Monday, June 19, 2006

Americans Concerned about Duke Rape Case encouraged to contact NC

Michael J. Gaynor, independent columnist at The Post Chronicle, is encouraging those Americans, who are concerned with what has been going on in the Duke Rape case, to contact the Attorney General of NC, the NC Governor, and the Executive Director of the NC state bar.

Stuart Taylor, the top legal commentator, has looked into the case. He says that the prosecutor, Mike Nifong, is a rogue, not the lacrosse players. He feels the players have been wrongly accused.

"Then there is Mike Nifong, the Durham, N.C., district attorney who is prosecuting the case. In addition to the misconduct detailed in my April 29 column, he has shielded his evidence (if any) from public scrutiny while seeking to keep the rape charges hanging over the defendants by delaying any trial until next spring.

"Nifong and a certain Durham police officer should themselves be under criminal investigation, in my view, for what looks like possible intimidation of a disinterested defense witness, a cabbie who had been transporting one defendant at the time of the alleged rape."

Gaynor says that not only should rape cases be prosecuted to the fullest extent of law, but so should those that falsely accuse others of rape, and those that stand to profit from these false accusations.

The names and addresses of the Attorney General, Governor, and Executive Director of the NC state bar can be found at The Post Chronicle Opinion.

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Betty Friedan said...

Mike Nifong has friends in high very visable places.

Nancy (dis)Grace doesn’t care about victims if they’re falsely accused of rape, she and her friend Wendy Murphy will go to any extent to smear the victims and spin any evidence their way. Grace and Murphy mix commentary and reporting to “report” to the public how the rape really happened and how all the evidence that proves otherwise should be ignored.

First she says she was raped by 20 men, then by five men, then by three men after a frustrated police officer told her to "pick a number!"

First she didn't say she was raped, then after being arrested she said she was raped, then she claimed the 2nd stripper helped with the rape and robbed her, and now she claims that the second stripper was separated from her, but the second stripper stated they were separated for less than 5 minutes.

First she denied being raped, then she said she was only vaginally raped, then she said she was beaten, choked, and kicked after being dragged into the bathroom by three players, but the medical reports stated that there was only mild vaginal swelling and small scraped on her knee and ankle. No signs of a beating.

First the stripper said she didn't have sex for over a week, then she confessed that she had sex with her boyfriend, a vaginal sex toy at the party before the Duke party, with the two guys who drove her to the Duke party, and a "client" the day before. This women was dripping with DNA, non of which was from the boys.

The boys willingly volunteered DNA samples to prove that they were innocent.

The stripper's father said the DNA will ID the rapist, but after the DNA came back negative, he claimed the stripper was raped with a broom, but the stripper confessed that she used a sexual toy vaginally in a show for a couple prior to making the false calim.

Since the rape never occurred, the DA made sure to use only Duke Lacrosse players in the line up, and the stripper identified 3 boys from 6 different line ups, but she wa never able to pick out the same boys twice. She eventually "eeny meeny miney moed" two boys who weren't even at the party.

But even with friends like these,

Barbara said...

I don't like Nancy Grace. I'm trying to place Wendy Murphy. But, I don't think these boys raped anyone! They were too quick to go to the police on their own, and gave information easily. Even one wasn't even there - has witnesses he was already gone at the time. And, one she identified has never had a mustache - but this doesn't matter to prosecution. I think Nifong wants to win the election in November, and he's playing on the sympathy for this 'victim' - who is no victim! The other woman said it didn't happen, until she figured out how she could make a buck or two!

betty said...

Blind to evidence

On Monday, May 15, a Durham County grand jury handed up a third indictment in the nothing-short-of-notorious Duke rape case. This latest indictment charges the lacrosse team's captain, David Evans, with first-degree rape, first-degree sexual assault, and first-degree kidnapping.

The charges against Evans are identical to those handed up last month against fellow players Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty. Still, this final indictment does come as a bit of surprise. As I detailed in a prior column, the cases against Seligmann and Finnerty appear quite weak. As I'll discuss in this column, the case against Evans may be even shakier. It's true that the grand jury did return indictments against Evans, and previously against the other two. It's also true that the District Attorney, Mike Nifong, is forging ahead -- seemingly undeterred.

But Nifong's judgment has been poor all along- and the old adage that a D.A. can get a grand jury to "indict a ham sandwich" shouldn't be forgotten. Without defense attorneys there to test the prosecutor's evidence via the invaluable process of cross-examination, weak evidence can be made to look pretty convincing. It's not the grand jury's fault; it's just the reality that if you only hear one side, you tend to believe it.

