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April 11, 2006

Duke lacrosse DNA update

According to defense lawyers, DNA tests did not implicate any Duke University lacrosse players. Jeralyn Merritt's theory is that the dancer was physically assaulted, but not raped by Duke players. No one disputes that the dancers stopped their performance after a player said something threatening and offensive. The lacrosse player held a broomstick in the air and screamed "I'm going to ram this up you." (Strippers working private parties are supposed to stop the show under these circumstances.) According to the players, the girl locked herself in the bathroom.*

The physical evidence suggests that the dancers had good reason to be afraid.

According to the probable cause affidavit, a search of the home turned up the woman's bag, cell phone, ID, cash, and several broken red fingernails. If this email is any indication, some players were very angry at the strippers immediately after the incident:

DURHAM, N.C., Apr 5, 2006 (UPI via COMTEX) -- A Duke lacrosse player allegedly threatened to kill strippers less than an hour after a stripper said team members raped her. The alleged threat, in an e-mail message, was revealed Wednesday when Durham, N.C., police released documents in the investigation of the stripper's charge that three team members raped her at a party on March 13 at Duke's Edens Dormitory. The Durham Herald Sun published the message, with typographical errors, allegedly sent from a player's e-mail address: "To whom it may concern "tommrow night, after tonights show, ive decided to have some strippers over to edens 2c. all are welcome.. however there will be no nudity. I plan on killing the bitches as soon as the walk in and proceding to cut their skin off..."

As Steve Gilliard points out, a single mother isn't just going to run out of the house without her $400 fee unless she has a damned good reason.

Lack of DNA evidence isn't an exoneration. DNA is not always recovered from rape cases. According to the District Attorney on this case says that there is no DNA evidence in 70-85% of rape cases. The key question, however, is what percentage of independently confirmed rapes similar the one described by the accuser fail to yield DNA evidence.

The guys could have used condoms, or foreign objects like the broomstick the Duke player threatened to ram into the accuser. The defense team says that if they had used condoms, there would be evidence of latex, but this is the defense team talking. Translation: Sometimes forensic scientists can detect physical evidence of condoms when they are used. (Any forensic scientists want to weigh in on this?)

Regardless of the DNA findings, there's lots of other evidence suggesting that the woman was assaulted at the party: her sworn statement and her physical injuries, for starters. I hope this case goes to trial because both sides deserve an opportunity to air the evidence fully. However as Amanda notes, the case may well be dropped because of the huge privilege gap between the accuser and the accused. Prosecutors know that the word of a black stripper doesn't count for much in front of the average jury.

Correction: My original post stated incorrectly that both the accuser and the other dancer locked themselves in the bathroom. In fact, only the accuser locked herself in the bathroom.

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First, a disclaimer. I grew up around lacrosse. Up in New Hampshire, lacrosse is to spring what hockey is to winter: the ritual in which hyper-jocks put their feeble minds to rest in order to shove each other until injury [Read More]

Comments

So nice to hear from you.

Boy, you would have been all over the DNA matter if one of the students was so implicated. DNA would have been the best thing since sliced bread then. But now it don't mean nothin.

It will be interesting to hear her initial statements to hear if she said then that they wore condoms. Maybe they wore condoms and full body spacesuits too, so that not one DNA containing hair was found either.

It is noted that there was no DNA on the fingernails.

Her statement is not writ. People lie at times. False statements are made, even to the police, at times.

Note the cliches that end this post.

" Privilege gap ", yeah. The college students have a privilege gap over the District Attorney and the power of the state of North Carolina. Where the natural inclination of the DA will be to back up his initial position, to be proven right, as he heads into an election campaign.

Gotta add that she's black , in case someone forgot. That ocean of DNA evaporated into nonexistence because of her blackness, I am sure.

Is this Tawana II? Maybe. Wouldn't rule it out.

Will this DA have the courage to indict her ultimately? This must be considered.

Will this DA have the courage to indict her ultimately?

What happened to your principled insistence of the presumption of innocence? I don't know whether she's lying and neither do you.

Thad

My position changed when the DNA news was revealed.

This time yesterday, you had they said - she said. Today, you have they said - she said, plus no DNA hits.

I think that she told a tale that is wildly at variance with any " no DNA " result. I can't possibly see her story being true. It could still be, and I do know that not all rapes have DNA evidence remaining, but...this story does not hang together.

Don't think that she should be indicted tomorrow morning - I want to see what else this DA has, other than the DNA result. But at this point, I think that there is far more reason to think about indicting her than there is of indicting the lacrosse players.

