Sudden Shift in Duke Rape Case Raises Questions Rape charges were dropped Friday against three Duke University lacrosse players who had been accused of attacking an exotic dancer. The three still face kidnapping and sexual offense charges. National Journal columnist Stuart Taylor is writing a book about the case and wonders why charges are being pursued at all.
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Sudden Shift in Duke Rape Case Raises Questions

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Sudden Shift in Duke Rape Case Raises Questions

Law

Sudden Shift in Duke Rape Case Raises Questions

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NOAH ADAMS, host:

Another legal story now here at home also with a recent development. Rape charges against three Duke University lacrosse players have been dropped. This case got worldwide attention back in the spring when a black exotic dancer said she'd been brutally attacked at a Duke fraternity party.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Sexual assault and kidnapping charges remain against the three defendants. Many in the legal community are wondering why the DA, Mike Nifong is pursuing this case at all.

Joining me now is Stuart Taylor. He has followed the story since it broke in March. He's a columnist for the National Journal and he's writing a book about the case.

Welcome to the program.

Mr. STUART TAYLOR (National Journal): Nice to be with you.

BRAND: Well, bring us up to date. We've known for a while now that DNA tests excluded the three defendants accused of rape, but still, the DA Nifong did not drop the rape charges until Friday. Why were they finally dropped?

Mr. TAYLOR: The reason he gave is that for the very first time his investigator interviewed the accuser and she said, well, gee, she wasn't quite sure that they raped her in the narrow sense of doing the kind of thing you have to do to make a baby.

Maybe it was some sort of other object they used to penetrate her. And this is an amazing thing for her to say because she's told this story dozens of times and it changes every time, but the only thing that was ever consistent about it was that she was raped.

So now Nifong is saying, well, I can't prove she was raped because she says she's not sure and there was no DNA evidence.

What we learned he was hiding is that they found the DNA of multiple males in various places on this woman and in this woman but that none of them were lacrosse players.

BRAND: Well, still he's pursuing the case with the sexual assault and kidnapping charges. Why is he doing that?

Mr. TAYLOR: Well, the only way I can analyze him is on the assumption that maybe he thought somehow that her charges might be true when he started. He grabbed a hold of them and he won an election by demagoguing these charges.

And I think once he'd gotten to that point and he'd indicted people, he felt that he had to keep going, A, to win the next election and also because he's in great danger of being disbarred, certainly of being subjected to huge civil lawsuits.

I think his only chance of escaping with his hide in tact is if he can get this as far as a jury trial and hope for a hung jury and that is my theory of why he's doing it.

Of course, he would say the reason he's doing it is, well, I have an accuser who says that she was sexually assaulted if not raped and that she was kidnapped and that I'm obliged to give her, her shot at telling her story to a jury.

BRAND: He initially had a lot support there in Durham from the university, from many of the city's black residents, from a lot of people outside of Durham, in fact. Has that changed?

Mr. TAYLOR: I think it's changed very recently. What's been remarkable about this case is that the groups you mention and the national media just rushed right past the evidence of innocence for months. It's been apparent to me that this is probably a bogus charge since late April.

The evidence of innocence has mounted steadily since then. And it wasn't until earlier this month when this evidence of the conspiracy to hide the DNA evidence came forward that suddenly people started to snap awake and say, gee, maybe this is a bogus case.

BRAND: And we should know, you're saying that withholding this other DNA evidence was a conspiracy. He has said, in fact, that it wasn't a conspiracy, that he had just forgotten to hand over this evidence to the defense because he had so much evidence it just sort of got buried under a pile.

Mr. TAYLOR: And since you brought that up, first, he doesn't have any other evidence. He has one accuser who's spouting incredible stories. And he has nothing else. Second, he had many, many times told the judge in open court, I've given you everything. I've checked. I've given you everything about the DNA. And third, this is a most probative imaginable evidence. How could you forget that? So he can say that, but I don't have to believe it.

BRAND: Stuart Taylor is a columnist for the National Journal. He's writing a book about the Duke rape case.

Stuart Taylor, thank you very much for joining us on DAY TO DAY.

Mr. TAYLOR: Thank you. Enjoyed it.

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