Duke Rape Scandal - Does DNA Link Lacrosse Players to Accuser?

05/25/2011 11:50 am ET

Duke Rape Scandal - Does DNA Link Lacrosse Players to Accuser?

From the beginning of this case, the lack of DNA evidence under the accuser's fingernails bugged me.

Earlier this week, the Herald-Sun reported that authorities have recovered DNA from her fake nail and that there's a link to one of the Duke Lacrosse players:

"Tissue found under the fingernail of an exotic dancer who claimed she was raped at a Duke University lacrosse party may match a player who was there, several well-placed sources said Wednesday.

Analyzing the tissue, scientists concluded it came from the same genetic pool and was "consistent" with the bodily makeup of one of 46 lacrosse players who gave DNA samples for testing, the sources said.

At the same time, scientists ruled out a possible match with any of the other 45 students, according to the sources.

If accurate, the fingernail tissue match would offer the first DNA evidence potentially linking the dancer and an alleged attacker.

But because a complete DNA pattern was not obtained from the tissue, it was not possible to match it with the nearly 100 percent certainty that DNA results usually offer, the sources added."

Tonight defense attorneys held a press conference. They claim the new DNA results are not conclusive:

"Attorneys representing Duke lacrosse players downplayed the significance of reports Thursday that tissue found under a fingernail of the alleged rape victim might match one of the players.

But other attorneys not associated with the case said the findings could be a big boost to the prosecution.

Lawyer Bill Thomas, representing an unindicted lacrosse player, was among those who downplayed the report.

"I put no stock in any of these preliminary rumors," he said. "I will wait until I see the final analysis before jumping to conclusions."

Thomas said that if a lacrosse player had merely picked up the artificial fingernail from the floor and thrown it into a trashcan, some of his DNA would have become attached to the nail.

"I would find that to be of no probative value as regards a rape," Thomas added. "If an indictment were issued on a finding like that, it would be a sad day for the criminal justice system."

"What does it prove?" asked lawyer James D. "Butch" Williams, who represents another un-indicted lacrosse player. "It proves absolutely nothing. There are so many different scenarios about how that DNA could have come to be there."

Attorney Bob Ekstrand, representing 32 unindicted lacrosse players, agreed Thursday that it would be best to wait for a final DNA report.

"These kinds of things, you just have to see the written report," he said. "It's all speculation right now."

It sounds like they are choosing their words carefully by focusing on the word "conclusive" but perhaps even more significant is the defense allegation that the accuser DID have sex that night but NOT with one of the Duke Lacrosse players.

All along the defense has denied that any of the players had either consensual sex or raped her, so the idea that the DNA tests confirm sexual activity is a major bombshell:

Attorney Joseph Cheshire, who represents a team captain who has not been charged, said the tests showed genetic material from a "single male source" was found on a vaginal swab taken from the accuser, but that material did not match any of the players.

It appears that the defense going to take a page from the Kobe Bryant legal playbook and say that she had DID have sex but with another man.

"In other words, it appears this woman had sex with a male," Cheshire said. "It also appears with certainty it wasn't a Duke lacrosse player."

You might recall Bryant's legal theory:

Bryant's attorney, Pamela Mackey, quickly tried to show the woman's story was just that -- a story. She used the woman's name six different times, and at one point suggested that her injuries might be "consistent with a person who has had sex with three different men in three days."