Regarding the DNA evidence (or lack therof)...

I can appreciate that if this woman's assailant(s) used condoms, and where _very_ careful to avoid contact with any uncovered areas of the groin, then a careful exam might not turn up useable DNA. But this woman also says she was strangled. Unless the assailant(s) wore gloves, there's no way they would not have left DNA on her throat.

For me, that sort of narrows down the possibilities. The exam conducted when she reported the incident was botched, or she wasn't strangled in the course of the assault, or somebody other than team members assaulted her.

Yeah... while lots of rape cases don't have DNA evidence, her particular story did seem to suggest that there would be DNA. She alleged that she clawed at them, losing some fake fingernails in the process, for one... and I thought it was claimed that the injuries she had came from fighting them. I don't recall specifically seeing that, though, I may have read into it, and the defense is also stating that they have photos of her arriving showing that she already had at least some of the bruises. There was also no meaningful delay between the incident and reporting to the police. And contrary to popular belief, lack of evidence IS evidence of lack, if there's reason to think that, were the allegations true, a particular piece of evidence would exist. Its not PROOF of lack, but it is evidence. "If A is true, the B is likely true. B is not true." Inductively, we can downgrade the likelihood of A being true.

You're right on how much of a conclusion a layperson should draw from the defense's statements about latex, though.

Patrick, we know that she left fingernails at the house because investigators found them. It's fair to assume that she lost them in a struggle. We don't know if it was a sexual struggle, but it was some kind of altercation. Even Jeralyn thinks there was some kind of violence. Yet, apparently even these nails don't have DNA on them. The logical conclusion is that nails don't always pick of DNA in a struggle.

--The logical conclusion is that nails don't always pick of DNA in a struggle.--

No they don't, but they certainly would often pick up some DNA if they were used to scratch, or if they touched the skin of the alleged attacker in any way.

Intellectual honesty pretty much forces us to say this weakens the case for rape against the Duke lacrosse team. Right now I'm leaning toward the "someone else at the party" theory. But there's a lot we in the public don't know.

Phantom pretty much slam dunks that one.

Also,

"The alleged victim said some of her fake fingernails came off as she clawed at one of the attacker's arms. Police later recovered four nails in a bathroom at the party house at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd."

That's from
http://www.heraldsun.com/durham/4-722993.html

The defense claims that they have photos of her at the time of her dancing where her nails are not all on. If true, it provides an alternate explanation for her losing the nails that is not related to violence. The defense also claims that at least some of the injuries on her are evident in these photos, which would be prior to when violence occurred.

Now, the defense could be full of shit, wouldn't be the first time. But they are promising physical evidence, and the first rule of trial work is to NEVER promise evidence you can't deliver. Jurors will fixate on your broken promise and conclude that you're trying to pull a fast one. So, I imagine they wouldn't go out on a limb unless they at least personally believed that their photos demonstrate what they say they do.

But they are promising physical evidence, and the first rule of trial work is to NEVER promise evidence you can't deliver.

That's at the trial, assuming there is one. The first rule of jockeying for position in the press is to play up your case to the hilt. The defense can say whatever it wants now about what evidence it does or doesn't have. If it doesn't get brought up at the trial, the jury will never know the difference.

You "hope" it goes to trial?

You have a woman who worked as an exotic dancer AND an escort agency. Escorts = prostitutes, by the way.

There are apparently photo's of her ARRIVING at the party already injured. Pictures of her smiling while AT the party. Pictures of her appearing VERY intoxicated.

The security guard stated she seemed VERY intoxicated over an HOUR later in the grocery store parking lot.

Did I mention her past as a CONVICTED criminal who performed a lap dance at a local club then promptly ran out and took the man's car and then tried to run over a cop?

NO WAY this goes to court unless the prosecutor is corrupt.

She claims THREE men forcibly raped her vaginally, anally and orally while she vigorously attempted to fight them off. All this happened to her yet not a SPEC of DNA was found. Not under her fingernails. Not in or on her. Not on her clothes or her phone.

You might not agree with young men watching a stripper but the laws in this country ALLOW an 18 year old woman to appear in porn and work as strippers. It may sure as hell be in poor taste to watch them but MILLIONS of men do every year.

Without some powerful objective evidence there is NO WAY in hell that any jury SHOULD convict any one of these lacrosse team boys. This case just screams reasonable doubt now....

My personal opinion is that the woman lied and the district attorney wanted to get reelected! Further, the racial and economic themes raised by the case inflamed people who are MORE than willing to prejudge rich and white athletes....

The defense is batting a thousand so far. ( Re DNA ) Do not bet against them.

