photos taken on the night of the alleged rape provide further evidence exonerating the Blue Devils.
Reportedly, in one picture, the dancer is seen trying to get back into the house after the alleged gang rape and beating took place.
Susannah Meadows and Evan Thomas
The following is a description of each of the 19 photos that sources close to defense attorneys showed to reporter Kelcey Carlson of Durham's CBS affiliate, WRAL.
11:02:36 p.m. Men are sitting around the house. Many have plastic cups in their hands.
11:08:28 p.m. Men throw their arms in the air as if they are cheering and posing for the camera.
11:09:25 p.m. A closer picture of a few men posing for the camera.
12:00:12 a.m. The first picture of the dancers. The accuser, wearing pink and white lace lingerie, is lying face down on the floor.
12:00:21 a.m. The accuser and the second dancer are dancing together.
12:00:29 a.m. Dancers are performing. The accuser has what looks like bruising on her knees. Her right shoe is missing from her foot. It can be seen in the background.
12:00:40 a.m. The two dancers are performing. A crowd of about 15 men is visible in the photo. The men are sitting on couches. They are not showing much reaction.
12:02:16 a.m. The accuser is on top of the second dancer. The accuser's right thumbnail does not have a fingernail or polish on it. Her right pinky nail also does not have a nail. The men are smiling. The dancers are smiling.
12:02:46 a.m. A young man, who appears to be passed out, sitting in a chair.
12:03:57 a.m. The dancers by the door. The accuser's right shoe is on the floor. The men in the room are sitting.
12:10:39 a.m. A young man passed out. His shorts are slightly pulled down.
12:30:12 a.m. The accuser is on the back steps of the house, alone. Her right shoe is off. She has a purse.
12:30:34 a.m. The accuser is still on the back steps of the house.
12:30:34 a.m. The accuser is still on the back steps of the house.
12:30:47 a.m. The accuser is on the stairwell of the back steps. Her mouth is open and her teeth are showing.
12:37:58 a.m. The accuser is lying on her back on the back stairs. She has a cut on her right foot. She has cuts on her right butt cheek. The stair rail has pink spots on it.
12:38:07 a.m. The accuser is lying on the back steps. A tan object can be seen in the background.
12:38:18 a.m. The accuser is still on the ground.
12:41:32 a.m. The accuser is seen getting into a black Honda Accord.
According to the application for a search warrant, the woman recalls being "hit, kicked and strangled. … She tried to defend herself, but was overpowered." She reportedly claimed she had been raped and sodomized for long as 30 minutes inside a bathroom at 610 North Buchanan.
Defense attorneys said they had offered to show the pictures to District Attorney Mike Nifong, but he declined to see them. "As I understand the exchange, as it was reported to me, the DA is not interested in a discussion about our evidence," said defense attorney Bob Ekstrand.
"Something happened in the interim to cause her to be admitted into the hospital later that morning," Ekstrand said. "And we should be very interested to know what it was."
Second dancer ("Kim") calls 9-1-1 at 12:53 AM. on March 14
about someone shouting a racial slur in front of 610 N. Buchanan Blvd.
Security guard at Kroger on Hillsborough Road calls 9-1-1 at 1:22 AM.
on March 14 responding to "Kim's" complaint about the other dancer.
May 1, 2006
The detectives at Essence Magazine brought to light a 1996 rape allegation made by the very same accuser in the Duke case. Prosecutor Nifong apparently had no clue about any of this and was blindsided by the news.
The shocking report details a kidnapping and 3-man gang rape which supposedly happened in 1993 outside of Durham in Creedmoor, when the woman was 14 years old. No charges were ever filed. In fact, beyond the woman's allegations, Creedmoor police have no record of it.
And then in 1998, the Duke accuser went to police to file yet more astounding charges. In the '98 report, she accused her then-husband of kidnapping her, taking her into the woods and threatening to kill her. She later failed to appear at a court hearing on the complaint. It was dismissed.
From Essence Magazine, April 24, 2006:
The mother of the alleged victim told ESSENCE magazine that her daughter did go away to a hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina, for about a week last year, where she was treated for a “nervous breakdown.” While the accuser’s parents did not say they knew what brought on the breakdown, they did say that their daughter was upset about mounting bills.
The mother also told ESSENCE that when her daughter was 17 or 18, she was raped by several men, one of whom was someone she knew. The attack took place in the town of Creedmoor, about 15 miles northeast of Durham, and was a “set up,” according to the accuser’s mother. Although other family members confirmed that the alleged victim reported the incident to police in that jurisdiction, the young woman declined to pursue the case, relatives say out of fear for her safety.
. . .The accuser herself is still refusing to speak to reporters and has not spoken with civil-rights attorney Willie Gary, despite her family’s urging that she do so.
The [Summer 2002] episode started at the Diamond Girls club on Angier Avenue in Durham. According to Larry W. Jones, the owner of Diamond Girls, the woman appeared at the club that night and "tried out," giving lap dances to a few men. Jones said the manager at the time did not offer the woman a job because she was "acting funny."
