DURHAM, N.C. – The district attorney prosecuting three Duke lacrosse players accused of rape asked a judge Wednesday to put a stop to defense polling of Durham residents about the case.
In a motion filed in Durham Superior Court, District Attorney Mike Nifong said the polling could damage the chances of a fair trial in the case.
The players were indicted on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual offense after a woman hired as a stripper at a team party said she was attacked March 13. Defense attorneys have strongly proclaimed their clients' innocence.
Nifong said his wife, Cy Gurney, received a call Sept. 11 from a company hired to gauge attitudes in the community, including several questions about the Duke lacrosse case, according to court records.
Gurney said she was asked how likely she would be to believe a stripper who said she was raped and whether she believed Durham investigators conducted an unfair lineup of suspects in the case, according to her sworn statement.
In his motion, Nifong says the survey was conducted by Central Research Services Inc., a research firm with offices in New York. The company did not immediately respond to a telephone call from The Associated Press Wednesday.
Lawyers for the three players responded in a joint statement and said the polling was over and was necessary because Nifong had made prejudicial comments.
"(The) polling was necessary to determine the extent and nature of that prejudice and other issues related to the defendants' jury trial rights," defense lawyers wrote in a response released to reporters within an hour of Nifong's filing. "The polling was scientifically conducted, limited to 300 interviews and terminated thereafter."
Lawyers on both sides in high-profile cases frequently use surveys, focus groups and consultants to fine-tune courtroom strategies and jury selection.