UPDATED CHRONOLOGY OF DUKE LACROSSE CASE: DECEMBER 2006
(Thanks to Quasi, Baldo, Q.A. and JSwift for their additions and suggestions.)
FRIDAY DECEMBER 1: Duke Prof. Thomas Crowley writes a letter of apology in the Herald-Sun for his November 13 article criticizing the Duke lacrosse team, supporting Durham DA Mike Nifong, and suggesting the rape allegations against defendants David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann should go to trial:
“On Nov. 13, The Herald-Sun published an “Other Voices” piece by me concerning the Duke lacrosse case. I have subsequently been informed of errors in that letter. In particular my blanket statement about behavior of the lacrosse team was neither fair in general nor applicable to the particular case now in dispute. I apologize for this and any other errors.”
In his blog “Durham-in-Wonderland,” Brooklyn College history Prof. KC Johnson discusses the appointment of Robert Steel, Duke Board of Trustees chairman, as U.S. Undersecretary of the Treasury: “Steel is serving two masters—Duke and the federal government. To date, he has exhibited an inexplicable unwillingness to criticize Mike Nifong’s “separate-but-equal” justice system for Duke students. In so doing, he, along with the Brodhead administration, has left in place an image of Duke as an institution whose upper leadership (much less its faculty, such as the Group of 88) does not particularly care about the school’s own students.”
Joan Foster pens an essay for the LieStoppers blog titled “Old Albums” which concludes:
“I'm sure that [Duke University President Richard] Brodhead, the Shakespeare scholar, knows well this quote.
‘The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
...it becomes the throned monarch better than his crown;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.’
But, last Spring, Brodhead the "Throned Monarch," the Duke President, seemingly had little mercy or empathy or personal memory of any regret. The man of letters had little of note to say. His touted eloquence evaporated. His words were parsed and forced and noticeably flat. He could not seemingly relate in any way to these young men, indicted without evidence, condemned without conviction, smeared with a broad brush by their teachers, the local newspapers ,and an ambitious prosecutor lagging in a political race. He would not stand forcefully for their rights or even meet with their parents. His defenders say,...well, he wasn't the Drum Major in the Duke Lacrosse Persecution. Faint praise, but even so, he was marching in lock-step behind the cacophonous 88...and whatever horn he occasionally tooted...was too tinny and tentative to be heard above the din.
Pity Brodhead didn't take out HIS old albums, re-acquaint himself with Young Dick and his own frail humanity...before he turned his back on these boys and closed his door to their families. He might have been able to summon up some empathy and resolve. He might have been able to look their parents in the eye and deliver his "messages" himself. He might have been able to be the kind of man we could all look to now with admiration and confidence and respect. The kind of man we expect the President of Duke University to be. He might have even made a difference.”
SATURDAY DECEMBER 2: KC Johnson attempts to answer the question of why accuser Crystal Mangum happened to choose Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann as her attackers instead of others on the lacrosse team by analyzing census information about income in the hometowns of Duke lacrosse players.
SUNDAY DECEMBER 3: The Raleigh News & Observer (N&O) publishes an article by reporter Joe Neff detailing complaints that have been filed against DA Nifong for his actions in the lacrosse case. A request for a federal investigation has come from Michael Cornacchia of New York, one of Finnerty's attorneys. He has written to the U.S. attorney general, the FBI director, the congressional delegations of North Carolina and Long Island and others, saying Nifong has violated the civil rights of the three players. The case merits an immediate investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, writes Cornacchia, a former prosecutor who recently served as chief investigative counsel for the probe of the United Nation's oil-for-food program. Neff also reveals at least 17 complaints to the North Carolina State Bar about Nifong; these are usually confidential but the authors copied their complaints to the Governor’s office, putting the letters in the public domain. According to Neff, there have also been scores of letters sent to Gov. Mike Easley and Atty. Gen. Roy Cooper about the case, most criticizing Nifong.
MONDAY DECEMBER 4: Economics Prof. William Anderson of Frostburg State College states in a blogpost titled “Why I Write on the Duke Lacrosse Case:”
“What is important here is that white, middle and upper-class people have come to understand what many other people already knew: prosecutors and the police are more likely to lie than to tell the truth. After seeing a prosecutor lie to them — and watching the Duke University administration de facto side with the prosecution — they are beginning to understand the rottenness of American criminal justice. (That there are a gaggle of prosecutors, journalists, and others willing to support Michael Nifong's illegitimate case tells us that it is not only Durham, North Carolina, that supports legal corruption.) (…)
“So here I am. The Duke case is nearly nine months old, Nifong's "evidence" has been shredded by attorneys and the blogs, yet the case continues toward trial because government courts are not about truth or justice, but rather are a plaything for prosecutors. It is obvious that truth does not matter either to the prosecutors or the judges, but I also know that truth serves as sunlight. I think of what I am doing as shining a light on cockroaches, something that makes them scatter.”
