Duke Case Lab Director: NiFong Didn't Tell Me to Withold Info

DURHAM, N.C. -- A lab director who prepared a DNA report in the now-discredited Duke lacrosse rape case said the prosecutor case never told him to withhold information from defense attorneys.

Testifying in the criminal contempt trial of former Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, lab director Brian Meehan said Thursday that he, not Nifong, was the one who decided how to prepare the report stating that no lacrosse player had been linked to the accuser. The report failed to mention that genetic material from multiple unidentified men was found.

"Did he ask you to leave anything out?" defense attorney Jim Glover asked during Thursday's hearing.

"No," Meehan replied.

Defense attorneys for the three falsely accused players want Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III to punish Nifong for initially telling the court that he disclosed all testing results when he knew, and failed to reveal, the presence of the unidentified genetic material.

If held in contempt, Nifong faces up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Glover said Nifong never intentionally mislead the court and believed he gave all DNA test results to defense attorneys. He said Nifong's statement during a hearing last fall that the defense had all DNA test results was little more than an oversight.

"The only thing that it seems that the court can conclude at this time is that the statement is the result of negligence, not the result of any willful, deliberate attempt to conceal it, and certainly not the result of any attempt to hide it," Glover told Smith in a failed motion to dismiss the charge.

Meehan returned to the stand Friday morning as the contempt hearing resumed.

Nifong led the investigation into a woman's allegations that she was raped at a March 2006 lacrosse team party where she was hired as a stripper. That spring, Nifong secured indictments against Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and Dave Evans for rape, kidnapping and sexual offense.

A month later, Nifong learned that a private laboratory had found the genetic material from several men. But he didn't provide that information to the defense until October amid nearly 2,000 pages of raw DNA test data. Evans' attorney Brad Bannon testified Thursday that the data took all of November to decipher.

During his cross-examination of Bannon, Glover tried to portray the initial DNA report prepared by Meehan in May 2006 as adequate while suggesting no additional information would have helped clear the players.

"The fact is, you've got nothing significantly exculpatory beyond what you already knew from the report itself," Glover said.

"That's absolutely false," Bannon said abruptly. "And you know it."

Meehan later testified that he considered the DNA results provided to the defense to be an "interim" report because other test specimens had yet to arrive.

Afterward, Meehan told reporters that he included all test results by referencing other "non-probative" but unspecified DNA materials in the report.

When asked why he didn't just list the test results, Meehan said: "You know, because I'm not perfect, OK? ... I said there are additional evidence items where there were profiles and they're available upon request. There was no intent or thought in my mind to withhold anything."

Nifong ultimately recused himself from the case after being charged with ethics violations, and state prosecutors dropped charges while declaring the three players innocent victims of a "tragic rush to accuse."

Nifong was disbarred in June for more than two dozen violations of the state's rules of professional conduct during his prosecution of the lacrosse case. He resigned a month later as district attorney.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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