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Players lash out at "world of injustice" where innocent go to jail
"The stereotypes aren't true," player says of media portrayal
• Players, attorneys call for limits on district attorneys, legal system reforms
• Former lacrosse players were charged with sexual offense, kidnapping
RALEIGH, North Carolina (CNN) -- Free of sexual offense and kidnapping charges, three steely-eyed former lacrosse players at Duke University called Wednesday for reforms in the justice system and restraint in the media.

"This whole experience has opened my eyes to a world of injustice that I never knew existed," said Reade Seligmann, one of the exonerated athletes.

All charges against Seligmann, David Evans and Collin Finnerty were dismissed, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced earlier Wednesday.

The three were charged after an escort-service dancer accused them of raping her at a team party in March 2006.

The case prompted national outrage and discussion about racism and the rowdy behavior of privileged students at a prestigious university.

The accuser, a student at nearby North Carolina Central University, is black; the three accused men are white.

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'To **** and back'
"All of the men of the Duke University men's lacrosse team have gone to **** and back, but I hope, and all of us sincerely hope, it was not in vain," Evans said at a news conference where the men and their families were greeted by prolonged applause.

The players and their attorneys acknowledged that innocent people go to prison because they can't afford high-powered legal teams.

"Many people across this country, across this state, would not have the opportunity that we did, and this could simply have been brushed underneath the rug just as another case and some innocent person would end up in jail for their entire life," Evans said. "It's just not right."

Evans also criticized how news reports characterized him and his teammates.

"A great disservice has been done to the sport of lacrosse, and the stereotypes aren't true," Evans said. "They sell magazines and newspapers, but they're not anything that represents us as a sport, as a school, as a university and as a team. And they are wrong."

Finnerty thanked his family, friends and fellow students for their support.

Evans' attorney, Joe Cheshire, admonished the media not to judge suspects before the legal system does:

"Roy Cooper said a word today; the word is I-N-N-O-C-E-N-T. I wanted to make sure everybody got that."

The players and lawyers urged reform in the legal system.

"There seem to be some flaws in the legal system that should be addressed," Finnerty said. "The fact that in North Carolina there are no recordings of the grand jury, and to establish checks and balances on district attorneys."

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State pursuing case against local district attorney
In January, Cooper's office took over the case from Michael Nifong, the Durham County district attorney who had been handling it.

"In this case, with the weight of the state behind him, the Durham district attorney pushed forward unchecked," Cooper said. "There were many points in this case where caution would have served justice better than bravado, and in the rush to condemn a community and a state, [Nifong] lost the ability to see clearly. "

Asked Nifong's response to the dismissal of charges, David Freeman, one of his attorneys, said, "Mr. Nifong recused himself from the case back in January. The AG's office reviewed the case for three months, and Nifong had full confidence in their decision today and stands by it. The process played out as it should have."

The North Carolina state bar filed ethics complaints against Nifong in December and January, accusing him of withholding DNA evidence from the players' defense attorneys and of "making misrepresentations to the presiding judge."

Other ethics complaints said Nifong had made inappropriate comments to the media about evidence, testimony, and the students' character and credibility.

Regarding the state bar's ethics investigation, Freeman said, "Today's decision is separate from the state bar and should have no bearing on how that situation will play out."

Nifong, he said, was in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, working on another case Wednesday.

Nifong will be tried by the bar in June and could be disbarred if he's found guilty, The Associated Press reported.

On Wednesday, defense sources told CNN the defense plans to pursue lawsuits against Nifong.

The same sources said there were no plans to sue the accuser, who was described as "a troubled soul."

Cooper would not comment on possible lawsuits, but said, "I think a lot of people owe a lot of apologies to other people."

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Case began a year ago
The dismissal of the charges ends a yearlong battle fought in the North Carolina courts.

The allegations of rape, which sparked controversy in the Raleigh-Durham area and quickly moved into the national spotlight, were made last year when one of two women hired to dance at a March 13, 2006, party accused the students of raping her.

The woman initially said the three raped her in a bathroom, but the rape charges were dropped in December after her story wavered. In addition, two DNA tests have found no evidence linking any of the three men to their 28-year-old accuser.

Cooper said inconsistencies in the accuser's accounts "were so significant and so contrary to the evidence" that investigators could not conclude that an attack occurred.

