Stuart Taylor, the National Journal legal columnist, and K.C. Johnson, the Brooklyn College professor and respected Duke lacrosse blogger, have published a devastating Wall Street Journal op-ed today on the case. It's all worth reading, but their summary of the evidence is especially damning:
How can we be confident that the charges are false? Let us count the ways: The police who interviewed the accuser after she left the March 13-14 lacrosse team party where she and another woman had performed as strippers found her rape charge incredible, and for good reason. She said nothing about rape to three cops and two others during the first 90 minutes after the party. Only when being involuntarily confined in a mental health facility did she mention rape. This predictably got her released to the Duke emergency room for a rape workup, whereupon she recanted the rape charge.
Then she re-recanted, offering a ludicrous parade of wildly implausible and mutually contradictory stories of being gang-raped by 20, five, four, three or two lacrosse players, with the other stripper assisting the rapists in some versions. After settling on three rapists, the accuser gave police vague descriptions and could not identify as a rapist any of the 36 lacrosse players whose photos she viewed on March 16 and 21. These included two eventual defendants: Dave Evans, whom she did not recognize at all, and Reade Seligmann, whom she was "70%" sure she had seen at the party, but not as a rapist.
All of the 40-odd other people at the party have contradicted every important part of the accuser's various accounts. The second stripper called the rape claim a "crock" and said they had been apart less than five minutes. The accuser told doctors she was drunk and on the muscle relaxant Flexeril, whose side effects include badly impaired judgment when taken with alcohol. She has a history of narcotic abuse and bipolar disorder, a mental illness marked by wild mood swings from mania to depression, and spent a week in a mental hospital in 2005.
In court filings last week, even Mr. Nifong conceded that, contrary to his claims since March, medical records show no physical evidence of rape--let alone injuries consistent with the accuser's April claim of being beaten, kicked, strangled and raped anally, orally and vaginally by three men in a small bathroom for 30 minutes. Above all, DNA tests by state and private labs, which Mr. Nifong's office had said would "immediately rule out any innocent persons," did just that. They found no lacrosse player's DNA anywhere on or in the accuser and none of her DNA in the bathroom.
Yet two weeks ago we learned--only because dogged defense lawyers cracked a prosecutorial conspiracy to hide evidence of innocence--that the private lab did find the DNA of "multiple males" in swabs of the accuser's pubic hair, panties, and rear after the supposed rape. None of this DNA matched any lacrosse player.
...On March 31, [Nifong] instructed police to conduct a third photo ID lineup, and to show the accuser (and tell her that she was being shown) photos of only the 46 white lacrosse players.
On April 4, when this third photo-ID process took place, the message to the accuser was, effectively: Pick three, any three. At random, if you like. You can't go wrong. This setup trashed the defendants' constitutional due process rights and specific Durham, state, and federal principles for identification procedures. To test the reliability of often-mistaken eyewitness ID's, these principles require showing at least five "fillers" (non-suspects) with each suspect and telling the witness that the lineup may or may not include a suspect. Mr. Nifong recently defended his procedure through word games, asking, "What is a lineup?"
The accuser's responses demonstrated her unreliability in ways too numerous to detail here. For one, she picked four as rapists. For another, the only player she twice identified with 100% certainty as attending the party could prove he was in Raleigh that night. But the accuser gave Mr. Nifong enough to obtain three indictments from a rubber-stamp grand jury. When he went to the grand jury, Mr. Nifong knew that the DNA results were inconsistent with the rape allegation. But he pressed ahead with the charge until the defense exposed his efforts to conceal the forensic evidence. Then he abruptly changed his theory of the crime.
The op-ed's author bio states that Taylor and Johnson are writing a book on the case, which is good news. Someone needs to record what has happened here for posterity.