Federal judges to weigh in on Duke Lacrosse case


Attorneys for the City of Durham are trying to convince a three-judge panel at the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond to toss out three pending lawsuits stemming from the Duke Lacrosse case.

The case began in 2006, when Crystal Mangum, a hired exotic dancer, accused Duke Lacrosse players David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann of rape at a team party.

The players were later indicted, but in 2007 North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper -- whose office had taken over the case from former District Attorney Mike Nifong -- announced that all charges would be dropped and declared the players innocent victims of a “tragic rush to accuse.”

Lawsuits were later filed accusing the City of Durham, its police department, Nifong and a DNA lab of hiding evidence and fabricating a false case against the three players, violating their civil rights.

Recently, a federal judge in the U.S. Middle District of North Carolina decided that the pending lawsuits --filed by the three indicted players as well as players who were not charged -- could proceed with some changes.

Attorneys for the City of Durham are hoping the federal appellate court will disagree, overturning the ruling on the grounds of immunity.

The City has already spent as much as $5 million of insurance coverage money defending itself. Should Durham reach its insurance limit, they may need to use tax payer money.

It could take weeks before the three-judge panel makes a final decision.

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