You have a woman who worked as an exotic dancer AND an escort agency. Escorts = prostitutes, by the way.

I'm fascinated by this preamble.

"Unless the assailant(s) wore gloves, there's no way they would not have left DNA on her throat." I am a forensic biologist. This statement is bullshit.

P.S. Not finding DNA, as already mentioned, is quite common and there could be 100 different reasons for it. It simply means that ONE possible line of evidence isn't available. But it is in no way exonerating in and of itself, as, say, the presence of somebody else's DNA would be when the identification of a possible rapist is in dispute.

Are you insane? This case is closed, stop making up reasons!

1. She said she was BRUTALLY gang raped for half an hour. Yet there is no DNA on her, or in the bathroom. These guys must have been genius villians to destroy all the evidence.

2. There is photographic evidence that she looked beaten before she even started dancing. She showed up at the party drunk. Photos every half hour have her smiling and looking happy, even when she was put into her car to go home.

3. The other stripper said on record that the accuser never said anything about rape that night.

4. Listen to the 911 call, or read a transcript of it. The accusers contradict themeselves multiple times about key facts in the SAME calls. This suggests they were lying out of their asses but too stupid to realize their mistakes.

5. This woman has a criminal past. She once gave a laptop dance to a cab driver, stole his car, went on a wild car chase, and tried to run over a police officer.

Steve LaBonne says that my earlier comment about DNA on a strangled woman's throat is bullshit. OK -- I'm willing to be instructed. So Steve, please elaborate.

My theory is that after Haidl, some people are desperate for an exoneration.

Uhh, a laptop dance?

Oooh, a laptop dance! Is that an updated version of the dance of the seven veils? The dance of the seven laptops?

If the comment about her stealing a car and trying to run over a police officer has any truth to it, count me firmly in the " indict her now " camp. Anyone with details on the stolen car story, please post.

We've come a long, long, way from this time yesterday.

And soon any fair person may question why this fine fable was believed by anyone.

What I think is weird is that there was absolutely no DNA found that matched these guys. If she was at the party, isn't it likely that she might have come away with someone's hair on her or something? It's oddly clear-cut evidence, but I've also heard that it is only DNA evidence from sperm that's been evaluated, and not other things like hair or skin. Anyone got any idea on that?

The stealing a cab and trying to hit a police officer thing is from an entirely different incident that occurred a few years ago. Its been completed for some time. Its not part of this case.

Let me explain why the distinction about escort versus dancer is important:

A topless or exotic dancer is oftentimes NOT a prostitute. Many dancers draw the line at stripping for money and accordingly they do NOT violate any laws whatsoever.

This woman worked for an escort service. An escort is a different story. An escort is just another name for a prostitute, albeit one who is a class above the lowly streetwalker.

Her PROFESSION is to get paid for having sex with men.

Her credibility is marginalized by the fact that:

1. She's a sex worker, a prostitute.
2. Witnesses state she was very intoxicated (e.g security guard at the grocery store).
3. Photo's show intoxication
4. Photo's showed that she was injured upon ARRIVING at the party
5. Her co-dancer said she NEVER mentioned that she had been raped nor did the other dancer witness or suspect that any rape occurred.
6. She has a criminal past history.
7. No DNA evidence! NONE exists despite her statement that three men raped her vaginally, anally and orally for half an hour. No DNA despite her account that she struggled mightily to fight off her attackers. Plus a forcible oral rape with a victim fighting back? Hard to imagine a rapist without a weapon risking the teeth of a woman fighting back...
8. The DNA evidence shows NO indication of ANY sexual encounter with ANYONE.
9. Several articles I read indicated that she TOOK her $800 (for only several minutes of dancing if you believe the lacrosse attorney's timelines) - I would guess that escorts and dancers generally get paid up front. This may explain the anger evident in the grotesque email.
10. Finally, are you going to believe her eyewitness identification? She was clearly VERY impaired. At a wild party. With 47 men.

The ONLY factors that seem to be working in her favor are the fact that she is poor, African American and that the district attorney is in the middle of a campaign race.

By now does anyone feel that there is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt? Even the student reporter at her historically black college documented her angst at discovering three sources that cast the accuser in a very unflattering light.

The lacrosse team is guilty of bad judgement. They sure as hell are not guilty of rape using the standard of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Elaborate? If you believe that a detectable amount of DNA is transferred every time your skin touches an object (or someone else's skin), you're wrong 95% or more of the time. It's not at all like blood or semen evudence where there's tons of DNA. Don't believe everything you see on stupid TV shows. Real life is quite different.

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