Sex offense charges and rape accusations can take insurmountable tolls on the lives of the wrongfully accused. You may recall the story of Duke University Lacrosse players accused of raping a stripper during a team party back in 2006. The North Carolina students were exonerated in 2007 of all charges relating to the incident, though are still battling to receive compensation for the toll these charges took on their lives. Progress was made near the end of last month to allow them to proceed with their lawsuit.
The players’ case had made it all the way up to the U.S. District Court and Judge James A. Beaty Jr. to rule on whether or not their lawsuit would be allowed to proceed. Though the judge did dismiss their conspiracy and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims, he affirmed the men had a legitimate claim that their constitutional rights had been violated by the prosecution during the original case. Judge Beaty found there to be evidence fabrication and the use of false evidence by the prosecution, warranting a case to examine amendment rights violations on behalf of the state.
Back in 2006, a stripper alleged she had been raped at a Duke University Lacrosse team party where she was performing. The ensuing investigation was found to have been mishandled by local authorities, as police lineup photos only contained Lacrosse team members, and evidence that would have corroborated the players’ story was withheld by the prosecution. The key piece of evidence in the case, DNA evidence proving none of the men in question violated the woman, was notably and admittedly withheld by the prosecution.
It is speculated that the reason the situation was so enthusiastically pursued and discussed in the local and national news media by the prosecuting attorney for the state – who gave over 100 media interviews regarding the case in 2006 where he repeatedly stated his emphatic assurance of the team members’ guilt – was that said attorney was up for reelection that year and supposedly intent on making or maintaining a name for himself in the public eye through the prosecution of this particular high-visibility case. The prosecutor’s license to practice law in North Carolina was rescinded by the state in 2007.
The Lacrosse players will now be pursuing claims that their constitutional rights were violated by the prosecution and the city of Durham under the Fourth and 14th Amendments. The Fourth Amendment addresses the need for probable cause to issue warrants and the 14th which is to guarantee equal protection of the law. The men seek unspecified monetary damages as well as for the appointment of a special monitor to supervise activities of the Durham police department for the next 10 years.
Source: Bloomberg.com “Duke Lacrosse Players’ Suit Over False Rape Claim May Proceed, Judge Says” by Edvard Pettersson and Thom Weidlich, 3/31/11