Lawyers Say DNA Evidence Clears Duke Players

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Defense attorneys in Durham, N.C., say DNA testing proves their clients did not sexually assault a woman hired to perform at a party hosted by members of the Duke lacrosse team. But a prosecutor says the investigation isn't over. Jessica Jones of North Carolina Public Radio reports.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Attorneys for members of Duke University's Lacrosse team claim DNA test results show their clients did not sexually assault a woman at a party last month.

They received the results late yesterday from the District Attorney in Durham, North Carolina. Defense lawyers say this means their clients shouldn't be charged with rape.

From North Carolina Public Radio, Jessica Jones reports.

Ms. JESSICA JONES (North Carolina Public Radio) reporting:

Attorneys for several members of the Lacrosse team gathered on the steps of Durham's downtown courthouse late yesterday afternoon. Joseph Cheshire, the defense attorney for one of the team's captains, says no DNA from any of the players was found on or inside the woman who says she was raped.

Mr. JOE CHESHIRE (Attorney, Raleigh, North Carolina): I think that it is a false accusation that has been made for some reason against these boys, and I think that it has been used to hurt their lives forever, and to tear this community apart.

Ms. JONES: Forty-six out of the teams 47 members submitted DNA samples at the order of a judge more than two weeks ago. The team's lone African American player wasn't tested, because the victim said her alleged attackers were white.

Cheshire says, since none of the players' DNA results were found on the victim, who's African American, this should be the end of the investigation.

Mr. CHESHIRE: I would hope that the community would embrace this report and understand why we've been talking about the presumption of innocence and rush to judgment. And that they would be at peace.

I think that's really what should happen here, that people should step back a little bit and be at peace.

Ms. JONES: Allegations of rape have swirled around the Lacrosse team since the last week of March, when the news came out that a woman hired to dance at a team party told police she was raped, sodomized, and strangled at the house where it was held.

Students at Duke and North Carolina Central, where the woman is a student, have held numerous vigils and rallies to support her. Durham's District Attorney, Mike Nifong, said earlier, he's confident the rape happened, and that even without DNA evidence, he'll still have enough proof to continue his investigation.

Nifong, who is running for reelection in about three weeks, has also said the test results won't automatically determine whether he charges anyone or not.

But last night, students on Duke's sprawling green campus, including Dan Carlin(ph) and Jeff Richmond(ph), said they felt a little vindicated by the results of the DNA tests, and they're wondering what the DA will do next.

Mr. DAN CARLIN (student at Duke): I really don't think that there's any way he can proceed to push this case forward, responsibly.

Mr. JEFF RICHMOND (student at Duke): If there's any more evidence that he really thinks needs to be gathered, I would say gather it, look at it, and, you know, take a really long, hard look at the evidence that's there.

Ms. JONES: But not everyone feels that way.

Across town at the historically black North Carolina Central University, where the alleged victim is a student, freshmen Portia Judd(ph) and Jennifer Houston were hanging out with friends in front of the student union. They believe just because the DNA doesn't match, that doesn't mean the alleged rape didn't happen.

Ms. PORTIA JUDD (student at North Carolina Central University): I don't really believe it. But I mean, like...

Ms. JENNIFER HOUSTON (student at North Carolina Central University): I don't believe it either.

Ms. JUDD: ...because I don't--I would hope nobody wouldn't sit there and just lie about being raped, you know?

Ms. HOUSTON: She didn't lie. She did get raped. This DNA thing is crazy.

Ms. JUDD: I just, I really feel like that DNA is a bunch of bull.

Ms. JONES: No charges have been filed in the case, yet.

The District Attorney won't way when or if he plans to file charges against any of the Lacrosse players.

For NPR News, I'm Jessica Jones, in Durham.

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