She started dancing for a taxi driver, whom she asked for a ride, according to a report from the Durham County Sheriff's Office. While dancing, she took the keys from the driver's pocket without his knowledge and, minutes later, drove off in his taxi.
The cab driver called 911 and a sheriff's deputy responded and saw the blue 1992 Chevrolet Caprice heading east on Angier Avenue near Page Road. The headlights were off and the woman was driving on the wrong side of the road, according to the deputy's report.
The woman sped up to pass the officer, and he began to chase the taxi, which ran a stop sign and veered across the road, weaving across a grass median, onto the shoulder and back. The car sped from Angier Avenue onto U.S. 70, the report said.
According to the report, the woman drove down the center of the highway, a 55 mph zone, at 70 mph, heading into Raleigh. She kept speeding, drove the wrong way down Brier Creek Parkway and turned into a dead end, where she tried to drive the taxi through a fence.
The sheriff's deputy said he got out of his car and told the woman to turn off the car. She laughed, backed up the car, then drove forward again and nearly hit the deputy, the report said.
The taxi slammed into the deputy's car and kept going, turning back onto Brier Creek Parkway into oncoming traffic, the report said. Another deputy continued to chase her until the taxi got a flat tire. Officers boxed in the car, pulled the woman out and arrested her.
Her blood alcohol level was 0.19, according to court records, more than twice the legal limit to drive in North Carolina.
The woman was charged with driving while impaired, driving with a revoked license, felony speeding to elude arrest, felony assault with a deadly weapon on a government official, and felony larceny of a motor vehicle. Court documents and her criminal and driving records show that her driver's license had been revoked before the incident, but they do not indicate why.
Under a deal with prosecutors, she pleaded guilty to four misdemeanors in the car chase: larceny, speeding to elude arrest, assault on a government official and DWI, according to court records. She was required to serve three consecutive weekends in jail and was placed on two years' probation. She paid restitution and court costs, and completed her probation.
Police told Duke 'This Will Blow Over'
Winning the Election
Losing the Race
Malik Zulu Shabazz, the national chairman of the Black separatist group, the New Panthers, lead a protest in Durham. He was joined by politicians Jacqueline Wagstaff and Victoria Peterson, as well as students from NCCU.
"This is a hate crime, and we want a conviction. We are mad and fired up. We demand justice, and we will have justice, one way or the other."
Shabazz announced that the New Panthers would stay in Durham until they were satisfied justice had been served.
During an interview that took place three weeks after the March 14 lacrosse party, the accuser -- who by all accounts was "out of it" that night -- must've truly amazed Durham police. She told investigators she could absolutely, positively, beyond all doubt, identify the team members who attacked her. In a photo line-up, the woman said she was 100 percent certain that Finnerty and Seligmann participated in the gang rape, and 90 percent certain of a third player's involvment. That student's name has not yet been revealed.
Notes from the April 4 identification were turned over to defense attorneys and they're now considering asking a judge to suppress the evidence, claiming it was improperly conducted. To obtain the identification, Durham police reportedly showed the woman a photo array that included only pictures of the 46 white lacrosse team members. No other photos were shown to the woman.
The intoxicated dancer's 100% certainty isn't so amazing if, in fact, she was given a multiple choice test in which any answer she picked would be correct. U.S. Department of Justice guidelines on photo identifications call for using a photo array that includes only one suspect and at least five "FILLERS" -- other people who generally fit the witness' description of the perpetrator -- for each array.
By Thursday March 30, fliers featuring the faces of 40 members of the lacrosse team had been posted in several places around Durham and had appeared in various local and national media outlets. (USA Today) The instantly notorious flier, which resembles a "wanted poster," was widely distributed during a March 29 "Take Back the Night" rally.
This case will never get to trial.
But if it does -- defense attorneys will point out that while the party took place on March 14, the accuser's photo I.D. session didn't happen until April 4. They'll say her I.D. may have been influenced by outside information, since in that time period, what was a local college scandal transformed into a national media obsession.
During those three weeks, DA Nifong gave nearly 70 news interviews about the entire Duke lacrosse team's complicity in a shocking, racially motivated gang rape. (". . . what happened here was one of the worst things that's happened since I have become district attorney.") News articles and photos appeared everywhere, exposing the lacrosse team's history of violations and criminal complaints. Finnerty's attorney could argue to jurors that by April 4, details about his client's "gay-bashing" conviction had been mentioned in several articles, which may explain the accuser's 100% certainty.
From Lester Munson's April 18 Sports Illustrated column:
The first people to encounter the victim after the attack are known as "outcry" witnesses. They are important witnesses both in deciding whether there was a rape and later at trial. Their description of the victim helps determine whether an attack occurred. Was the victim near hysterics? Were there signs of injury? What was the victim saying? Was the victim in a state of shock, unable to talk about what happened? A limo driver who drove Tyson's victim from the hotel in Indianapolis was one of the most compelling witnesses in the trial that sent Tyson to the penitentiary. The outcry witnesses in Durham have so far offered a mixed set of signals on the state of the woman after her visit to the party.
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