Published April 11, 2006
Citing DNA test results delivered by the state crime lab to police and prosecutors a few hours earlier, the attorneys said the test results prove their clients did not sexually assault and beat a stripper hired to perform at a March 13 team party.
No charges have been filed in the case.
"There is no DNA evidence that shows she was touched by any of these boys," said Attorney Joe Cheshire, who represents one of the team's captains.
The alleged victim, a 27-year-old student at a nearby college, told police she and another woman were hired to dance at the party. The woman told police that three men at the party dragged her into a bathroom, choked her, raped her and sodomized her.
The Associated Press does not name alleged victims in sexual assault cases.
The allegations have led to the resignation of coach Mike Pressler, the cancellation of the lacrosse season and the suspension of one player from school.
The case also led to days of protests on and off the Duke campus, and some of the players have moved for safety reasons.
According to court documents, only lacrosse team members were at the party. Authorities ordered 46 of the 47 players on Duke's lacrosse team to submit DNA samples to investigators, who compared them with evidence collected from the woman.
Because the woman said her attackers were white, the team's sole black player was not tested. It was not known whether investigators tested for DNA other than the players'.
Cheshire said the report indicated authorities took DNA samples from all over the alleged victim's body, including under her fingernails, and from her possessions, such as her cell phone and her clothes.
"They swabbed about every place they could possibly swab from her, in which there could be any DNA," he said.
District Attorney Mike Nifong has said he would have other evidence to make his case should the DNA analysis prove inconclusive or fail to match a member of the team.
"I believe a sexual assault took place," Nifong told The News & Observer of Raleigh on Monday. "I'm not saying it's over. If that's what they expect, they will be sadly disappointed."
He would not comment about the results to the AP.
North Carolina Central University, where the alleged victim is a student, said after the results were released that the prosecutor would appear at a campus forum on Tuesday to discuss the case.
"The truth is if you speak to crime lab directors, they will tell you that in only a relatively small number of cases is there any DNA evidence," said Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project.
Cheshire said even if the alleged attackers used a condom, it's likely there would have been some DNA evidence found suggesting an assault took place. He said in this case, the report states there was no DNA on her to indicate that she had sex of any type recently.
"The experts will tell you that if there was a condom used they would still be able to pick up DNA, latex, lubricant and all other types of things to show that — and that's not here," Cheshire said.
Stan Goldman, who teaches criminal law, evidence and criminal procedure at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said the DNA results don't mean that Nifong can't go forward with the case — but the test results make a successful prosecution much harder.
"Isn't the absence of DNA evidence, given the way the victim has described the crime, in and of itself almost enough to raise a reasonable doubt?" he said. "That's all the defense has to do."
Robert Archer, whose son, Breck, is a member of the lacrosse team, said the test results only confirmed for parents what they already knew.
"I know the kids on the team and I know they're innocent," said Archer, of East Quogue, N.Y.