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Tuesday, April 18th 2006

What Is Victory In Duke Case?

Both sides are playing out evidence in the media in the Duke lacrosse rape case. One of the two charged has a previous history of violence and even what has the makings of a prejudice based crime.

On the same day Duke University lacrosse player Collin H. Finnerty was ordered to provide DNA samples in a rape investigation, he was in Washington to face charges that he assaulted a man last fall.

A man told a police officer who was driving by The Georgetown Inn on Wisconsin Avenue about 2:30 a.m. Nov. 5 that Finnerty and his co-defendants assaulted him, court documents said.

The man said he was minding his own business when the three men started picking on him. The man told them to stop “calling him gay and … derogatory names.” Then they attacked him, he said, “busting his lip and bruising his chin,” court records say.

Finnerty was ordered to perform 25 hours of community service in Washington by fall, McCool said. If he performs the service and avoids new arrests, the charges will be dropped, McCool said.

His attorney in the Durham matter must be running his finger under his collar. Still, 25 hours of community service says something — either there wasn’t much of a case here or Finnerty’s lawyer was really expensive.

The evidence of the day however may belong to the defense. If the time of the attack has been pinpointed to within some certainty by the alleged victim then the following is newsworthy.

“The two that they indicted had no contact with this woman whatsoever,” he said. “We are shocked, absolutely shocked. We always thought she would pick out someone who at least had a conversation with her.”

Sources close to the investigation said Tuesday that the defense will present evidence — including ATM receipts — that neither Seligmann, 20, nor Finnerty, 19, were at the team party at the time the alleged rape took place.

A cab driver allegedly carried one of the young men to an ATM, where a security camera captured his picture, the sources said, and the other man was reportedly at a restaurant.

A nice summary article of the twists and turns of the case so far can be found at Fox News.

I shouldn’t be judging this evidence before a trial, something I’ve been a little guilty of all along. Certainly, however, not as guilty as Mr. Nifong. Even with the prior incidents for Finnerty and the lacrosse team’s poor behavior in the past per the Duke administration, I don’t see how Nifong gets a conviction unless new evidence shows up or the jury is rabidly inflamed.

But that might not matter. Sadly, a conviction might not be what defines victory for the election seeking Nifong. Even if he fails, in some ways he has already endeared himself to this largely African American community for his “efforts”. Sure it took a month to bring charges, but Nifong was never shy about inflaming the situation by talking to media and making it clear whose side he was on. And it wasn’t the side of justice or the side of those wealthy, white, spoiled, out of towners come down to Durham to play lacrosse and wear the collars of their Polo shirts popped up.

Changing topics, at CNNSI a columnist breaks down what he thinks are important in making a rape case.

  • Injury to Victim
  • Brevity of Encounter
  • Brutality of Sex
  • Outcry Witnesses
  • Previous Predatory Conduct
  • Prosecutorial Skill