Duke Lacrosse Case Charges to Be Dropped

ABC News is reporting that, thirteen months into one of the most notorious criminal prosecutions in memory, all charges will be dropped against three players from the Duke Lacrosse team.

Duke Lacrosse Players Charges Dropped The three Duke lacrosse players originally charged with raping a dancer at a private party soon will not be charged, ABC News has learned. The state attorney general took over the case in January, after Durham County prosecutor Mike Nifong recused himself under pressure, claiming a conflict of interest because the North Carolina State Bar Association charged him with misconduct in the Duke case. (AP Photo )The office of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper will announce that he is dismissing all charges against three Duke Lacrosse players, ABC News has learned from sources close to the case. The three players, Reade Seligmann, David Evans and Collin Finnerty, were facing charges of first degree kidnapping and first degree forcible sexual offense. The charges stem from an off-campus party on the night of March 13, 2006.

In the hours after the party, one of two dancers hired to perform for the players claimed she had been violently raped in a bathroom by members of the lacrosse team. The players had also been indicted for first degree rape, but that charge was dismissed on Dec. 22, 2006.

Special prosecutors from the Attorney General’s office took over the case after Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong recused himself in January, citing charges of unethical conduct filed against him by the North Carolina Bar. Since then, Jim Coman and Mary Winstead have examined the case from scratch, interviewing key witnesses and working through reams of evidence.

The reasons that will be cited for the dismissal are not yet known, though the case has been riddled with criticism and colored by controversy since its early months. Defense attorneys released documents showing the accuser changed key details of her story in the weeks and months after the alleged assault.

Legal analysts and forensic experts have criticized what they call a critically flawed photo identification lineup — a lineup that led to the identification and indictment of Evans, Finnerty, Seligmann. No DNA evidence was found matching any lacrosse players with samples from the rape kit, while DNA from unidentified men was found on the accuser’s body and clothing.

The complete lack of evidence, prosecutorial misconduct, and lack of witness credibility might have has something to do with this. One hopes Nifong and the accusers wind up in prison.

It seems clear from this an a few other high profile cases involving athletes and other celebrities that the penalties for bringing fraudulent criminal charges are far, far too low. Were the penalties commensurate with those the falsely accused party would face, these incidents would drop precipitously.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Hal says:

    Um, gee. Regardless of the actual issues with one particular case, surely even you can understand the problems with using one case and the allegations of “other unnamed cases” to assert this proves a general point of the “bar being too low”.

    If not, talk to Steve about the correct use of statistics and the fallacy of the Biased Sample. Well, I mean, if he isn’t making the same fallacious argument himself, of course.

  2. James Joyner says:


    I’m not making a statistical generalization from one case but arguing that this case and a handful of others (a couple from the 1990s involving Dallas Cowboys players being accused of rape and several celebrity blackmail cases come to mind) illustrates a flaw in the system.

    There is virtually no criminal penalty for making false claims that ruin people’s lives. That’s a bad thing.

  3. Eneils Bailey says:

    “Nifong and the accusers wind up in prison.”

    And then have to pay restitution, along with Duke University.

  4. Sam says:

    Do the players have civil recourse against Nifong? Additionally, is Nifong subject to criminal charges for his failure to turn evidence over to the defense?

    Basically, what is the recourse for the damages done?


  5. legion says:

    Oh certainly. But I suspect any civil suit chances rely on the outcome of the ethics investigation (investigations? weren’t there multiple complaints on Nifong?) and where they lead.

  6. Tlaloc says:

    Actually if any bar is too low it’s the one whereby people accept the kind of rich kid behavior these guys engaged in. They apparently did not engage in rape but they did throw a typical frat boy party replete with sexism, racism, and classism.

    Do they deserve to go to prison? no.

    But they do deserve to be treated like the assholes that they are, and hopefully they will now and for the rest of their lives. Ain’t kharma grand?

    The main problem is that so many of their peers won’t suffer the same stigma.

  7. Gollum says:

    But they do deserve to be treated like the assholes that they are

    Tlaloc – Which of the three do you know personally well enough to judge that he’s an asshole? Or is simply attending an elite school good enough for you to make that call?

  8. JohnG says:

    They hired strippers to strip at a party. The strippers happened to be black. If this is now considered to be sexist, racist, and classist then I think just about every frat in America is going down. Now if you think that the reason that it’s sexist, racist and classist is because the party was populated by rich white guys who go to Duke, then I’ll have to agree that sexism, racism, and classism are coming into play, but not on the part of the players.

  9. Steve Verdon says:


    Who, exactly, is accepting that kind of behavior. Further, you are tarring an entire team when at best racial comments can be traced to only a few party attendees. And exactly which bar is too low? What an idiotic thing to write.

    But they do deserve to be treated like the assholes that they are, and hopefully they will now and for the rest of their lives. Ain’t kharma grand?

    Yes, and for a crime they didn’t commit. And as Gollum asks, exactly which of the three do you know personally?

    By the way, I believe Seligmann left the party before any racial slurs flew. But he is still an asshole right? Based solely on Tlaloc’s own version of classism.

    You are just as bad as the Duke professors who decided these boys were guilty of something and deserved what they got.