Posted April 12, 2006 – A day after DNA testing failed to connect any members of Duke University’s lacrosse team to the alleged gang rape of a Black stripper, the district attorney has vowed that the case is far from over.
Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong said that if lawyers for team members think the case is over, they will be "sadly disappointed."
"This case is not going away," Nifong said at news conference Monday. "It doesn't mean nothing happened, it just means nothing was left behind."
Nifong said that in about 75 percent of sexual-assault cases, there is no DNA evidence.
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"DNA results can often be helpful, but I've been doing this a long time, and for most of the years I've been doing this, we had to deal with sexual-assault cases the good old-fashioned way. Witnesses got on the stand and told what happened to them," Nifong said. "In this situation, I would suspect that a jury will get to evaluate the evidence."
Many people generally think that DNA testing, introduced in the late 1980s, seals the deal and the case is a slam-dunk.
So what happens when there's no DNA evidence?
Attorneys say they must then rely on other clues, such as testimony from the victim, evidence of trauma to the victim and witnesses.
However, defense attorney Wade Smith insists that the DNA test results are enough to back the team members' claim that the woman who filed the rape complaint is not telling the truth.
"No DNA material from any young man tested was present on the body of this complaining woman," Smith told reporters in Durham, N.C. "Not present within her body, not present on the surface of her body, and not present on any of her belongings. There was no sexual assault in this case."
Joe Cheshire, one of the lawyers who represents one of the team's captains, told reporters that authorities "swabbed about every place they could possibly swab from her, in which there could be any DNA," he said.
"The experts will tell you that if there was a condom used they would still be able to pick up DNA, latex, lubricant and all other types of things to show that – and that's not here," Cheshire said.
A furious Shawn Cunningham, a student at N.C. Central, said he was tired of people blaming the victim.
“The press has disrespected this young lady," he said. "You have minimalized [her] to a stripper and an exotic dancer. You don't identify her as a mother. You don't identify her as a student. You don't identify her as a woman."
Historian and North Carolina Central graduate Harris C. Johnson referenced a case in which a Black man was arrested for raping a White woman but was released when police realized that they had the wrong guy.
"Those lacrosse players met the profile. Why weren't they arrested?" Johnson asked Nifong. "What's the difference? Is it the billion-dollar endowment of Duke, which can buy anything and everyone?"
The accuser is a 27-year-old Black divorced mother of two who pays her way through school at North Carolina Central University by dancing.
She told police she and another woman were hired to dance at a March 13 lacrosse team party but that three teammates dragged her into a bathroom, choked her, raped her and yelled racial slurs at her.
So far, no charges have been filed.
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