At least a ham sandwich has some weight to it. As I'll explain in this column, the Evans indictment - like the two that preceded it - does not. The very evidence that may have convinced the grand jury - accuser identification and new DNA evidence - is just the kind that will ultimately fall apart when defense attorneys finally do get to cross-examine the witnesses presenting it.

The Mounting Evidence in Favor of Defendants' Innocence

All three defendants in the Duke lacrosse case have unfailingly and repeatedly proclaimed their innocence - Evans doing so most eloquently, on behalf of all three men, in a brief public comment following his being formally charged.

In fact, in a highly unusual move, newly indicted defendant Evans went to so far as to volunteer to take a lie detector test at the direction of law enforcement. When the D.A. refused, Evans enlisted a top polygrapher to administer the test anyway. He passed.

Thus far, the defense camp has come forward with a host of seemingly reliable, exculpatory evidence -evidence that will be admissible in court, and that is likely to sway a jury. I'm not talking about, maybe, kinda, sorta, or could be, exculpatory evidence either. I'm talking about weighty evidence - receipts, photos, phone records, alibi witnesses, an absence of DNA, and now actual DNA - that directly supports the defendants' claims of innocence.

A plethora of proof supporting a defendant's claim of innocence - not just the government's failure to carry its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt -- is a rare pearl in the practice of criminal defense. It should cause the D.A. to reassess his case.

The Problems with the Accuser's "Identification" of Evans

In my prior columns, I discussed the problems with evidence against Seligmann - who has strong evidence supporting an alibi - and, to a lesser extent, against Finnerty. The evidence against Evans is also weak, maybe even more so.

Evans reportedly was not initially indicted, with the other two, because the accuser couldn't identify him with certainty (only with "90 percent certainty," in her words) from a photo lineup. Ten percent doubt sounds like a lot like reasonable doubt to me - and perhaps, at least initially, it sounded that way to D.A. Nifong too. And if the accuser herself has reasonable doubt, how can a prosecution go forward?
The accuser's lack of certainty is even more worrisome in light of the fact that the photo lineup was grossly biased. It included only Duke lacrosse players - meaning that the accuser had no choice but to select a Duke lacrosse player if she were to select anyone at all. And this photo lineup was apparently the sole means of identification for all three defendants.

Finally, and perhaps most disturbingly, the accuser is reported to have said that Evans's photo "looks just like [one of my assailants] without the mustache." According to Evans's defense lawyer, Evans has never worn a mustache. And party photos support this contention.

For all these reasons, the accuser's identification testimony is likely to be destroyed upon cross-examination.

The Problems with the New DNA Evidence

Besides the accuser's testimony, prosecutors also presented to the grand jury the results of a second round of DNA testing.

Readers may recall that the first round of DNA testing was, if anything, exculpatory: There was no DNA match whatsoever linking any of the forty-six lacrosse players whose DNA was taken, to the accuser.
Following those results, D.A. Nifong reportedly hired a private lab to re-test certain samples. In so doing, the new lab found a possible connection between defendant Evans and the accuser's discarded fake fingernail, found in the trash bin inside the bathroom.

To begin, it's awfully odd that the fake fingernail found its way into the trash bin in the first place, if a rape really occurred, and if the fake fingernail broke off during the victim's struggle, as she claims. No victim would clean up after her accusers; she would flee the scene. And if a culprit had the presence of mind to clean up -- realizing that the fake fingernail might be evidence against him -- surely he wouldn't just drop it in the trash can in the very room where the rape occurred, for police to easily find.

Significantly, too, defense attorneys claim the DNA material was found on the front of the nail -- not on the underside, where it would logically have lodged had the accuser scratched and clawed at her attackers as she claims.

But even putting these points aside, the DNA connection to Evans is weak. To begin, this isn't remotely close to the kind of "match" you may be familiar with from CSI - the kind where the odds of a false positive are infinitesimally small. Indeed, "match" here is a misnomer. All that can be said is that the DNA is "consistent" with DNA voluntarily supplied early on by Evans.
Shocking? Hardly. Evans lived in the house, and therefore may have, from time to time, blown his nose, swabbed an ear, or otherwise disposed of DNA-laden waste into that very trashcan.

Moreover, it was reportedly Evans himself who fished the fake nail from the garbage, voluntarily handing it over to police and maybe, just maybe, shedding some skin cells in the process.

