Duke defense lawyer gets his say

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse rape case insisted all summer that he had provided all the evidence, then unloaded thousands of pages of raw DNA test data last October, a defense lawyer testified yesterday .

By studying that data, the defense learned for the first time that genetic material from several males had been found in the accuser”s underwear and body but that none was from any lacrosse player, lawyer Brad Bannon said at District Attorney Mike Nifong“s ethics trial.

“It just kept getting worse,” said Mr. Bannon, who represented David Evans. “I would find another one of the items that had male DNA that excluded our clients, and their teammates, and then another, and then another, and then another.

“We were all bewildered at the fact that it hadn”t been provided to us before.”

The North Carolina State Bar has charged Mr. Nifong with breaking several rules of professional conduct when investigating the case, including keeping those DNA results from the defense. If convicted by a disciplinary committee, Mr. Nifong could be stripped of his license to practice law in the state.

Mr. Nifong released an initial report on the DNA testing in May 2006, and defense attorneys quickly trumpeted that private lab DNA Security Inc. had been unable to find a conclusive match between the accuser and any lacrosse players.

Lab director Brian Meehan testified Wednesday that he told Mr. Nifong about the full extent of the test results — specifically, that the lab had found matches to other men — as early as April 10, 2006, a week before Mr. Nifong won indictments against players Reade W. Seligmann and Collin Finnerty.

Mr. Evans was indicted a month later. The three were later cleared by the state attorney general, who at the urging of defense lawyers called the players innocent victims of a rogue prosecutor”s “tragic rush to accuse.”

“We said to them, ‘Look, the harm that has been done to these young men by the state of North Carolina can only be, can only begin to be undone, by the state of North Carolina,” ” Mr. Bannon said.

Under questioning from state bar officials, Mr. Bannon recounted that Mr. Nifong in court documents and hearings in May, June and September said he had no more evidence that could be considered helpful to the defense and should be turned over.

Mr. Bannon said it wasn”t until Oct. 27, more than six months after learning about the test results from Mr. Meehan, that Mr. Nifong finally gave the defense the raw test data from DNA Security.

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