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Original Issue

Playing Defense

Lawyers for Duke's lacrosse team build a case that the players aren't guilty of rape

From March 23, theday the news broke that a 27-year-old African-American exotic dancer said shehad been raped 10 days earlier by three white members of the Duke lacrosse teamafter performing at a party, the Durham County prosecutor seemed to be the oneshaping the case in the court of public opinion. Michael Nifong said that thewoman's injuries were consistent with her story and that he was convinced thata sexual assault had occurred. Outraged Duke students and faculty as well asDurham citizens, perhaps familiar with the team's inglorious record ofexcessive drinking and obnoxious behavior, staged protest marches. They vowedto return every week to the house at 610 North Buchanan Blvd., where thealleged rape had taken place, until the case was resolved. Nifong, who is upfor reelection on May 2, had DNA samples collected from 46 white lacrosseplayers and vowed to bring justice. Then, last week, the defense lawyers swunginto action.

On Sunday, ButchWilliams, a lawyer for Daniel Flannery, a team captain, told SI that eightdigital, time-stamped photos taken at the party show the accuser was injuredwhen she arrived at the house. (As of Monday neither prosecutors nor SI hadseen the photos.) Williams said another picture shows Flannery, 22, helping thealleged victim into a car at 12:41 a.m. The woman appears to be intoxicated,Williams says, and doesn't appear to have been the victim of an attack. Then onMonday, the big blow to the prosecution: Defense lawyers gathered in front ofthe Durham County Judicial Building to announce that the test results wereback--and they showed no signs of the players' DNA on the alleged victim's bodyor clothing.

No charges havebeen filed, and as SI went to press Nifong had not said whether he intended topursue the case in spite of the DNA news. In the meantime the incident has leftthe Duke lacrosse team in shambles. Their season was canceled, and on April 5Mike Pressler stepped down after 16 years as head coach. His resignation camehours after word got out that one of his players, sophomore Ryan McFadyen, 19,had sent an e-mail shortly after the alleged rape saying he would invitestrippers to an apartment and planned "on killing the bitches as soon as[they] walk in." (McFadyen received an interim suspension from the school.)Even if the legal case soon ends, the hard work at Duke may be justbeginning.





WALKINGAWAY - Pressler resigned after 16 years as Duke's coach.