As for direct evidence of sex, there is none; none from any of the forty lacrosse players, that is.
While the second round of DNA testing proved that semen was found inside the accusers vaginal cavity, spokespersons close to the defense are confident the source of the semen is the accuser's own boyfriend.
In sum, after cross-examination, there is little, if any, chance that a jury will give weight to this DNA evidence. It clashes with the accuser's own story, and it's as fully consistent with Evans's innocence as it is with his guilt.

The D.A.'s Unusual Hostility to Even Viewing Defense Evidence

Defense lawyers have repeatedly implored District Attorney Nifong to meet with them and to examine the evidence that favors the defendants. But Nifong has said no - with an attitude that boils down to, "Talk to the hand."

That's unusual. More often than not, prosecutors are quite open to exchanging - or at least being entertained by - the defense's evidence. After all, it provides them with a valuable preview of what the defense's case may ultimately look like in court. Prosecutors are legally required to turn over certain evidence to the defense, but no obligation runs the other way. And since the defense goes second, prosecutors may not be able to effectively counter defense "surprises."

For prosecutors, meeting with the defense is thus typically a win-win situation: If they are convinced to drop the case, then that's embarrassing - but far less than as a loss at trial would have been. If they aren't convinced to drop the case, they've gotten a precious new edge at trial. And either way, both the reality and appearance of fairness to the defendants are enhanced.

Giving a defendant a lie detector test, in contrast, isn't a win-win situation: It may hurt prosecutors' case if the results are released to the public. (Lie detector results are rarely - if ever - admissible in court.) But at the same time, a lie detector test - while risky, and far from perfect - is likely to get prosecutors closer to the truth, which is supposed to be what they are after.

As noted above, in this case, Evans claims Nifong refused to give Evans a lie detector test. (He ultimately took one himself, and passed.) In my professional experience, a prosecutor's refusing to administer a lie detector test to a defendant is nearly unheard-of. The defendant's answers - and the lie detector's response to them - may provide the prosecutor with a road map to what his vulnerabilities on the stand may be.

Just as meeting with the defense previews the defense case for prosecutors, administering a lie detector can preview the defendant's testimony, as well as his on-the-stand demeanor, showing prosecutors what kind of a witness he will be. (Confident? Nervous? Shifty? Solid?)

I can't help but believe that, were any of these defendants to assert that they had proof that a crime was indeed committed, this district attorney would be all ears. Suppose, for instance, that Seligmann or Evans were to turn on Finnerty, to try to save themselves - surely Nifong would happily hear them out. So how can the prosecutor justify, then, turning a blind eye to evidence of any of the accused's innocence?

Two observations:

1. whether this woman was raped or not, these young men are going to found not guilty if they go to trial — barring some unforeseen discovery by the police, the facts for the PA flat-out stink and most competent criminal defense attorneys will run him out of the courtroom on these — drunk, verge of being passed-out stripper with criminal record for car theft and tried to run over police officer who is smiling in photos taken as she is leaving the place — if the accusations are true, it’s tragic, but as a lawyer you work for the guy paying the bill, so she will be destroyed when she testifies. I had a similar case once where the alleged victim admitted during cross-examination at the preliminary hearing that prior to the "rape," by a college athlete — football player at a party, that she had stopped to pick up a six-pack to drink on the way to the party, she had drunk six -eight 16 ounce plastic cups half full of wine and had smoked a joint with one other person. She was a recent graduate (graduated two months after the alleged incident and had to fly in from Texas to testify) in Nursing and after leaving the "rape scene" in the early morning hours, instead of driving to the emergency room at the local hospital one mile from her former college dorm room, she drove for 3 hours to a hospital near her parent’s house. There was testimony from other partygoers — acquaintences of hers and who did not know my client — that she "fell asleep" for a little while after she smoked the pot. This poor girl even brought a squeeze ball to use while testifying to relieve stress (her psychologist had receommended it). Unfortunately for this young woman, the facts left me, as the young man’s lawyer, but to dig and berate, and ridicule and demean everything she had done and flat-out state that everything was inconsistent with her allegations — by the time we got to trial, she backed out on the first day and told the PA she would never testify about the rape again. My guy walked. He always told me he was innocent. You never really know, though.

2. I suppose the PA is running with this b/c he is facing an election in 2008, and this is a great time to start appealing to his voter base. The Duke students don’t vote there.