Lawyers: Tests will vindicate players

Friday, March 31, 2006

DURHAM, N.C. -- The lawyers for Duke men's lacrosse players said Thursday that police and an outraged community will owe the team an apology after DNA tests are completed -- tests they said will prove no one on the team raped an exotic dancer.

Four attorneys representing nearly all the 46 players forced to give samples protested what they said was a presumption that their clients attacked the dancer or kept quiet about what happened. No one has been charged.

"We believe that the DNA will show that that is not true. We believe that a full and complete and fair investigation will show that it is not true," lawyer Joe Cheshire said.

Investigators are still collecting evidence, but District Attorney Mike Nifong has said in recent days he already believes a crime occurred. Even if the state crime lab's DNA analysis proves inconclusive or doesn't provide a match for any of the athletes, Nifong has said he'll have other evidence.

"If the only thing that we ever have in this case is DNA, then we wouldn't have a case," Nifong said Wednesday.

This week, university president Richard Brodhead suspended the highly ranked team from play until the school learns more about the accusations. But Cheshire said Nifong and police have created a mob mentality that has tainted the men "before the evidence has all come out in a way that they will never recover."

Nifong's office did not return calls Thursday seeking a response to the criticism.

English professor Melissa Malouf said she is one of those prepared for the DNA tests to prove inconclusive.

"I don't think the DNA is the case," she said after speaking at an outdoor protest near Brodhead's office. "Guys can wear condoms."

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