THURSDAY DECEMBER 7: Durham Police Investigator Ben Himan interviews Angel Altmon, the security guard at the Kroger’s in Durham who called the police early in the morning of March 14 after Crystal Mangum and Kim (Roberts) Pittman sat in a car in the store’s parking lot. It is uncertain why it took Himan 8 months to locate and talk to Altmon because the security guard had already been interviewed by the media as early as March 29.
The Johnsville News comments on “Asymmetric Justice in Durham:” “Revenge against three northern white boys has become the rallying cry for a coalition of the avenging. Revenge, sweet revenge for who knows how many past grievances fueled a large portion of the electorate that supported the corrupt district attorney, Mike Nifong, in the November election. The coalition of the avenging cuts across racial lines; it includes Duke faculty members, Durham law enforcement, members of the African American community, Durham power brokers, and even some Duke students.
This coalition has confused revenge with justice. For them, the Duke case is not about a single alleged rape, it is about a host of past wrongs that have been hurled like rocks in a public stoning of these three innocent men. The coalition wants them punished as symbols and not duly protected as presumed innocent individuals under the justice system.
Advocates for the avenging coalition have taken to referring to David Evans, Collin Finnerty, and Reade Seligmann as the "Duke three," or just the lacrosse players, instead of using their proper names. They certainly find it more convenient to attack symbols than it is to attack three uniquely innocent men with names and families. Depersonalizing an act of revenge makes it easier, who dares to look their intended victims in the eye and acknowledged them by name? Societal retribution is best administered anonymously.”
MONDAY DECEMBER 11: The LieStoppers blog publishes critical comments it has received about its coverage of the lacrosse case in a post titled “The Real People of Durham and the Word on the Street.” A few samples: 1) "The real people of Durham hate obnoxious yankee punks who think they can come down here and piss on people's lawns and mistreat a local girl and try to get away with it." 2) "Joan Foster, there are a myriad of Nifong supporters posting because not everyone has idealised these accused rapists-sodomist-kidnappers as you have done and we see through the defense's manipulation and lies and see the truth: something happened at that party and it was not tiddlywinks.” 3) “You only care about the lacrosse players BECAUSE THEY ARE WHITE MALE ELITES and you could give a damn about the rest of the people being railroaded in Durham."
Prof. Bill Anderson poses the question “What if the Duke 3 Had Been Black?” in a blogpost. He concludes: “…various civil liberties groups in Durham like the NAACP and the ACLU have decided to abandon literally everything for which they have stood in the promotion of justice in order to try to railroad the Duke 3 into a conviction. Irving Joyner, a law professor at NCCU, suddenly has given up his usual support for changes of venue in racially-charged cases, claiming that because he believes a Durham jury would be more likely to convict, therefore, the trial must be held in Durham.
The real problem here is that racial politics, as well as the politics of entitlement, have clouded the judgment of many Durham residents. As I stated previously, I have no doubt that blacks in Durham in an ordinary rape case would have recognized the situation for what it was and would not be pressing for trial and conviction. Indeed, blacks have been railroaded in courts of "justice," and they rightly have had a historical reluctance to believe everything a prosecutor and the police might say. (…)
Yet, I doubt anyone in Durham really is listening or is willing to understand the ramifications of what Nifong and others there are doing. We are seeing the politics of entitlement at work, and in this case, there exist many people in Durham who believe that they are entitled to a conviction, even if it is wrongful. Seligmann, Finnerty, and Evans are not real people to them, only political symbols that must be destroyed at all costs, and if this madness is permitted to continue, innocent blacks in the future also will suffer prison sentences or worse. Right now, however, the representatives of the NAACP and people like Joyner really don't care about that; they just want to see people go to prison, even if they committed no crime.
TUESDAY DECEMBER 12: It is revealed that a North Carolina congressman wants a federal investigation into how DA Nifong has handled the rape investigation of the Duke lacrosse players. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., in a December 7 letter is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to review the case, accusing Nifong of making prejudicial statements to the media and telling police to violate identification procedures. In the letter to Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales, Jones also highlights the fact that Nifong has never spoken directly with the accuser. Attorneys for the accused are to be in court December 15 when Nifong is scheduled to hand over more evidence in the case. A trial could begin in Spring, 2007. When it does, it could be one of the longest in Durham County history because of the complexity of the case, in which there are three defendants and three sets of attorneys. Defense attorneys are saying that because of the media attention the case has received, they are considering asking for a change of venue, which has not happened in Durham for nearly 20 years. Nifong has said in recent months that a Durham County jury should decide the case
WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 13: Defense attorneys file three blockbuster motions on consecutive days which attack the heart of Nifong’s case against the lacrosse players. The first, filed today, reveals a bombshell: detailed DNA testing by DNA Security, Inc. found genetic material from several males in Crystal Mangum’s body and in her panties -- but none at all from any team member, including none from the three charged with rape. The motion complains that the information was deliberately withheld in a report on the testing prosecutors provided earlier this year to the defense. "This is strong evidence of innocence in a case in which the accuser denied engaging in any sexual activity in the days before the alleged assault, told police she last had consensual sexual intercourse a week before the assault, and claimed that her attackers did not use condoms and ejaculated," the motion reads. Defense attorney Joseph Cheshire says in an interview that the report's findings suggest the accuser had sex shortly before the March team party where she was hired to perform as a stripper. "None of (the DNA material) happens to be from lacrosse players who are supposed to have had sex with her, which is pretty significant," according to Cheshire. Defense attorneys say the only DNA found related to their clients was a partial match to Evans on a fake fingernail that was found in a trash can at the house. That was the DNA result printed in the final report. The defense motion also contends that at least one sample sent to DNA Security Inc., a private lab in Burlington, might have been contaminated because it included DNA from Dr. Brian Meehan, the lab's director. The motion also claims there were other errors regarding numbering of tests, and asserts the testing and the report are legally and scientifically deficient.
