Recent Outcry  

  The Duke University Gang Rape Scandal 


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In the un-humbled opinion of one, Poetic Justice...

lacrosse team poster

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

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.

Take Back the Night

search warrant

Test Results

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.

defense photo defense photo
defense photo

Photo Study

Susannah Meadows and Evan Thomas
reporting for Newsweek's April 24, 2006 issue

Attorneys for members of the Duke University lacrosse team are presenting their fullest accounting yet of what happened the night a stripper says three players raped her. The timeline -- illuminated by photos from one partygoer's digital camera that NEWSWEEK has viewed -- offers a preview of the defense strategy should indictments come as expected early this week.

At 11:02 p.m. on March 13, a group of partygoers, sitting on couches around the edge of the room awaiting the arrival of two strippers, smile for the camera. They're holding plastic cups. Above their heads, a Duke lacrosse poster on the wall reads it's hard to beat a team that never gives up.

(Robert Ekstrand, who represents 33 of the players, used a forensics expert to establish the photo times.)

The accuser is dropped off at about 11:45, about a half hour after the other (second) stripper arrived. By midnight, according to a photo, the two are almost naked on the beige carpet in front of their visibly happy audience.

But by 12:03, the mood has turned: in a photo, the women are standing and the second stripper appears to be reaching toward the guys, all of whom have lost their smiles.

She slaps one of them for suggesting the alleged victim use a broom as a sex toy, according to Ekstrand. Then both women lock themselves in the bathroom, Ekstrand details.

The partygoers get nervous about what the women are up to and start slipping money under the door asking them to leave, says Bill Thomas, a lawyer who represents one of the captains. The women go out to the second stripper's car at about 12:20, but the accuser has left her purse behind; she goes back inside to get it, according to Ekstrand.

A photo at 12:30 shows the alleged victim standing outside the back door of the house looking down into two bags with what appears to be a smile. She's wearing only her scant red-and-white outfit and one shoe. By the time she realizes she's missing a shoe -- a few minutes later -- the guys have locked the door to keep her out, say the attorneys.

A 12:37 photo shows she's lying on the back stoop; she fell, according to Ekstrand. Her elbow is dusted and scraped, and her ankle is cut and bleeding. At 12:41 she gets into the car, and one of the partygoers appears to be helping her.

In a call to a police dispatcher at about 1:30 made public last week, one of the first officers to see the accuser, in a parking lot, said she was "passed-out drunk" but "not in distress." Since the release of the recording, Ekstrand has suggested that if any assault happened, it was after the accuser left the house. Defense attorneys said last week that no DNA had been found on or inside the accuser. She was never alone in the house for more than about 10 minutes, according to their timeline.

The second woman supports the partygoers' story, says Thomas, who says he has seen a summary of an interview with her conducted by a member of the defense team. "Their versions are basically identical," he says. But Mark Simeon, an attorney for the second dancer, tells NEWSWEEK that Thomas's claim is not accurate.

"She rejects the notion that she agrees with their timeline. I've shown their story line to my client, and she says there's a lot that's wrong with it. From the beginning, she has been cooperating fully with [Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong] and the police, and she looks forward to testifying truthfully at the trial." Thomas replies, "She has given us several statements, so I don't see any room for her to change her story now simply because she has a lawyer speaking for her."

Nifong could not be reached for comment.

defense photo defense photo
defense photo

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."

Blue Devils

Audio clip:
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.

Audio clip:
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.

Past Out

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.


From an April 16, 2006 News-Observer article about the accuser.
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'
May 8, 2006
Associated Press

Duke underestimated the rape allegations against members of the lacrosse team in part because Durham police initially said the accuser "kept changing her story and was not credible,'' according to a university report issued Monday.

The day after the March 13 team party where a 27-year-old black woman claimed she was raped, Durham police told campus officers that "this will blow over,'' the report said. It said that the woman initially told police she was raped by 20 white men, then said she was attacked by three.

Police told the Duke officers that if any charges were filed, "they would be no more than misdemeanors,'' the report said.

. . . The report was commissioned by the Duke president and prepared by Julius Chambers, a former chancellor at North Carolina Central University, where the accuser is a student, and William G. Bowen, a former president of Princeton University who is now head of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

. . .The report said Duke President Brodhead did not learn about the incident for a week, and only then by reading about it in the student newspaper. When Brodhead sought more information from Larry Moneta, Duke's vice president for student affairs, he was told "the accusations were not credible and were unlikely to amount to anything,'' the report said.

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:

Outcry witnesses

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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