The accuser will not face any charges, Cooper added.

When the case began, Seligmann, of Essex Fells, New Jersey, and Finnerty, of Garden City, New York, were sophomores. Evans, the team captain, who is from Bethesda, Maryland, graduated a day before turning himself in to face charges.

In January, Duke invited Seligmann and Finnerty to return for spring semester. They had been placed on administrative leave after the dancer made her accusations. Neither accepted the invitation, according to The Associated Press.

After Wednesday's announcement, Duke President Richard Brodhead said he welcomed the dismissal of the charges, and said Finnerty, Seligmann and Evans had "carried themselves with dignity through an ordeal of deep unfairness."
 

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Discussion Starter #2
If you don't have money for a good lawyer,the system will **** you!
 

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You know, I look at these players and can't help but think....."Something happened."

Jock douchebags routinely get into hot water for stuff like this all the time.

The problem is, they found absoutely no DNA evidence to support the girls claims. I would like to think if they did indeed rape her, there should be something...anything to link them to the crime. If not, I'd say you have to let them go.

The court probably did the right thing, although I'm sure the lacrosse players are far from being "innocent victims."

This is just one of the many reasons I feel schools place way too much emphasis on high school and college sports.
 

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You know, I look at these players and can't help but think....."Something happened."

Jock douchebags routinely get into hot water for stuff like this all the time.

The problem is, they found absoutely no DNA evidence to support the girls claims. I would like to think if they did indeed rape her, there should be something...anything to link them to the crime. If not, I'd say you have to let them go.

The court probably did the right thing, although I'm sure the lacrosse players are far from being "innocent victims."

This is just one of the many reasons I feel schools place way too much emphasis on high school and college sports.
You sound upset that these guys had their charges dropped. If they did do it, she deserves better, and I hope they'll pay down the line somehow. That said, it would have been an easy way for her to make some money, because as you say "Jock Douchebags" get into this stuff all the time. The fact that there was no DNA evidence, and no other proof isn't unheard of, but it does raise questions. In the end, these kids have had their lives ripped apart by this, and if these charges were indeed false, she and the DA need to be held responsible. As for putting too much emphasis on sports, this could just as easily have been a frat house or any of several similar situations.

Pat
 

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You sound upset that these guys had their charges dropped. If they did do it, she deserves better, and I hope they'll pay down the line somehow. That said, it would have been an easy way for her to make some money, because as you say "Jock Douchebags" get into this stuff all the time. The fact that there was no DNA evidence, and no other proof isn't unheard of, but it does raise questions. In the end, these kids have had their lives ripped apart by this, and if these charges were indeed false, she and the DA need to be held responsible. As for putting too much emphasis on sports, this could just as easily have been a frat house or any of several similar situations.

Pat
I wasn't upset they got the charges dropped. I just wish they hadn't gotten themselves into a situation where it becomes national news. You're 100% correct, it could have easily been a frathouse......where these things do ("allegedly") take place way more often than they should.

If these players really are innocent, then justice prevailed for them. If not, well then the lawyers really did their jobs very well.
 

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Fry the media, reform the justice system with huge, sweeping changes, and keep the public from needing sensationalized news.

BTW, any physical crime will ALWAYS some evidence. So the fact that the DA had no evidence leads me to believe that no crime was committed. I bet nothing even happened between the accuser and the men. Even if they had consensual group sex, there would have been pubic hair or DNA evidence. But nothing?
 

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Fry the media, reform the justice system with huge, sweeping changes, and keep the public from needing sensationalized news.

BTW, any physical crime will ALWAYS some evidence. So the fact that the DA had no evidence leads me to believe that no crime was committed. I bet nothing even happened between the accuser and the men. Even if they had consensual group sex, there would have been pubic hair or DNA evidence. But nothing?
Guiltiest looking bunch of innocent guys I've ever seen.

This boy has "future serial killer" written all over him.


Not to mention his arrest for assault...... http://www.newsobserver.com/1185/story/429880.html
 

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Discussion Starter #9
RALEIGH, N.C. - A disciplinary committee rejected a request Friday to dismiss ethics charges against the former prosecutor in the dismissed Duke lacrosse case, who is accused of withholding critical DNA evidence from the defense.

The decision by the three-member panel came shortly after an hourlong hearing, at which committee chairman F. Lane Williamson repeatedly challenged the arguments made by attorneys for Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong.The North Carolina State Bar has accused Nifong with breaking several rules of professional conduct as he led the investigation into allegations three lacrosse players raped a stripper at a team party in March 2006.

This week, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dismissed all charges in the case, and said the three players indicted were innocent and that his investigators concluded no attack occurred. In doing so, he portrayed Nifong as a "rogue" prosecutor who rushed the case by failing to verify the accuser's allegations.

"I don't want to make comments outside the courtroom," Nifong said after the Friday's hearing, surrounded by a swarm of reporters who followed him down the street. "You'll have an opportunity to hear things I have to say inside the courtroom."

The scene drew several gawkers and a heckler, Lee Churchill of Raleigh, who carried a sign that called Nifong a "rapist of justice."

"The whole world is watching!" Churchill shouted. "Disbar!"

In January, after Nifong had turned the case over to Cooper's office, the bar accused the veteran prosecutor of failing to give the defense DNA test results that found genetic material from several men on the accuser's underwear and body, but none from any lacrosse player.

Nifong's attorneys denied he intentionally withheld the DNA evidence, saying he provided the defense with a report outlining test results months before a potential trial and gave notice the lab director would be called as an expert witness.

That shouldn't matter, said bar counsel Katherine Jean, because Nifong knew about the test results before he even won indictments against the three players. It's possible, she said, that with less capable defense counsel they might have chosen to enter into a plea agreement, which is how the vast majority of criminal cases in North Carolina are resolved.

"It's scary when you think about a case like this case," Jean said. "These men might have pleaded guilty never knowing the DNA evidence was exculpatory. ... It's a scary concept."

The bar has also charged Nifong with lying to the court and to bar investigators, and for making misleading and inflammatory comments about the athletes under suspicion. Those issues were not addressed at Friday's hearing.

Nifong, who apologized to the three cleared players in a statement issued Thursday, could be disbarred if convicted. His ethics trial is scheduled to start in June.

There have been calls for Nifong to resign, but his attorney David Freedman said the veteran prosecutor has no intention of leaving office.

Brad Bannon, an attorney who represented one of the three players, said the men's families "want to see Mr. Nifong get what they believe he was ready to deny their sons, which is a fair hearing."

Also Friday, a defense attorney retrieved the $100,000 bond posted by each of the former defendants, said Jermaine Patterson, head bookkeeper with the Durham County Clerk's Office. The players were originally released on $400,000 bond, though a judge reduced the amount to $100,000 for each player last June.
 

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Editorial from the N & O...........



Just the facts

Durham police showed a troubling lack of independence in the Duke lacrosse case. How did it happen? And is it fixed?

Obscured in the hubbub following the dropped charges in the Duke lacrosse case has been the disappointing role played by the Durham Police Department. The department's own procedures were swept off the table by a district attorney determined to prosecute what seemed to be a shaky case from the start.

Because the alleged incident occurred during a party off campus, in a house rented by members of the team, officers with the Durham police, not Duke University's own police force, investigated after exotic dancer Crystal Gail Mangum claimed she had been raped by three Duke lacrosse players. Early in the investigation the department followed a suggestion by the DA, Mike Nifong, to abandon its photo identification policy.

The policy requires five "filler" photos -- of people not linked with the case -- for each photo of a suspect. Nifong said Mangum should be asked to identify the attackers from 46 photos that included only members of the lacrosse team.

As The N&O's Joseph Neff reported recently in his thorough retrospective on the case, a detective discussed the unusual lineup procedure with his supervisors. Inexcusably, no one objected. The policy also says that an officer unconnected to a case should conduct photo lineups, to avoid the risk of an officer familiar with a suspect influencing which photo is fingered. But Sgt. Mark D. Gottlieb, lead investigator in the Duke case, presented the photos to Mangum.

Separately, The New York Times reported last year that Gottlieb acknowledged taking few handwritten notes for what is considered a critical part of a criminal investigation, the so-called chronological report. Instead, he relied mostly on his memory and other officers' notes.