THURSDAY DECEMBER 14: In the second of their consecutive blockbuster motions, defense attorneys in the Duke lacrosse case want Judge W. Osmond Smith III to throw out the photographic lineup in which accuser Crystal Mangum identified the defendants, and to bar her from making any in-court identifications. Attorneys for Seligmann, Finnerty, and Evans ask that any in-court identifications by the accuser be prohibited on the grounds that they would be unreliable "as a result of tainted procedure … as a result of the numerous errors and misidentifications made by the accuser." Experts have said such a motion, if successful, could keep prosecutors from bringing the case to trial. "If the court throws out the out-of-court identification and rules that it is so suggestive that there can't be an in-court identification, then the case is effectively dismissed," says James E. Coleman Jr., a Duke law professor. The motion says that Mangum had failed to identify any of her attackers in an identification procedure before the April 4 lineup -- the one in which she did identify Seligmann, Finnerty and Evans as her attackers. The motion states that DA Nifong directed that a different identification procedure be used in which photos of all the white members of the team who were at the March 13 party were assembled in a PowerPoint presentation for her to view. Attorneys write that this happened despite the fact that two people at the party were not members of the lacrosse team. "In short, the accuser was asked to pick three people as her attackers from those present at the scene, and because only those thought to be at the scene were shown to her, she was, in effect, given a multiple-choice test in which there were no wrong answers," attorneys write. They also state that Mangum’s identification is "riddled with errors," with the accuser identifying two players who were later determined not to be at the party. "In the process of identifying her three attackers, the accuser actually identified four separate men as her attackers. The state apparently just chose three or four to indict without further investigation," the motion reads. It also states Mangum did not recognize people whom she had identified before and misidentified people as doing things at the party that the investigation showed they did not do.
In a commentary in “Durham-in-Wonderland” on the new motion to suppress Crystal Mangum’s identifications, KC Johnson notes: “Flawed procedures beget flawed results. In many ways, this case can be summarized with those five words. The latest bombshell defense motion demonstrates the point more clearly than any document thus far produced in the case. (…) This motion, in short, constitutes a devastating assault on Nifong’s case. It should serve not only to justify suppressing the lineup, but as a central exhibit in any ethics proceedings against Nifong conducted by the state bar.”
FRIDAY DECEMBER 15: A pivotal hearing is held before Judge Smith with all three defendants, their lawyers and families; their friends including several lacrosse players and coaches John Danowski and Mike Pressler; and DA Mike Nifong present. In the most important development, DNA Security Inc. (DNASI) lab director Dr. Brian Meehan admits under withering examination by defense attorneys Jim Cooney and Brad Bannon that he and Nifong agreed to report only parts of the results of the DNA testing—omitting the exculpatory information that DNA from multiple men not on the lacrosse team were found in Mangum and on her panties:
BY MR. COONEY:
Did your report set forth the results of all of the
tests and examinations that you conducted in this case?
A. [Dr. Meehan}
No. It was limited to only some results.
Okay. And that was an intentional limitation arrived
at between you and representatives of the State of
North Carolina not to report on the results of all
examinations and tests that you did in this case?
THE COURT: Sheriff, I'll ask you to be looking
for people that are giving visible or audible reactions to
anything that takes place in the courtroom. If you detect who
it is, bring it to my attention. They'll be excluded from the
Under later questioning, Meehan admits that the report as written was less than the full truth. This intentional agreement between Meehan and Nifong to hide exculpatory evidence later is one of the major foundations for Nifong’s eventual disbarment.
Another major revelation at the hearing is that Crystal Mangum is pregnant. Judge Smith orders a paternity test for the accuser's child, even though both sides agree there's no chance one of the three indicted players could be the father. Nifong states Mangum is due the first week of February. The judge also enters an order allowing defense lawyers access to unspecified sealed records. The lawyers had previously requested access to military, social services and hospital records kept on the accuser.
