May 11, 2006 — -- Prosecutors believe they have DNA evidence to tie a third Duke lacrosse player to the alleged attack of a 27-year-old exotic dancer, sources close to the investigation tell ABC News.
Sources say the third player is the same person who was identified with "90 percent" certainty by the alleged victim in a photo lineup. That lineup was conducted by police weeks after the March 13 off-campus lacrosse team party where the alleged incident took place.
After a first set of DNA tests failed to link two lacrosse players to the alleged crime, it was widely considered that DNA evidence would not be part of the case. New results from this second round of testing will help the prosecution's case, sources close to the investigation say.
The potential evidence -- a DNA sample found under a fake fingernail worn by the alleged victim and linked to the lacrosse player -- was recovered from the off-campus home where the alleged attack took place. The fingernail was found in a garbage can in the house, sources close to the investigation told ABC News.
Until the full results are released, it is not yet clear how useful the new tests will be to the prosecution. That complete report is expected to be returned on Monday -- the same day a grand jury is expected to meet and could indict the player whose DNA was allegedly found.
Last month, a grand jury indicted two sophomore lacrosse players, Colin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, on charges of kidnapping, rape and sexual assault.
Earlier in the case, Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong said he had hoped to indict a third player in the alleged crime but did not have enough evidence at the time.
"Investigation into the identity of the third assailant will continue in the hope that he can also be identified with certainty," Nifong said in media reports.
The Durham Herald Sun newspaper in North Carolina reported today that the tissue sample used for testing did not allow for a 100 percent match, but that it was "consistent" with the DNA of the third player. Because a complete DNA pattern was not obtained from the sample on the fingernail, it was impossible to match that sample with near certainty to the third player, the newspaper said.
That newspaper's reporting largely mirrors what sources close to the investigation have told ABC News. When pressed, however, those sources would not say there was a perfect match between the third player and the sample tested.
Defense sources said the results from an initial round of DNA testing had failed to produce any DNA evidence. They point out, to this day, that no DNA evidence matching the lacrosse players has been found on the alleged victim. They insist that results from this set of DNA tests are also inconclusive and that there is no match, and that to say otherwise is "very misleading."
They also say it would not be unusual to find players' DNA in the bathroom or garbage can of a house where some of them lived and many others spent time.
The defense will almost certainly argue that these new DNA results should not be permitted in court, because they are not a perfect match. In cases where DNA evidence is not a perfect match it is sometimes considered inadmissible as evidence.
The case -- tinged with class, race and social issues -- has riveted the city of Durham and drawn national media attention since the allegations first surfaced nearly two months ago. The accuser, a mother and a student at nearby North Carolina Central University who was working that night as an exotic dancer, is black, and the accused players are white.
The potential new DNA evidence in the case comes as Duke University seniors prepare for graduation on Sunday.