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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Duke Case: Identification Issues


The Innocence Project reported that there have been 183 DNA exonerations of innocent men who were wrongly imprisoned nationwide. In 75% of these cases, eyewitness identification played a role in wrongful convictions. The Innocence Project is affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University.

In the Duke lacrosse case, Mike Nifong's prosecution is solely based on the eyewitness identification of the three rapists by the alleged victim, Crystal Gail Mangum. During every step of this case Ms. Mangum, aided by the Durham PD, has consistently failed to make a convincing identification of any of the three accused men: Evans, Finnerty, or Seligmann.

Ms. Mangum's descriptions of her attackers to Sgt. Mark Gottlieb and Inv. Ben Himan in a March 16th interview are useless. The descriptions recorded by Inv. Himan in his handwritten notes and by Sgt. Gottlieb in his supplemental case notes, made from memory, do not agree with each other.

The News & Observer reported

In the lacrosse case, Durham police conducted several ID sessions with the accuser. On March 16, she viewed 24 photos of lacrosse players printed from the goduke.com Web site. On March 21, she viewed 12 more.

She recognized five of the 36 players, but police records of the March lineups are unclear whether she identified the five players as assailants or merely as partygoers. According to forms filled out at the time by Investigator Richard Clayton, he showed the accuser a series of photographs and asked whether the person had sexually assaulted her.

In an undated typed report released to defense attorneys in June, Clayton said he asked whether she recognized the player. Clayton did not return phone calls for an explanation of which question he asked, or both.

On April 4, Sgt. Mark Gottlieb conducted a third lineup session, using a procedure suggested to him by Nifong. Gottlieb met with the accuser at the police substation at Northgate Mall. He told her she was going to view pictures of the people who attended the party. He showed her mug shots of all 46 white players. (He did not show the team's lone black player because the accuser said her assailants were white.)
The Confidence Question

One part of the Durham police identification lineups conducted with the alleged victim, Crystal Gail Mangum, was the confidence question. The confidence question is when she was asked to describe how sure she was of her identification of a lacrosse player she had chosen as a suspect.
The confidence question is key to helping investigators decide whether to focus on one suspect and should be asked immediately, said Gary Wells, a psychologist at Iowa State University and the nation's leading expert on eyewitness identification.

After a photo lineup, investigators and prosecutors influence a witness' confidence, he said. By the time of trial, a witness who has chosen the wrong person can become supremely confident in his choice, Wells said. "A mistaken identification is not what convicts innocent people. It's a mistaken identification by confident people," Wells said.
After Ms. Mangum failed in two March lineups to identify any of her attackers she was influenced by Durham PD investigators, Sgt. Gottlieb and Inv. Himan, to pick three suspects and one alternate on April 4th. She was only 90% confident of her identification of David Evans and she said, "He looks just like him without the mustache." Evans never had a mustache.

Conflicting Identifications

Here is a comparison of the selections made by Crystal Gail Mangum in lineups conducted by the Durham Police Department in March and April.
Comments are made by Iowa State University professor Gary Wells, an expert on police identification procedures.

Player: Brad Ross.......March Lineup: Yes.......April Lineup: Yes

Comment: Ross was with his girlfriend at N.C. State until after the party broke up; she filed a sworn affidavit, backed by Ross’s cell-phone records showing calls originating in Raleigh from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. that day. Wells said, "It places [the accuser] in the questionable category of eyewitnesses who is capable of being positive and wrong. That’s a red flag."

Players: Fred Krom, Nick O'Hara, Kevin Mayer.... March: Yes.....April: No

Players: Glenn Nick, John Walsh, Kyle Dowd, Adam Langley, Josh Coveleski, Matt Wilson, Ben Koesterer, Peter Lamade, Dan Flannery, Erik Henkelman, David Evans, Willliam Wolcott........March: No........April: Yes

Comment: Wells said he could understand a witness having unclear memories of tangential people: "Her consistency about who she says are her attackers is crucial." She did not recognize Matt Wilson or David Evans in March but identified them as assailants in April.

Player: Reade Seligmann.......March: 70 percent......April: 100 percent
Comment: In March, the accuser was 70 percent certain she recognized Seligmann but could not remember exactly where she saw him at the party. In April, she was 100 percent certain he had assaulted her. Seligmann was indicted two weeks later. Wells: “Memory doesn’t get better with time. That’s one of the things we know. How does she get more positive with time?”

Player: Tony McDevitt.......March: n/a.......April: Yes

Comment: The accuser said McDevitt made the comment about the broomstick; the captains said Peter Lamade made that comment and that McDevitt repeatedly apologized to the second dancer about his teammates’ behavior.

Player: Chris Loftus........March: n/a.......April: Yes

Comment: He was not at the party but was in his dorm with his roommate and their girlfriends, according to interviews by private investigators and other records provided to police.
Forget the fact that local, state, and federal identification procedures were violated by not having fillers and that an investigator who does not know the suspect's identity should be conducting the lineup. Even with rigged lineups, Ms. Mangum fails to make convincing identifications.

The only crime involved here is allowing anyone to be indicted for rape based only on these flawed identifications.

DNA Proves Scott Fappiano’s Innocence [innocenceproject.org, Oct. 6, 2006]
Lineup process rankles DAs [NewsObserver, Feb. 22, 2006]
Experts: Lacrosse IDs likely tainted [NewsObserver.com, Oct. 6, 2006]
Transcript Suggests Alleged Rape Victim ID'd Four Duke Lacrosse Players [WRAL.com, May 10, 2006]
Conflicting Identifications (.pdf) [N&O, Oct. 6, 2006 - published with 'Lacrosse IDs likely tainted']
Not Matching graphic [N&O, via ezboard.com]

TalkLeft Discussion of ID Issues [forums.TalkLeft.com]
Duke Lacrosse Roster '05-'06 team [TJN]
The Faulty Lineup [TJN]

Duke Lacrosse Case [TJN Archives]

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