Also at the hearing, defense lawyers file the third and last of their blockbuster motions, this one requesting a change of venue for the upcoming trial. The motion lays out in great detail the prejudicial statement made by Nifong, the local media, and Duke faculty against the defendants. At the conclusion of the session, defense lawyers and Nifong agree to schedule hearings during the week of Feb. 5, 2007. During those hearings, Nifong says he will put Mangum on the witness stand. The defense lawyers will have their own witnesses, and the judge will consider whether to throw out the accuser's identification of the three lacrosse players.
SATURDAY DECEMBER 16: “Saturday Night Live” features a skit on the Duke lacrosse case making fun of DA Nifong
SUNDAY DECEMBER 17: In an interview with Fox News, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales suggests that his office might investigate the way DA Nifong has handled the Duke lacrosse rape case. Gonzales confirms he received a letter asking for a federal probe into the investigation. "Well, that is a letter that we recently received," Gonzales tells Fox News' Brian Wilson. "It's being evaluated at the (Department of Justice). I can't say anything -- anything beyond that." Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-North Carolina, sent Gonzales the letter last week asking for a federal investigation into possible prosecutorial misconduct, and specifically, to determine whether the defendants' civil rights were violated. Gonzales says that even though the case is a state and local matter, the federal government could still become involved "if an investigation is conducted in such a way that civil rights laws are violated, that would be something that we might look into."
MONDAY DECEMBER 18: A University of North Carolina law professor says he believes there should be an investigation of DA Nifong's management of the Duke lacrosse case. "I think the best course of action, at this moment, is for Mike Nifong to remove himself from this case or for him to be removed," says Professor Joe Kennedy. The statement comes after Rep. Walter Jones, R-North Carolina, last week sent a letter to the Department of Justice asking for a federal investigation into possible prosecutorial misconduct and to determine whether the defendants' civil rights were violated. Kennedy says that Jones' request seemed overblown to him until allegations later arose that Nifong and a lab director purposely withheld DNA results showing none of the charged players' DNA was found on or in the accuser's body but there was DNA from other men. "I think his actions with respect to nondisclosure of this DNA information needs to be investigated," Kennedy states. Nifong denies that he tried to hide anything and told WRAL that he is not concerned about the mounting criticism of him. He says he thinks he can fairly prosecute the case. According to Garry Frank, president of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, however, other district attorneys have also expressed concerns about Nifong's conduct.
Duke President Brodhead says that DA Nifong’s case "will be on trial just as much" as the defendants. In a statement released by the university in response to the events of the December 15 hearing, Brodhead states the defendants should be presumed innocent as the case pushes toward a possible spring trial date. "As I told Ed Bradley during a '60 Minutes' interview last summer, given the concerns that have been raised, when it goes before a judge and jury the DA's case will be on trial just as much as our students will be," Brodhead states. "In the meanwhile, as I have said before, our students must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise." He insists that “Under American law, the legal system is the place to establish the facts and bring a case to a just resolution.”
The group Friends of Duke University through its spokeperson Jason Trompbour endorses the call of Rep. Walter Jones for a federal investigation into civil rights violations by DA Nifong. State Rep. Stephen LaRoque, a Republican from Lenoir County, also weighs in, endorsing Jones' call for a federal investigation and suggesting a change in state law to allow prosecution of prosecutors who engage in professional misconduct. Only the N.C. State Bar currently has the authority to punish incidents of legal misconduct. "That's like having the fox guard the henhouse," LaRoque says.
TUESDAY DECEMBER 19: DNA Security Inc. (DNASI) issues a statement defending its DNA testing procedures in the Duke lacrosse case. With regard to the exclusion of exculpatory evidence of DNA from other men found in Mangum from its report, DNASI states in part: “Our report also specifically stated that DNA profiles obtained from additional reference specimens and evidence items were being retained pending instructions. Our report AND the additional results of tests where there was no DNA match were provided to our client, and then to defense counsel in the normal criminal pre-trial “discovery” process.” LieStoppers deconstructs the DNASI statement in an extensive blogpost.
The office of Rep. Walter Jones releases the text of a second letter sent by the North Carolina congressman to Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales calling for a federal investigation of Nifong. It reads in part: “Mr. Attorney General, I was encouraged to see that on Fox News yesterday you confirmed that you ‘received’ my December 7th letter and that the Justice Department is evaluating the facts it presents. The new revelations of potential prosecutorial misconduct exposed in last week’s court proceedings also require the Justice Department’s attention. At the request of a growing number of my constituents, I again urge you and your staff to fully investigate these matters to ensure that Mr. Nifong’s conduct has not illegally denied these students their constitutional rights to due process.”
WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 20: DA Nifong receives a letter from the North Carolina State Bar informing him that it will be filing an ethics complaint against him. The text of the complaint is not revealed publicly until December 28. After receipt of the letter, Nifong decides to send his investigator Linwood Wilson to meet with Crystal Mangum.
