Grand jury may consider new charges in Duke case

Staff WriterMay 15, 2006 

— A Durham grand jury is scheduled to meet today, and the session could mean new charges in the investigation of a reported rape at a Duke lacrosse team party.

Two of the team's players were indicted in April on charges of first degree rape, first degree sex offense and first degree kidnapping. They are accused of assaulting an escort service dancer in a bathroom of a house at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. Their lawyers say the men are innocent, and lawyers representing dozens of team members say that no sex or assault occurred at the March 13 party.

But the woman says she was attacked by three men, and Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong said he has been working on bringing charges against a third person.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN TODAY? If Nifong decides to submit the case, police investigators and possibly other witnesses will try to convince grand jurors in a secret session that the state has probable cause to bring a case forward. Grand jurors will hear only the prosecution's side of the case. The standard required for a true bill of indictment is far lower than the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard required for a conviction.

IF INDICTMENTS ARE ISSUED, WHEN WILL THEY BECOME PUBLIC? On April 17, a judge ordered the indictments in the lacrosse case sealed. The names of the players who were indicted were not released until 5 a.m. the next day when the players surrendered at the Durham County jail. If Nifong again requests that the indictments be sealed, the law allows a judge to keep them secret until the person is arrested or appears in court.

WHEN WILL ALL THE EVIDENCE BE REVEALED? State law requires prosecutors to turn over all of their case files to defense lawyers, but nothing requires the evidence to be turned over to the public. In open court hearings, lawyers often discuss some of the evidence, but the state's case may not be revealed until trial. No trial dates have been set. When a report on the DNA testing is complete, Nifong is required by law to turn it over to all 46 members of the lacrosse team who submitted DNA samples.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? The cases against Reade William Seligmann, 20, of Essex Fells, N.J., and Collin Finnerty, 19, of Garden City, N.Y., are moving forward. Finnerty has a court date in June. Seligmann is scheduled to appear in court Thursday. His attorney, Kirk Osborn, has filed a series of motions challenging Nifong's handling of the case and asking a judge to bar the prosecutor from further involvement.

Staff writer Benjamin Niolet can be reached at 956-2404 or bniolet@newsobserver.com.

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