Police Report Sheds New Light on Duke Case

Sources close to the defense in the Duke University rape investigation deride the case as "pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey justice" -- and now a police report reveals how, by that analogy, the tail was pinned on two Duke lacrosse players now accused of rape.

A 15-page document shown to Darla Miles of WTVD, an ABC-owned station in Durham, N.C., described how the alleged rape victim, a 27-year-old exotic dancer and mother of two, identified three lacrosse players as those who she said attacked her the night of March 13.

According to the police report, the alleged victim was shown a police lineup of 46 photos individually depicting all the Duke lacrosse team members except for freshman goalie Devon Sherwood, the only black member of the team. He was excluded because the alleged victim told police her attackers were white.

After being shown the pictures in a sequence of PowerPoint slides, the document adds, the woman said she could identify the two players indicted April 17 with 100 percent certainty. She picked out Reade Seligmann as the attacker who forced her to perform oral sex and Collin Finnerty as the second man to rape and sodomize her.

She said she also could identify with 90 percent certainty the first man who raped and sodomized her. This attacker has not been arrested as of today, though District Attorney Mike Nifong said at the beginning of the week that he was looking to make a third arrest.

Nifong declined ABC News requests to comment on the information in the police report -- though an outside prosecutor not involved in the Duke case suggested the accuser's photo identifications may be effective.

Lineup Questioned

However, an eyewitness identification expert believes the police lineup procedure was flawed because no non-lacrosse players were included.

Gary Wells, president of the American Psychology-Law Society, described it as "a multiple-choice test without any wrong answers."

By including "fillers," or non-suspects, in a police lineup, an accuser has to pick past the filler to choose people who actually might have committed the crime.

"Without fillers as a control, the process has no internal credibility check," Wells said.

David Rudolf, a North Carolina defense lawyer who has been an adjunct professor at Duke and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, believes the procedures may be problematic to the point of being inadmissible in court.

"I have significant doubt that this will be admitted in court," he said, "and no doubt defense will challenge it vigorously."

The issue, Rudolf explains, is that due process prohibits evidence from lineups that are unnecessarily suggestive and conducive to mistaken identity.

"When you take the only suspect group and put it in front of the victim," Rudolf says, "by definition you're suggesting it was one of the 46 people in that group."

How could the lineup have been done differently? Police could have used pictures of male Duke students to construct 46 lineups -- each one with a lacrosse player and five or six students with similar features who are not lacrosse players. From those lineups, one could determine whether the victim picks out those who allegedly attacked her.

"At that point, you have a lineup that's not unnecessarily suggestive," Rudolf says. "You'll have students who are clearly not at the party."

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...