Lawyers: DNA Will Acquit Duke Lacrosse

Durham, N.C. resident Flannery Hysjulien looks at a poster with faces of most of the members of the Duke lacrosse team as it hangs in front of the East Union Building, Wednesday night, March 29, 2006, prior to a Take Back the Night march on the Duke University campus in Durham. (AP Photo/Karen Tam) AP Photo

The lawyers for Duke men's lacrosse players said Thursday that police and an outraged community will owe the team an apology after DNA tests are completed – tests they said will prove no one on the team raped an exotic dancer.

Four attorneys representing nearly all the 46 players forced to give samples protested what they said was a presumption that their clients attacked the dancer or kept quiet about what happened. No one has been charged.

"We believe that the DNA will show that it is not true. We believe that a full and complete and fair investigation will show that it is not true," said attorney Joe Cheshire.

Investigators are still collecting evidence, but District Attorney Mike Nifong has said in recent days he already believes a crime occurred. Even if the state crime lab's DNA analysis proves inconclusive or doesn't provide a match for any of the athletes, Nifong has said he'll have other evidence.

"If the only thing that we ever have in this case is DNA, then we wouldn't have a case," Nifong said Wednesday.

Nifong insists the guilty will stand trial, telling co-anchor Rene Syler on The Early Show Thursday that there's no doubt a sexual assault took place.

"The victim was examined at Duke University Medical Center by a nurse who was specially trained in sexual assault cases," Nifong said. "And the investigation at that time was certainly consistent with a sexual assault having taken place, as was the victim's demeanor at the time of the examination."

This week, university president Richard Brodhead suspended the highly ranked team from play until the school learns more about the accusations. But Cheshire said Nifong and police have created a mob mentality that has tainted the men "before the evidence has all come out in a way that they will never recover."

"The lacrosse team, clearly, has not been fully cooperative" in the investigation, Nifong confirmed to Syler. "The university, I believe, has done pretty much everything that they can under the circumstances. They, obviously, don't have a lot of control over whether or not the lacrosse team members actually speak to the police. I think that their silence is as a result of advice with counsel."

English professor Melissa Malouf said she is one of those prepared for the DNA tests to prove inconclusive.

"I don't think the DNA is the case," she said after speaking at an outdoor protest near Brodhead's office. "Guys can wear condoms."

According to the application for a court order seeking DNA samples from the team, a nurse trained to treat rape victims and a physician who treated the woman said they witnessed symptoms consistent with sexual assault. The document also includes details of a search of the house where the woman said she was raped for about a half-hour.
  • Melissa McNamara

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