Cleared Duke Lacrosse Players Could Sue

Now that the charges have been dropped against the three Duke lacrosse players who were accused of raping a stripper, many wonder what recourse David Evans, Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty will have.

Florida defense attorney Roy Black says that suing Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong, who lead the charge against the players, remains an option and, if he was their lawyer, he would tell them to sue everybody, including the accuser, Crystal Magnum, and Nifong.

"He has total immunity for anything he does as an advocate, anything in the courtroom or dealing with the courts," Black told The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith. "Everything else he only has qualified immunity, so the DNA testing, all those press conferences — they can sue him for that."

Click here to see photos from the Duke case.
Magnum, Black said, is the beginning of the entire case and she at least needs to take a deposition so lawyers can go through all her false statements and contradictions.

"That's the basis of your case," he said. "Then you bring in Nifong. You bring in the lab that manipulated the results, all the police detectives, the state of North Carolina. I'd bring in Duke University. I'd bring in anybody within 10 miles of that prosecution."

If nothing else, Nifong's career looks like it is over and his reputation is ruined. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper blasted him for never challenging the accuser, who gave more than a dozen different versions of the attack.

"We can't see where she was ever asked the tough questions that specifically contradicted things that she was saying," Cooper told 60 Minutes correspondent Leslie Stahl. "When our investigators and attorney started interviewing her again, new stories came out. That had never been told before that did not fit with the evidence."

Cooper said the accuser claimed she was suspended in midair and sexually assaulted by all three players in the bathroom.

"I've been in that bathroom," he said. "And it was very difficult for me to see how that could have occurred."

Nifong now faces an ethics trial in June and could lose his law license. He issued an apology the day after the charges were dropped, but for the players, it was too little, too late.

In the days since all charges were dropped, the accused impressed many people with their dignified behavior. Some would say the best thing to do would be to simply move on. Black said this makes sense psychologically, but like Evans told 60 Minutes he might forever be remembered as one of the Duke lacrosse players accused of rape.

"You can try to move on, but rape will always be associated with my name," he said. "Innocent might be a part of that, but when I die, they'll say, 'One of the three Duke lacrosse rape suspects died today. He led a life and did this, but he was one of the three Duke lacrosse rape suspects.' "

"Remember what they said, when their name is googled, what's going to come up? That they were charged with rape," Black said. "If I was them, I'd want to have this case to really clear your name. Take statements of everybody involved. We only know a little bit of what this woman said, but I'd want to get out every single contradiction, every false statement to prove beyond any doubt that I was innocent."

States have been sued before, Black said. People who are sent to death row and the exonerated by DNA tests are getting compensation from many states. But in this case, there wasn't even a trial. It might make sense to go after Duke, who has the deepest pockets.

"But it it's not easy to sue the university because it's a private university, has its own code of conduct," Black said. "It's not an easy case against them, although you want to drag them into the lawsuit."
  • Caitlin Johnson

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