In an N&O article “DA’s Footing in Lacrosse Case Unclear,” Ben Niolet explores means by which DA Nifong could be removed from the case. UNC law Prof. Joseph Kennedy says Nifong could take himself off the case, the defense could ask the judge to remove him, or the judge himself could take Nifong off the case. Typical conflicts of interest in criminal cases surface when a lawyer previously represented or prosecuted a witness, Kennedy says. Prosecutors are also replaced in cases where the state is prosecuting a law enforcement official. State law also allows a prosecutor to be removed under particular circumstances, including willful misconduct in office or conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the office into disrepute. The process begins when someone files a sworn statement in the prosecutor's county charging him or her with a violation. The senior resident Superior Court judge in that county, or a judge he or she selects, must review the complaint and decide whether it will go forward. (This particular process to remove Nifong was started later with a sworn statement by activist Beth Brewer.)
THURSDAY DECEMBER 21: Nifong’s chief investigator, Linwood Wilson, meets alone with accuser Crystal Mangum, who again changes several key details of her account. No police investigator was present, and Inv. Ben Himan later testifies that the Durham Police were not informed in advance of the interview with Mangum. At this meeting, Wilson states the accuser came up with a wholly new version of the “crime”—she now was asserting that the attack might have occurred with an object rather than penetration by a penis (required by North Carolina statute for a rape charge). This new version of events also has Mangum giving—for the first time in nine months—a precise time for the “attack,” 11.40pm. The new version also features Mangum recalling, again, for the first time, a “white” towel had been used to clean her up after the crime. This towel is said to have cleaned up the scene of the crime—but left the DNA of an unindicted resident of the house on the bathroom floor. And it cleans up the accuser—but retains none of her DNA. “How such a towel could be reconciled with the tenets of forensic science Nifong explained neither then nor since,” according to KC Johnson. At the meeting, Wilson also improperly shows Mangum pictures of the defendants, whom she recognized by their true names. Defense lawyers later use this incident as one of several arguments against an in-court identification by Mangum of her “attackers.”
FRIDAY DECEMBER 22: DA Nifong unexpectedly drops rape charges against Evans, Finnerty, and Seligmann but plans to continue prosecuting them on the other charges of kidnapping and sexual offense. Defense attorneys call for all charges to be dismissed against the three. Nifong now says he didn't have enough evidence to proceed with a first-degree forcible rape case. ,The dismissal follows a meeting yesterday between Nifong's investigator Linwood Wilson and accuser Crystal Mangum. She told Wilson that she couldn't testify "with certainty" that she was raped, according to the dismissal motions. Specifically, Mangum could not say for sure she was penetrated by a penis. "Since there is no scientific or other evidence independent of the victim's testimony that would corroborate specifically (a rape charge), the state is unable to meet its burden of proof with respect to this offense," the motion states. Defense attorneys for the trio were quick to react. "Mr. Nifong, do the honorable thing -- end this case because there isn't a case to bring," attorney Wade Smith urges. "It is the ethical duty of a district attorney not to win a case, not to prosecute all cases, but to see that justice is done," attorney Joe Cheshire states. "After all these months and all that these young men have been through ... why are they investigating the case now?" he asks. Cheshire says, "Going forward with a case when he knows he has multiple, different, contradictory statements from that person, is that seeing that justice is done, or is that simply trying to fit facts into a prosecution to prosecute it at all costs?" Nifong declines to comment on the dismissal, and his office is closed this afternoon for a Christmas party.
There is swift public reaction to the dismissal of the rape charge. Duke President Brodhead expresses relief at the dismissal and calls on Nifong to turn the case over to an independent investigator. “Given the certainty with which the district attorney made his many public statements regarding the rape allegation, his decision today to drop that charge must call into question the validity of the remaining charges," Brodhead says in a statement. "The district attorney should now put this case in the hands of an independent party who can restore confidence in the fairness of the process. Further, Mr. Nifong has an obligation to explain to all of us his conduct in this matter." Duke athletics director Joe Alleva calls the dismissal "another step in establishing the entire truth in this matter." Finnerty's parents also say they are relieved that the rape charges were dropped. "Dropping this charge is long overdue. Dropping the other charges is long overdue, but we'll take it one step at a time," Kevin Finnerty says. "The state needs to apologize to these three boys, to their families. They need to immediately take dismissals and apologize to the entire community," states Bill Thomas, the attorney for an unindicted lacrosse player.
