Saturday, December 16, 2006

Evidence of Prosecutorial Misconduct Grows in Duke Rape Case

Can you say prosecutorial misconduct, violations of civil rights, and criminal actions in its own right? Can you also say misconduct by the DNA lab that ran the tests that could prove or disprove the prosecutor's theory of the case? I knew you could:
The head of a private DNA laboratory said under oath today that he and District Attorney Mike Nifong agreed not to report DNA results favorable to Duke lacrosse players charged with rape.

Brian Meehan, director of DNA Security of Burlington, said his lab found DNA from unidentified men in the underwear, pubic hair and rectum of the woman who said she was gang-raped at a lacrosse party in March. Nurses at Duke Hospital collected the samples a few hours after the alleged assault. Meehan said the DNA did not come from Reade Seligmann, David Evans, or Collin Finnerty, who have been charged with rape and sexual assault in the case.

Meehan struggled to say why he didn’t include the favorable evidence in a report dated May 12, almost a month after Seligmann and Finnerty had been indicted. He cited concerns about the privacy of the lacrosse players, his discussions at several meetings with Nifong, and the fact that he didn’t know whose DNA it was.
Not only were the civil rights of the defendants violated, but Nifong put politics above the criminal justice system. That cannot be allowed to stand.

Durham in Wonderland has been following all the nuances of this case for some time. He provide a blow by blow report of the questioning faced by Meehan under cross examination by the defense attorneys. It actually throws into question how North Carolina utilizes and processes DNA evidence using this particular lab. It also throws into question other investigations carried out by Nifong's office since it appears that Nifong disregards defendants rights under North Carolina law to be provided all exculpatory evidence:
...Open Discovery Law was supposed to avoid this very debate: prosecutors in North Carolina do not have the right to decide whether evidence might or might not be exculpatory: they must turn over all evidence in their file to the defense. Nifong and Meehan apparently conspired to get around the law’s requirements by producing a report that wouldn’t reveal key exculpatory evidence, and hope that the defense wouldn’t ask for the underlying data.
If I were a defense attorney in Durham that had a defendant who was convicted on the basis of DNA evidence processed by Meehan's company, I would take another look at the evidence and see whether there was prosecutorial misconduct as well. This doesn't look good for the office of the District Attorney at all.

Prosecutorial misconduct throws into question the criminal justice system and the fairness accorded to defendants. Nifong abused his position and his actions appear to have destroyed the reputations of three men who were not involved in the alleged rape.

Tom Maguire provides some options for how this case will be disposed.

Pajamas Media has more. Also blogging: Ed Morrissey, Outside the Beltway, and Gina Cobb.

A judge has ordered a paternity test given to the child of the alleged victim in the case. The prosecutor and defense team both state that the three defendants in the case are not the father.
News of the accuser's pregnancy comes roughly nine months after the team party where she says she was raped.

District Attorney Mike Nifong said the woman's baby is due in the first week of February.

The defense asked for the paternity test. At the same time, defense attorney Joseph Cheshire said it is an "absolute impossibility" that she got pregnant during the alleged attack.

Cheshire said the woman was given a pregnancy test immediately after reporting she was raped — and it was negative — and she took an emergency contraceptive. In addition, DNA tests found no genetic material from any Duke lacrosse team members on the woman or her clothes.
Now here's a problem in the timeline. Roughly nine months? The rape allegedly occured when: March 13, 2006. Nine months from that date would be December 12, 2006. If she's due the first week in February, working backwards, one would get a conception date of: May 4, 2006 (using Feb 4, 2007 as the middle of the range of the due date). Since when is ~7 weeks time difference roughly the same time? Curious. Very curious. Why would the report even say "News of the accuser's pregnancy comes roughly nine months after the team party where she says she was raped" when the conception came nearly 2 months later?!

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