Nifong at a later point took over leadership of the investigation from the Durham police. By necessity, the police department and district attorney's office work together on criminal cases. But each has its distinct mission, and must hew to it if justice is to be properly pursued. It's possible that department brass felt, accurately, that the case was a political hot potato. But they shouldn't have let the DA's office do the department's job.

Had Durham officers insisted on following well-established policies, and resisted Nifong's pressures, the case might have been shortcircuited and the ordeal might not have dragged on as long as it did. As it is, Nifong is having to defend his own performance in disciplinary proceedings before the State Bar, and his law license is at risk.

With state Attorney General Roy Cooper deciding that all remaining charges against the three athletes should be dropped (Nifong himself had dismissed charges of rape after first obtaining indictments), the spotlight has been on Nifong's mishandling of the case. But the police department bears some of the blame. Chief Steve Chalmers now should offer an accounting of his department's professional lapses; explain what, if any, discipline has been meted out; and detail what safeguards have been put in place to keep such lapses from occurring again. If Chalmers balks, his bosses, City Manager Patrick Baker and the City Council, should insist.

http://www.newsobserver.com/579/story/568080.html
 

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Duke prosecutor broke rules

RALEIGH, N.C. - Mike Nifong broke numerous rules of professional conduct during his disastrous prosecution of three Duke University lacrosse players falsely accused of rape, committing "deceit and misrepresentations," a disciplinary committee ruled Saturday.

The committee must now decide if the longtime prosecutor in Durham County, who has already pledged to resign his post as district attorney, should be stripped of his law license. That decision was expected later Saturday.The North Carolina State Bar charged Nifong with breaking several rules of professional conduct, including lying to both the court and bar investigators and withholding critical DNA test results from the players' defense attorneys.

The committee, after deliberating for a little more than an hour, unanimously agreed with the bar on almost every charge — including the most serious allegations — that Nifong's actions involved "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation."

State Bar prosecutor Douglas Brocker told the committee that as Nifong investigated the allegations that a stripper was raped and beaten at a March 2006 party thrown by Duke's lacrosse team, he charged "forward toward condemnation and injustice," weaving a "web of deception that has continued up through this hearing."

"Mr. Nifong did not act as a minister of justice, but as a minister of injustice," Brocker said.

The verdicts did not appear to surprise Nifong, who acknowledged during sometimes tearful testimony Friday that he would likely be punished for getting "carried away a little bit" when talking about the case.

Disciplinary committee chairman F. Lane Williamson also hinted during Saturday's closing arguments the three-member panel was likely to conclude that Nifong kept from the defense DNA test results that found genetic material from several men in the accuser's underwear and body, but none from any lacrosse player.

"How can you possibly explain that away?" said Williamson, who repeatedly interrupted Nifong's attorney, Dudley Witt, as he discussed the DNA testing during his closing statement.

"It wasn't just one little oversight," Williamson said later. "This was conduct over an extended period in a very high-profile case."

Aware of those test results, Nifong pressed ahead with the case anyway and won indictments against Dave Evans, Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty. State prosecutors later concluded the three players were "innocent" victims of a rogue prosecutor's "tragic rush to accuse."

Nifong made "multiple, egregious mistakes" as he pursued the charges, but not intentionally, his attorney said in closing statements.

"It didn't click," Witt said as he tried to explain one of his client's errors. "His mind is just his mind. That's the way it works. It just didn't click."

Brocker said Nifong had to have known he was making improper comments to reporters. Nifong said he regretted some of his statements, including a confident proclamation that he wouldn't allow Durham to become known for "a bunch of lacrosse players from Duke raping a black girl."

He also focused on when Nifong learned about the full extent of the DNA test results and when he shared that information with the defense.

Nifong gave defense attorneys an initial report on the DNA testing in May 2006 that said private lab DNA Security Inc. had been unable to find a conclusive match between the accuser and any lacrosse players.

But lab director Brian Meehan testified this week that he told Nifong as early as April 10, 2006 — a week before Seligmann and Finnerty were indicted — about the more detailed test results.



Nifong testified that when he gave the defense the initial report, he "believed at the time that I had given them everything."

The disciplinary hearing committee could suspend Nifong's law license or take it away entirely.

Nifong told the panel hearing the case Friday that he would resign from his post as Durham County district attorney over his handling of the rape charges. The players' attorneys have pledged to seek criminal contempt charges next week in Durham.
 
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