SATURDAY DECEMBER 23: The New York Times publishes an article by David Barstow and Duff Wilson titled “DNA Witness Jolted Dynamic of Duke Case” which includes comments made by DA Nifong in a three-hour interview with the Times December 21:
“Mr. Nifong acknowledged in the interview this week that he was keenly aware of the test results Mr. Meehan had omitted from his report when he signed that court filing on May 18. He denied, though, any effort to hide the results or delay their release. He has long been known locally for giving defense lawyers open access to his evidence, even before a state law required that. And, he said, even if the test results should have been turned over months earlier, the defense still had the evidence well in advance of any trial date — which had not yet been set. “So it’s not like this is something we discover on the fourth day of a five-day trial and say, ‘Oh, by the way,’ ” he said. “I mean, that’s not what’s going on.” But given the volume of evidence in this case, he said he simply did not realize that he had failed to turn over the DNA results in question. “It was not something that I specifically noticed,” he said, “because if I specifically noticed it I would have dealt with it.” (…)
Still, Mr. Nifong’s recollection appears to conflict with Mr. Meehan’s on one crucial point. Mr. Meehan recalled that they agreed not to publish the results of unidentified male DNA in the report; but Mr. Nifong said that did not happen. “I didn’t say, ‘Include this, don’t include this,’ ” Mr. Nifong said. He added: “I said, you know, ‘Publish the positive results,’ in other words, publish what you found. If you make a connection with something, if the evidence seems to be probative, that’s what should be in the report.” More broadly, Mr. Nifong said, trying to explain his failure to disclose the DNA tests sooner, he had other work to attend to. “You know, it’s not the only case I have right now,” he said. “I have two. The other one’s a quadruple homicide. If you ask me, to everybody but a reporter for an out-of-town newspaper, the quadruple homicide is probably the more significant case.” “But because we have some of these other sexy issues here,” he added, “you all are flipping out over this particular case, which is not the most significant case in our office. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t get attention. What I’m saying is in the overall pecking order of things, it’s not the most important thing that we’re doing.”
The state NAACP’s insistence that the Duke lacrosse case be pursued in the court of law rather than the court of public opinion is unaffected by a decision to drop rape charges against the players, the group’s president claims. “We’ve always been the one, and from Day 1 it’s in writing, that we never wanted to rush to judgment, or a delay of justice ... but a thorough and meticulous investigation,” the Rev. William J. Barber II says. “In some sense, we’re seeing the process work when things get sifted through.”
SUNDAY DECEMBER 24: In an N&O article titled “Pressure on Nifong in Duke Case” Joe Neff and Ben Niolet write: “To press forward in the Duke University lacrosse case, District Attorney Mike Nifong must rely on scanty evidence while deflecting serious questions about whether he broke the law or violated the ethics rules governing prosecutors. Nifong has acknowledged that the case now hangs on what the accuser says from the witness stand in a hearing scheduled for February. Meanwhile, pressure on Nifong continues to build. The State Bar has received multiple complaints demanding that he be disbarred. A congressman has called on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate him. And when the case returns to court, Nifong might have to explain repeated misrepresentations to judges about what evidence he had and why he did not disclose it all, as state law requires.” The article documents untrue statements Nifong made in court on May 18, June 22, September 22, and October 27, 2006.
In an accompanying article, Neff and Niolet summarize Nifong’s current situation:
“His case relies on the words of the accuser, an escort service dancer who has told her story on at least 10 occasions to nurses, doctors and investigators. Her accounts have changed with every telling. At a hearing scheduled in February, the defense will seek to have her identification of the three defendants thrown out of court. The accuser will testify, and the fate of the case rests on what she says, Nifong told The New York Times last week. (…)
As Nifong's case has deteriorated, the defense case has grown stronger. DNA tests conducted by Meehan's lab found DNA from unknown men in samples taken from the accuser's body and underwear. Time-stamped photos show the accuser on the back porch of the house during the time when she said she was being raped inside. Seligmann has produced surveillance photos showing him withdrawing cash from a bank machine one mile away at the time the woman said she was raped. His cell-phone records and digital records of him entering his dorm back up his alibi.”
A News & Observer editor admits that the newspaper omitted two pieces of information from its interview of Crystal Mangum recounted in its infamous March 25, 2006 article “Dancer Gives Details of Ordeal,” which fanned the lacrosse controversy. Writing in the N&0’s “The Editors’ Blog,” Linda Williams states:
“As I explained previously, two things the accuser said did not make it in to print… As previously stated, the accuser offered a description of the second dancer hired for the party. The presence of a second woman at the party was already known, but she was not identified at that time. The description was withheld because it was irrelevant in the absence of any other available information about the second woman. The accusers' speculation about the actions of the second woman was also not printed. If we had printed that utterance- an admitted speculation without the slightest foundation to suggest the possibility of truth-- it would have been a conscious act of libel.”
TUESDAY DECEMBER 26: State Rep. Stephen LaRoque, a Republican, says that the North Carolina attorney general needs to be given authority to investigate actions by the state’s 39 district attorneys. LaRoque, appearing on Fox TV’s legal affairs show with Greta Van Susteren, says the attorney general's office, not the state bar, should be the one to investigate misconduct charges against a district attorney. Currently, district attorneys can ask the state for help from the attorney general, but the attorney general cannot enter a case on his own.
WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 27: In a blogpost “Dead on Arrival” KC Johnson discusses Nifong’s case after the rape charges against Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann are dropped. He notes: “…now that the Nifong-Meehan conspiracy to withhold the exculpatory DNA evidence has unraveled, the rape charge no longer is tenable. So drop the rape charge and claim instead that the assault occurred with a foreign object—even though the accuser had never previously made such an allegation.” Johnson references noted SANE expert Kathleen Eckelt R.N.: “Where, Eckelt wonders, are the ‘significant number of injuries’ that would be expected from the latest version of events offered by Nifong? Eckelt’s conclusion is blunt: ‘Personally, like everything else that has come out about this case, I seriously question this type of hypothesis. Sexual assault by objects tends to leave far more injuries than rape alone.’ “
THURSDAY DECEMBER 28: The North Carolina State Bar files an ethics complaint against DA Nifong for his actions in the lacrosse case. The 17-page complaint accuses him of breaking four rules of professional conduct when speaking to reporters about the high-profile case. The complaint lists more than 100 examples of public statements Nifong made to the media since March. (The complaint as released does not address more recently revealed events such as the agreement by Nifong and Dr. Brian Meehan to withhold exculpatory evidence.) Among the rules the bar complaint says Nifong violated is a prohibition on making "comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused." Another of the rules Nifong was charged with breaking forbids "dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation." The bar said that when DNA testing failed to find any evidence that any lacrosse player raped the accuser, Nifong told a reporter the players might have used a condom. According to the bar, Nifong knew that assertion was misleading, because he had received a report from an emergency room nurse in which the accuser said her attackers did not use a condom. In a statement, the bar reveals it opened a case against Nifong on March 30, a little more than two weeks after the party, and it found on Oct. 19 after an investigation that there was reasonable cause to refer the case to the bar's Disciplinary Commission for trial. A series of public hearings will be held before the Disciplinary Commission that eventually will lead to the public trial sometime next year. If it's determined that Nifong violated any ethical code of conduct, the penalties could range from a reprimand to disbarment.
The Wilmington Star becomes the first North Carolina newspaper to demand that DA Nifong resign: “Hiding behind paper hung over the windows of his office, Nifong issues written statements and refuses to talk with North Carolina reporters. Yet Thursday he gave a three-hour interview to The New York Times. Nifong doesn’t owe an explanation to the readers of a national newspaper. He owes an explanation to the people who elected him. He owes it to the people of this state. But he owes them more: his resignation.”
FRIDAY DECEMBER 29: The North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys (NCCDA) issues an unprecedented statement that calls for DA Nifong to recuse himself from the Duke lacrosse case. The NCCDA, which has no regulatory authority, is made up of the state's elected district attorneys. The group's statement says: "It is in the interest of justice and the effective administration of criminal justice that Mr. Nifong immediately withdraw and recuse himself from the prosecution of these cases and request the cases be assigned to another prosecutorial authority." The organization also states it had offered unsolicited help to Nifong in a September letter, including extra assistant district attorneys, but the offer has not been accepted. Garry Frank, president of the NCCDA, told WRAL by telephone that the executive board chose its words carefully after reviewing Nifong's handling of the case. “It is the unanimous statement of the officers of the Conference of District Attorneys," Frank says.
Attorneys for defendants Evans, Finnerty, and Seligmann file notice in a new motion of their intent to use Dr. Brian Meehan as their own expert witness. At a hearing Dec. 15, Meehan, head of DNA Security Inc., testified that he and Nifong agreed to leave exculpatory information out of a report summarizing DNA test results. The lab testing found genetic material from unknown men on accuser Crystal Mangum’s body and underwear. At trial, the defense wants Meehan to say that again. "It is anticipated that Dr. Meehan will testify that representatives of the State of North Carolina, including the Durham County District Attorney, were aware of the exculpatory results of DNA Security's work in this case and that an intentional decision was made not to report those exculpatory results to the defendants," the 93-page filing reads in part.
SATURDAY DECEMBER 30: Time magazine publishes an article “Is the Duke DA Guilty As Charged?” which foreshadows additional State Bar ethics charges against DA Nifong:
“Now that the North Carolina State Bar has filed a 17-page, 41-count ethics complaint against District Attorney Michael Nifong's handling of the Duke rape case, there's a different kind of New Year's countdown taking place in Durham: when and under what circumstances will Nifong leave office.
The Dec. 28 ethics charges are expected to be expanded when the state bar's grievance committee meets again Jan. 18. Like a grand jury, the committee meets periodically; the current ethics charges stem from its most recent meeting in October and cover public statements Nifong made about the case last March and April. At its next meeting, the committee will deal with revelations from a Dec. 15 court hearing in which the state's DNA expert admitted he and Nifong agreed to keep secret from the defense early DNA results showing no Duke lacrosse player could be implicated in an attack upon one of two exotic dancers hired for the March 14 house party."
The Newark, NJ Star-Ledger and the San Diego Union- Tribune newspapers each publish editorials criticizing DA Nifong’s handling of the Duke lacrosse case. The Star-Ledger calls Nifong’s behavior “the product of incompetence, overzealousness or outright misconduct” and asks for him to be removed from the case. The Union-Tribune characterizes Nifong’s conduct: “This isn’t just bad judgment. It’s a shocking abuse of power. Given his plain motive – Nifong won re-election by depicting himself as the crusader who wouldn’t let privileged white kids get away with brutalizing a young black woman – it is also despicable in its raw demagoguery. All this is why we look forward to the Durham DA having his own day in court.”
