Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Duke Defendants Going on Offensive

In the wake of last week's decision by Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong to drop the rape charges but keep the remaining charges of kidnapping and sexual assault, the defense attorneys for the three charged defendants, Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, have called for federal action:
"We're seeking federal intervention. … We can't allow this to continue another day," Cornacchia told "GMA" anchor Chris Cuomo. "Under the color of law, he's depriving our clients of constitutional rights."

Durham, N.C., District Attorney Mike Nifong announced last week that he was dropping the rape charges against the three defendants — Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann.

Cornacchia said Nifong had mishandled the case in his identifying of the three young men, his public statements and by withholding evidence.

"He knew that the DNA didn't match before he indicted the [defendants]," Cornacchia said. [When I was a prosecutor], I didn't accuse anybody unless I had … reasonable doubt.

"Accusation is destruction," he said.

When prosecutors interviewed the accuser for the first time — last Thursday — she said she was uncertain whether there was penetration, which differs from statements she made to police in April.

At that time, the accuser said she was brutally raped and beaten by three men during a lacrosse team party at a house near the Duke University campus, claiming that she was "vaginally penetrated by a male sex organ," without a condom. The accuser and another woman were hired as exotic dancers and paid to strip at the party.

After Nifong's announcement Friday that he was dropping the rape charges against the three young men, many legal experts have wondered what is left of the prosecution's case.

In the beginning, Nifong was applauded for insisting on bringing charges against members of the Duke lacrosse team.

"My presence here means that this case is not going away," Nifong said earlier.

But then he dropped his bombshell announcement Friday: that the accuser had changed her story and could not testify with certainty that she was raped, despite telling police during a lineup in April that she'd been raped.
Nifong was using the Duke case as a political football in an election year, and the evidence turned out to be far less than what Nifong claimed. Yet, it is the withholding of key exculpatory evidence that should bring down a federal investigation on Nifong for violating the rights of the accused.

The dismissal order on the rape charges is here. I thought that the dropping of the rape charges was a near fatal blow to the case, but Nifong continues to trudge along with the remainder of the case. He may think that continuing to pursue this investigation may help him try to salvage what's left of Nifong's reputation, but I see it only as a first step to eventually dropping the case and praying that someone else doesn't begin a thorough criminal and civil rights investigation of Nifong's actions.

No comments: