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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Duke Lacrosse Rape: Possible DNA Link - Round 2

updated: May 15, 2006

Defense attorneys for Duke lacrosse players hold press conferenceThe Duke lacrosse rape case is played out in the media, tit for tat. The prosecution leaks information and then the defense responds. The game continued with the second round of DNA tests that the prosecution first partially leaked on Wednesday. Friday, the defense got their chance to respond after getting their own copy of the test results.

CNN reported:

An attorney for a Duke University lacrosse player said the results of new DNA tests released Friday implicated none of the team members in an alleged rape.

"There is no conclusive match of DNA," attorney Joe Cheshire said.

However, the attorney said, semen obtained from vaginal swabs of the accuser indicated that she had sex with a man who is not a Duke student. Cheshire would not identify that man, saying it would not be fair to him.

ABC News quickly ID'd where the semen obtained from vaginal swabs came from:
ABC News' Law and Justice Unit has learned that the unnamed source of the DNA is the alleged victim's "boyfriend," according to her mother.

ABC News is withholding the name of the man because he is apparently not a target of the investigation. Records indicate that Durham, N.C., police gave the "boyfriend'' a cheek swab to collect DNA on May 3, ABC News' Law and Justice Unit has learned exclusively.

The Fingernail controvesy:

The issue of a secondary transfer of DNA to the press-on fingernail was also addressed by the defense lawyers:
[Collin] Finnerty's attorney, Wade Smith, said Friday that the latest DNA tests only bolster his client's assertion that he did not rape the dancer.

"Once again, a DNA report indicated not a smattering, not a spider web of indication that there was any DNA from those boys," Smith said.

Cheshire said DNA was found on a plastic press-on fingernail, but the genetic material did not belong to either of the players who have been indicted. He emphasized that the fingernail was taken from the trash can by two Duke players who rented the house where the rape is alleged to have occurred.

The players volunteered the fingernail to the Durham, North Carolina, police department after the players learned of the rape allegations, which Cheshire said was not behavior consistent with that of rapists.

Also, he said, the trash can from which the fingernail was taken contained toilet paper and cotton swabs that were full of DNA, so it would be more surprising not to find DNA on the fingernail.

More defense spin from MSNBC.com:
Cheshire said the fact that the players turned over the fingernail shows they had nothing to hide.

“Is that consistent with someone that knowledgeably and knowingly committed a rape?” Cheshire said. “That they would leave fingernails that were ripped off a person in a violent struggle in their trash can after they’re told there’s an investigation and that police were going to come to their house, and when the police do, they give them the fingernails?”

Another opinion from the defense:
[Defense attorney]Thomas said that if a lacrosse player had merely picked up the artificial fingernail from the floor and thrown it into a trashcan, some of his DNA would have become attached to the nail.

"I would find that to be of no probative value as regards a rape,"

The defense is supplying some new information in their response to the "fingernail" issue. They are saying that two players living in the house found the fingernails in the trash can. Then "the players volunteered the fingernail," to the Durham police. The prosecution's version of events, regarding the press-on fingernail, is in the Probable Cause Affidavit, which said:
During a search warrant at 610 N. Buchanan on 3-16-2006 the victim's four red polished fingernails were recovered inside the residence consistent to her version of the attack. She claimed she was clawing at one of the suspect's arms in an attempt to breathe while being strangled. During that time the nails broke off.

Not a drop of blood?

If Ms. Mangum was clawing and defending herself where is the blood? ABC reported:
The report also says that tests looking specifically for blood on the fake fingernail found in a bathroom trash can were negative. This could be significant because the accuser has said that she broke her fingernails while defending herself against the alleged attackers, and scratching them. It is unclear, however, whether her scratches drew blood.

Prosecution Spin is Not Accurate:

The defense and prosecution were spinning the bit of fingernail DNA different ways. The prosecution's leak, on Wednesday, resulted in headlines with the words "DNA Match" and "Tests Link" like these from some local news outlets in Raleigh-Durham:

Report: DNA Match Found In Duke Lacrosse Case [NBC17.com, May 11, 2006]
Rape Accuser Had Photo ID'd Possible DNA Match [NBC17.com, May 11, 2006]
Sources: Second DNA Tests Link Accuser To Third Duke Lacrosse Player [WRAL.com]
DNA Match In Duke Lacrosse Rape Case [wfmynews2.com, May 11, 2006]

Those were misleading headlines. The headlines changed when the defense got their chance to discuss the 2nd DNA report:

2nd DNA Test Shows No Conclusive Match [ABC News, May 12, 2006]
New Duke DNA Tests Are Reportedly Inconclusive [NY Times, May 12, 2006]

Who should be believed? The behaviour and "spin" of Mike Nifong and the district attorney's office hasn't inspired much confidence.

The three senior Duke Lacrosse captains, Matt Zash, Daniel Flannery and David Evans lived at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. They talked to the Durham police for a total of 25 hours on March 16th without lawyers being present. It is unclear if they were ever given their Miranda rights during that day of questioning.

District Attorney, Mike Nifong, then came out and said, the players were not cooperating with the investigation?

Fingernail seems an apt metaphor, right now, for describing the case the prosecution is holding on to.

The moral of the "fingernail" story is if the police want to talk to you all day, Miranda or not, and then search your house, get a lawyer ASAP. It also shows again how Duke University dropped the ball when it came to protecting the rights of their students.

Duke Lacrosse DNA: Mystery Man Revealed [ABCNews, May 13, 2006]
2nd DNA test clears Duke players, defense says[MSNBC, May 12, 2006]
Attorneys: DNA bolsters lacrosse players' defense [CNN, May 13, 2006]
DNA ID'd: It didn't come from Duke player [CNN, May 13, 2006]
Lawyers split on lacrosse reports [Herald-Sun.com, May 11, 2006]

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