Published June 14, 2007
RALEIGH, N.C. – Lawyers for three Duke lacrosse players once accused of raping a stripper repeatedly asked District Attorney Mike Nifong to turn over the full results of DNA testing, a lawyer testified Thursday during Nifong's ethics trial.
Brad Bannon, who represented former student Dave Evans, also recounted the offers he and other defense attorneys made to meet with Nifong before he sought indictments against their clients. Nifong refused, he said.
The North Carolina State Bar charged Nifong with violating rules of professional conduct in his handling of the high-profile case.
Among the charges are allegations that Nifong kept the full details of the DNA testing from the defense. If convicted by the bar's disciplinary committee, Nifong could be stripped of his license to practice law in the state.
Dr. Brian Meehan, director of DNA Security Inc., testified on Wednesday that he and Nifong did not conspire to keep the results from defense attorneys, although he said Nifong never asked for a final and complete report on his lab's findings.
"We did not withhold anything," Meehan testified.
The test results found that none of the DNA on the stripper's body matched the players she accused of raping her at a March 2006 team party.
Despite the lack of DNA evidence tying them to the case, Nifong won indictments against Evans, Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty. The three were later cleared by the state attorney general, who called them "innocent" victims of a rogue prosecutor's "tragic rush to accuse."
Seligmann and Finnerty were in the courtroom Thursday.
Meehan said Wednesday that an initial DNA report he provided to Nifong was never intended to be all-inclusive.
"We don't typically force-feed reports to clients," Meehan said. "When he was ready for a final report, we thought he would let us know."
When Nifong released the initial report to defense attorneys in May 2006, they quickly trumpeted the news that Meehan's lab had been unable to find a conclusive match between the accuser and any lacrosse players.
But it wasn't until much later that the defense received the background details of the test results, which indicated there was genetic material from several other males on the accuser's underwear and body, but none from any member of the lacrosse team.
Meehan testified that he was concerned that releasing all the information would have violated the privacy of those tested.
But Meehan said he would have turned it over had Nifong asked for the information. He hinted that defense attorneys should have noticed a reference to the additional test information in the May report, though it didn't specifically state what was available.
State Bureau of Investigation agent Jennifer Leyn later testified that the agency's reports on DNA testing always contain complete information.
Joseph Cheshire, another attorney for Evans, angrily insisted after the hearing that it was Nifong's responsibility to provide all the test results.
"It's an absurdity," he said. Meehan "works for the prosecutor. He's the prosecutor's employee under the attorney work-product doctrine. You don't mess with another lawyer's experts. You call the lawyer."