The Duke Case

Lesley Stahl Talks To Parents Of Accused, Prosecution Forensics Expert

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When Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong recused himself from the Duke lacrosse case and was replaced by a special prosecutor Saturday, it was the culmination of months of questions about the D.A., going back to Ed Bradley's story on the case last October. Originally, three white lacrosse players - Collin Finnerty, David Evans and Reade Seligmann - were accused of raping an African-American stripper.

Nifong was forced to drop the rape charges last month when the woman changed her story. The three still stand accused of sexual assault and kidnapping. Now, for the first time, their parents speak out together in an interview with correspondent Lesley Stahl.

And Stahl speaks to the forensic expert who changed the course of the case when he testified that he and the D.A. knew - but did not report - crucial DNA evidence that could help exonerate the defendants, whose DNA was never found in the accuser.

Dr. Brian Meehan was hired by District Attorney Mike Nifong to conduct DNA testing on evidence collected hours after the alleged attack last March. What Meehan discovered in his lab has undermined the prosecution's case because he found DNA on the rape kit and the accuser's underwear that belonged to at least four unidentified men, none from any of the lacrosse players. But when Meehan issued a report of his findings, he left out that potentially exculpatory information about the other men.

"You never stated in your report that you found DNA that belonged to men other than the accused in her underwear?" Stahl asks.

"I did not specifically say that," he replies.

"You never said that you found DNA belonging to other men in her rectum?" Stahl asks.

"No, I did not specifically state that," Meehan says.

Asked if that shouldn't have been in the report, Meehan says, "In retrospect, I know that there's a better way. And I should've done a better job at conveying that information."

"So, when you've produced other reports, if you have found other people who aren't suspects, you would leave it out of the report? Have you done this before?" Stahl asks.

"We haven't done that before," Meehan admits.

Leaving test results out of a report is a violation of industry standards, and of Meehan's own company's guidelines; the organization that accredits forensic labs has launched an investigation of his company.

"I have to tell you that we spoke to a lot of forensic specialists, people who do what you do and sex crime prosecutors. And they all say they never heard of anything like this - ever," Stahl remarks.

"I said it was an error," Meehan replies. "It was an error in judgment on my part."

"But a big one, right?" Stahl asks.

"Certainly, it was a big error," he replies.

Asked if it was his decision and his alone, Meehan says, "Well, it was my decision based on my understanding of what was asked in this case from when the case began."

At a hearing last month, Meehan testified that he and Nifong agreed to limit the report to "just the stuff that matched" the lacrosse players or three of the accuser's friends. After Meehan found there was DNA evidence from other unidentified men, he says he spelled out that information to D.A. Nifong in person and on the phone - before he completed his report.

"Did the district attorney specifically ask you to leave the information about the other males out of this report?" Stahl asks Meehan.

"Absolutely not," he replies.

"He knew the information was there. Did he ever ask you specifically to include it?" Stahl asks.

"That specific information? No, he did not," Meehan says.

"Did he ever come back to you and ever say, 'I need a second report with everything in it?'" Stahl asks.

"No, he did not," he says.

Asked if he thought Nifong was going to ask for it, Meehan says he "expected him" to ask for it.

The key here is that the D.A. was required by law to turn that information over to the defense in the first place. He didn't do that until a judge ordered him to six months after he learned about the DNA belonging to other men. What's more, during that time, the D.A. told the court he was "not aware of any additional information" which may be exculpatory.

Asked if Nifong was lying, Meehan says, "Well, I know that I told him. I sat down in our conference room and went over all of the information in this case with him."

Four days after Stahl interviewed him, Meehan submitted an amended report with all his findings.

There was probably nobody more shocked by Meehan's testimony about the DNA than the parents of the three boys who have been indicted - Collin Finnerty's parents, Kevin and Mary Ellen, David Evans' parents, David Sr. and Rae and Reade Seligmann's folks, Kathy and Phil. They were all in the courtroom that day.

"Well, while we were sitting there, and the information came out, and someone then, behind us, passed the note and said on the note it said, 'Oh my God. He knew this on April 10th.' And we knew that our boys had been indicted on April 17th. And Mary Ellen turned to me and said, 'I'm shaking so hard, I think I'm going to pass out right now.' And we had to hold on to each other," remembers Kathy Seligmann.

"But let me get -- you're saying that on April 10th, Mr. Nifong was told that your boys had left no -- ," Stahl asks.

"No DNA, not a speck," Seligmann says.

"But that there was evidence of other men. And days after he was told that, he indicted them for rape?" Stahl asks.

"Right, yeah," she replies.