Judge to Bar Cameras From Duke Lacrosse Pretrial Hearings

The new judge overseeing the rape trial of three Duke University lacrosse players plans to bar cameras and other electronic media from pretrial hearings, though no decision has been made about the trial itself, a court official said Friday.

The decision was reached after an hourlong meeting of attorneys on both sides and Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III, who was chosen to preside over all matters pertaining to the criminal case.

Lawyers were pleased but tightlipped afterward, praising the judge but declining to comment on any aspect of the case.

That included a report in Friday's New York Times, which quoted from a police report that painted a more consistent picture of claims made by the accuser — a woman hired as an exotic dancer for an off-campus team party — than did prosecution evidence previously released to the media.

Joseph B. Cheshire, a lawyer for one of the defendants, told The Associated Press on Friday that the report — turned over by prosecutor Mike Nifong only after defense lawyers had loudly criticized the evidence against their clients — was clearly written to try to make up for deficiencies in the prosecution's case.

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"His report is clearly contradicted by other discovery, including other investigators' notes," Cheshire said. "And his report is based on no apparent notes that he ever kept — which is the first time I've ever seen a law enforcement officer who is an investigator not keep notes and then write a report four months later, after other people have submitted their reports."

Cheshire, who was on vacation Friday, participated in the meeting with Smith by telephone, court officials said.

Wade Smith, one of five defense lawyers who attended the meeting in person, refused to comment on the report or even say whether Smith told the group to keep quiet.

"The business of the case is moving along properly, in good order, and let me just stop with that," he said. "I'd rather not get into anything except it was a great meeting."

Nifong, who attended with an aide, also refused to comment on the story.

"I've read it," he acknowledged with a smile.

Kathy Shuart, Durham County's trial court administrator, said the parties agreed that their next court appearance will be a discovery hearing on Sept. 22, at which the defendants are not required to appear.

She said the judge, on his own volition, was preparing an order to bar all cameras and electronic recording devices from pretrial hearings. No decision had been reached about whether they would be barred from the trial as well; the meeting participants also had no discussion about a likely trial date, Shuart said.

The Times report focused on 33 pages of Gottlieb's typewritten notes and three pages of handwritten notes that were turned over to defense attorneys on July 17, part of the last of three batches of evidence shared as part of pretrial discovery.

They were among more than 1,800 pages of evidence reviewed by the newspaper.

While defense lawyers have argued that medical reports don't support the accuser's claim of rape, the newspaper said Gottlieb reported that the woman appeared to be in extreme pain when he interviewed her two and a half days after the incident, and that signs of bruises emerged then as well.

It also said the file showed her story of being raped by three men in a bathroom remained largely consistent over time, apart from two brief, early conversations with police.

And, The Times reported, Gottlieb's recollection the woman's description of her attackers corresponded closely to the defendants — though another investigator's notes of the same conversation said the woman's description was at odds with the actual appearance of one of the three athletes facing trial in the case.

A grand jury has indicted three team members — Reade Seligmann, 20, of Essex Fells, N.J.; Collin Finnerty, 19, of Garden City, N.Y.; and David Evans, 23, of Bethesda, Md. — on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual offense.

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