RALEIGH, N.C. – One judge will now oversee all court aspects of the Duke University lacrosse party rape case, a court official said Friday.
State Supreme Court Chief Justice Sarah Parker declared the case "exceptional" on Thursday and appointed Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III to take over its management and schedule, said Kathy Shuart, Durham County court administrator.
Defense attorneys and District Attorney Mike Nifong endorsed Smith this week.
The charges stemmed from a lacrosse team party in March where a woman who had been hired to perform as an exotic dancer says she was assaulted by three men and raped.
Two judges have presided over the various hearings related to the case since team members Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans were indicted this spring on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual offense.
Attorneys for the three say their clients are innocent.
Joseph Cheshire, who represents Evans, said having one judge will give the case "consistent, appropriate direction."
"The judge has the ability of understanding the entire case as opposed to little piecemeal parts of the case," he said.
A message seeking comment from Nifong was not immediately returned Friday.
A trial is not expected in the case before next spring.