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The Nation

DNA results in rape case withheld

A private lab failed to disclose finding genetic material that didn't match samples from accused Duke lacrosse players, a motion says.

December 14, 2006|David Zucchino | Times Staff Writer

DURHAM, N.C. — A private lab used by prosecutors in the Duke University lacrosse rape case failed to disclose that it had found DNA from unidentified males in samples taken from the accuser's body and underwear, according to a defense motion filed Wednesday.

The DNA did not match samples taken from three Duke lacrosse players charged with raping an exotic dancer during an off-campus party March 14. Nor did it match DNA taken from 43 other members of the university lacrosse team, or the accuser's boyfriend, the defense motion said.

"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," lawyers for the three accused players wrote in the 61-page motion.

The DNA -- which the motion said came from "multiple males" -- was not mentioned in the lab's final report, submitted to the Durham district attorney's office in May and subsequently provided to the defense.

Defense lawyers found references to the DNA while scouring 1,844 documents handed over by the lab Oct. 27 under a judge's order. DNA Security Inc. in Burlington, N.C., initially refused to provide them, citing cost and privacy.

The accuser, a black student at North Carolina Central University in Durham who was hired to perform at a team party, told police she was raped in a bathroom by three white players who did not use condoms.

A few hours after the alleged rape, a doctor and nurse collected standard rape kit evidence from the woman at a hospital.

"Enough of that DNA existed for DNA Security to conclude that none of it matched the defendants, their teammates ... or anyone else who submitted a DNA sample to the investigation," the motion said.

The lab performed DNA tests on more than a dozen items, but its final report to prosecutors in May included analyses of only three items, the motion said.

According to the lab's protocols, which were provided in the defense motion, "results for each DNA test" must be included in all reports.

The defense motion seeks all DNA Security documents related to the lacrosse case, including chain-of-custody accountings, internal e-mails, DNA analysis reports and databases, and records of any tests conducted after the lab's May report.

DNA tests conducted by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation laboratory in late March did not find evidence of semen, blood or saliva in samples taken from the accuser. DNA Security told a police investigator, Michelle Soucie, that it could perform more sophisticated tests using a technique that isolates Y chromosomes -- the male chromosome.

According to Soucie's notes, DNA Security lab director Brian Meehan said he could "possibly adjust prices because they would really like to be involved in [the] case."

Neither Meehan nor Dist. Atty. Mike Nifong could be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Nifong committed "prosecutorial misconduct" and violated the defendants' civil rights.

Nifong, who called the defendants "hooligans," allegedly allowed police to conduct a photo lineup in which the accuser was shown only photos of Duke lacrosse players.

The three accused athletes have said they are not guilty. A trial is scheduled for the spring.

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david.zucchino@latimes.com

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