Duke Lacrosse Lawyers Blast Police Attempts to Interview Players

Defense lawyers representing some members of the Duke University's men's lacrosse team at the center of a rape allegation on Friday decried police attempts to interview players in their dorm rooms.

Meanwhile, a recording of a conversation with one of the first police officers to see the alleged assault victim the night in question was released to the public. A police officer can be heard telling a dispatcher that the woman was "just passed out drunk" in someone else's car.

Attorney Kerry Sutton said police did not have any warrants when they approached the players Thursday evening in efforts to question them about a 27-year old stripper's claims that she was raped and assaulted at a team party last month. Sutton said the players immediately contacted their attorneys, who advised them not to speak.

"I have no doubt that the Durham Police Department is fully aware that every one of those young men is represented, and I'm fairly shocked that they would run an end play around defense counsel in an attempt to talk to them," said Sutton, who represents one of the men who lived in the off-campus house where the accuser says she was raped.

"I am aware that police attempted to enter those rooms and I am now about to leave this news conference to learn the whole story," Richard Brodhead said early Friday morning when asked about the searches during a press conference.

The police have thus far searched players' rooms twice as they investigate allegations made by the black female student, who told police she was raped and beaten by three white men around midnight at the off-campus party. The racially charged allegations have led the university to cancel the team's season and accept the resignation of its coach.

Police had previously searched the home where the party occurred and the Duke dorm room of lacrosse player Ryan McFayden. The search of McFayden's room came after police obtained a vulgar and graphic e-mail sent from his school account shortly after the alleged assault.

Duke released a statement Friday saying the two Durham police detectives who visited a residence hall Thursday evening notified the Duke Police Department ahead of time. No search warrants were executed, the school said.

"The purpose of the visit was to conduct interviews. We do not know who they interviewed during the hour and 15 minutes they were in the Edens Residence Hall," said Aaron Graves, associate vice president for campus safety and security at Duke University. "Duke reiterates its earlier statements that it is cooperating fully with the police investigation and urges anyone with information pertinent to the events of March 13 to cooperate with the authorities."

'Just Passed Out Drunk'

The taped police conversation released Thursday, which took place about 1:30 a.m. March 14, occurred about five minutes after a grocery store security guard called 911 to report a woman in the parking lot who would not get out of someone else's car.

The woman was "just passed out drunk" in someone else's car on that night, according to the police recording.

During the recorded conversation, the officer gave the dispatcher the police code for an intoxicated person and said the woman was unconscious. When asked whether she needed medical help, the officer said: "She's breathing and appears to be fine. She's not in distress. She's just passed-out drunk."

In an interview with FOX News earlier this week, Durham attorney Bill Thomas, who represents one of the lacrosse players, alluded to the fact that the woman was drunk and that perhaps she made up the story about being raped to get herself out of trouble with the police.

Defense lawyers have said time-stamped photographs taken by the players show that the accuser was drunk and already had suffered some injuries when she arrived at the house for the party.

The recording is consistent with "what I have seen of the photo evidence before," Sutton said. Those photos, she said, showed that she was "way beyond where you would put somebody behind the wheel of a car."

No charges have been filed, but District Attorney Mike Nifong has said he believes a crime was committed. Attorneys for the players have said DNA tests failed to connect any players to the alleged attack, and they have urged Nifong to drop his investigation.

Since the allegations were made, there have been protests at both Duke University and North Carolina Central University in Durham, where the alleged victim attended school.

A joint press conference was held Friday morning featuring NCUU Chancellor James Ammons, Brodhead and Durham Mayor Bill Bell.

They stressed that community leaders are working to heal wounds opened by the allegations and stressed that all the media scrutiny on Durham is blowing racial tensions out of proportion.

"For the last few weeks, Durham has been shaking from allegations," Ammons said. "In times like these, let us remember that justice is served in the courtroom, not in the media nor at the hands of the individuals."

Saying officials from both the city and colleges are proud of the response of students at both schools who have organized events to educate each other about sexual violence, racism and the concept of innocence until proven guilty, Ammons added: "Durham has so much more to offer that what recent events or simplistic media portrayals have shown."

"We've been dealt the cards that we have, we're going to play with them," Bell added. "I'm convinced this city of Durham, this county of Durham, is going to be a much better community when all of this is completed."

Bell added that any racial tensions that may exist is not representative of Durham, nor is it unique to the city. But community and school leaders are working to ease those tensions.

"What we're doing is really [dealing with] a national issue, it just so happens you guys have come in and made it a Durham issue," Bell said, directing his comments toward the media.

Several defense attorneys say they expect the district attorney to ask a grand jury Monday to issue charges. There has been no official word, however, on whether Nifong intends to present the allegations then.

Tthe woman's medical exam — which Nifong has said is his basis for believing a rape occurred — does not mention her being drunk.

The woman claims she and another stripper hired to dance at the party arrived at 11:30 p.m. March 13. The pair reportedly left the house a short time later, fearing for their safety. The accuser told police the two were coaxed back into the house with an apology, at which point they were separated. That's when she said she was dragged into a bathroom and raped, beaten and choked for a half hour.

At 12:53 a.m., police received a 911 call from a woman complaining that she had been called racial slurs by white men gathered outside the home where the party took place.

The defense has said it believes the second dancer at the party made that call. The 911 call from the grocery store security guard was placed at 1:22 a.m.

In it, the caller says, "Um, the problem is ... it's a lady in somebody else's car and she will not get out of their car. She's like, she's like intoxicated, drunk or something. She's, I mean, she won't get out of the car, period."

Police spokeswoman Kammie Michael declined to comment on the contents of the radio traffic.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.