SUNDAY DECEMBER 31: An editorial in the Washington Post calls for all charges to be dropped in the Duke lacrosse case: “Just before Christmas, Mr. Nifong dropped rape charges after the accuser said she ‘could no longer testify with certainty that it occurred.’ But the three men remain charged with kidnapping and first-degree sexual offense, which carry equally severe penalties. Mr. Nifong should drop those charges as well.”
KC Johnson in his “Durham-in-Wonderland” blog examines in detail the commentary about the Duke lacrosse case from controversial television legal analyst Wendy Murphy. Johnson accuses her of making untrue statements, engaging in wholly unfounded speculation, and denigrating due process.
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz releases a statement on the Duke case:
“I believe in the assumption of innocence before trial. I believe in the right of every defendant to a fair and impartial trial. I believe in the duty of every prosecutor to seek justice, and not merely victory in the courtroom. I believe these principles have been violated in the actions of Durham District Attorney Michael Nifong. Elected prosecutors must be held accountable for their misconduct and the prosecutor in the Duke case appears to have withheld exculpatory evidence, failed to interview the complaining witness in a timely fashion and refused to consider obvious evidence of innocence. His entire course of conduct in this case should be scrupulously investigated.”
SPECIFIC REFERENCES (BY DATE)
December 1: Duke Prof. Thomas Crowley apologizes for and retracts article
December 1: KC Johnson on Robert Steel’s appointment as U.S. Undersecretary of the Treasury
December 1: Joan Foster’s LieStoppers esssay on Brodhead
December 3: Joe Neff in N&O about complaints against Nifong
December 4: Prof. Bill Anderson on “Why I Write on the Duke Lacrosse Case”
December 7: The Johnsville News on “Asymmetric Justice in Durham”
December 11: LieStoppers on “The Real Durham and the Word from the Street”
December 11: Prof. Bill Anderson on “What it the Duke 3 Had Been Black?”
December 12: Rep. Walter Jones asks for federal probe of Nifong
December 13: Text of “Motion to Compel Discovery: Expert D.N.A. Analysis”
December 13: Defense motion on DNA testing reveals unidentified male DNA found
December 14: Text of “Motion to Suppress Alleged ‘Identification’ of Defendants by Accuser”
December 14: Defense motion on suppressing identifications
December 15: Pivotal hearing reveals Nifong, Meehan withheld exculpatory evidence
December 15: Text of “Motion to Change Venue”
December 15: Change of venue motion
December 15: Transcript of pivotal hearing
December 17: Atty. Gen. Gonzales to consider DOJ involvement
December 18: More calls for investigation of Nifong
December 19: DNASI issues statement on its DNA testing and report
December 19: U.S. Rep. Walter Jones sends second letter to Atty. Gen. Gonzales
December 20: LieStoppers on Herald-Sun’s support of Nifong
December 21: Linwood Wilson interviews Crystal Mangum; new version of “crime”
December 21: N&O’s Niolet on removing Nifong from lacrosse case
December 22: Nifong drops rape charges; defense attorneys call for dismissal of case
December 23: New York Times article from interview with Nifong
December 23: NAACP’s William Barber on taking the case to trial
December 24: Neff & Niolet in N&O about pressure on Nifong
December 24: Neff & Niolet on weakness of Nifong’s case
December 24: N&O editor admits omissions from article recounting Mangum interview
December 26: Lawmaker: State Attorney General should be able to investigate DAs
December 27: KC Johnson on Nifong’s new theory of the crime
December 28: NC State Bar files ethics complaint against Nifong
December 28: Wilmington Star calls for Nifong’s resignation
December 29: North Carolina District Attorneys call for Nifong to recuse himself
December 29: Defense attorneys ask for Meehan as defense witness
December 30: Time magazine on additional possible State Bar charges
December 30: Newspapers criticize Nifong’s actions
December 31: Washington Post editorial calls for all charges to be dropped
December 31: KC Johnson on television commentaries by Wendy Murphy
December 31: Alan Dershowitz statement
(The Duke lacrosse case article indices in the Raleigh News & Observer and the Duke Chronicle have been taken down following website revisions. Articles can still be found using the search feature of the new websites.)
EVANS et al v. DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA, CITY OF et al
MCFADYEN et al v. DUKE UNIVERSITY et al
CARRINGTON et al v. DUKE UNIVERSITY et al
Duke University & Brodhead Statements
Duke University Archive of Media Coverage
Johnsville Blog Posts
KC Johnson’s Case Narrative
Chronology by Vance Holmes “Poetic Justice”
CBS News Chronology
Friends of Duke University Media Index
New York Times Article Index
Sunday, March 06, 2011
UPDATED CHRONOLOGY OF DUKE LACROSSE CASE: DECEMBER 2006