Duke Lacrosse Team Vindicated
Posted by shadmia on April 14, 2007
It took a year. Probably the worst year in the lives of Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty, and Reade Seligmann. They were the three members of the Duke Lacrosse team accused of raping Crystal Magnum at a party where she was hired to perform as a stripper.
They are Innocent!
In an extraordinary move North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper didn’t just dismiss all the remaining criminal charges against Dave Evans, Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty. He took the extra step of declaring the players innocent — the victims of a “tragic rush to accuse” by a rogue prosecutor who could be disbarred for his actions. “This case shows the enormous consequences of overreaching by a prosecutor,” Cooper said.
The “rogue prosecutor” Roy Cooper referred to was Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong who is now facing ethics violations over his handling of the case. Nifong withdrew from the case in January after the North Carolina bar charged him with making misleading and inflammatory comments to the media about the athletes under suspicion. The bar later added more serious charges of withholding evidence from defense attorneys and lying to the court. Among other things, Nifong called the athletes “a bunch of hooligans” and declared DNA evidence would identify the guilty. He was also accused of withholding the results of lab tests that found DNA from several men — none of them lacrosse team members — on the accuser’s underwear and body. If found guilty, Nifong could be disbarred.
Crystal Gail Magnum who accused the three players of rape, was a 28-year old mother who had struggled with poverty, alcohol abuse and psychological instability. She was also Black which fueled speculation about race being a factor in the case. The case itself began to fall apart when Crystal began to change the details of her story and finally admitted that she was not even sure that she had been raped. In recent years she turned to therapists for help with bipolar disorder and other mental problems and took anti-psychotic medication. As N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper said the special prosecutors and State Bureau of Investigation agents who interviewed her concluded that “she may actually believe the many different stories that she has been telling.” The Attorney General has declined to file charges against her.
History of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case
After the decision to drop all charges against the Duke Lacrosse members was made, Mike Nifong issued an apology to the accused men:
“To the extent that I made judgments that ultimately proved to be incorrect, I apologize to the three students that were wrongly accused,” Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong said in a statement.
“I also understand that whenever someone has been wrongly accused, the harm caused by the accusations might not be immediately undone merely by dismissing them,” Nifong added. “It is my sincere desire that the actions of Attorney General Cooper will serve to remedy any remaining injury that has resulted from these cases.”
His apology may not be enough as the accused athletes and their lawyers contemplate whether or not to bring a lawsuit against him. “I think their chances of success suing Mr. Nifong are reasonably good, despite what we call prosecutorial immunity,” said John Banzhaf, a professor at the George Washington University School of Law.
“Ordinarily, a prosecutor has absolute immunity for the actions he takes in preparation for a case, but there are some caveats to that, and one of them is he does not have absolute immunity for misleading statements he gives at press conferences,” said Shannon Gilreath, an adjunct professor at the Wake Forest University School of Law.
The accuser could also be a potential target for a lawsuit. Cooper said his investigators concluded no attack took place. Some have suggested the players and their families might sue Duke University, which has been heavily criticized in some quarters for suspending the players and canceling the lacrosse team’s season before the young men were even tried.
Mike Pressler, the coach of the Lacrosse team who was forced to resign in the wake of the scandal, now the head coach at Bryant University, expressed his relief that the case had come to a close and that his former players were finally exonerated.
“Today is the celebration of the two words we’ve attached our lives to for almost 13 months — the truth,” Pressler said. “You can talk about loyalty, honesty and trust. They all apply to the 2006 Duke men’s lacrosse team, but in the end, it all comes to down to the truth.”
After all his team has gone through, head coach Danowski said with the case over, his team and his university can finally begin to heal.
“Duke University speaks for itself, and I think that Duke Lacrosse will, in time, speak for itself,” Danowski said. “This is something that will eventually be a bruise, but nothing more than that. It will not define this program, just like it will not define Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann.”