Defense lawyer assails Nifong

The Baltimore Sun

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Attorneys representing three Duke lacrosse players didn't believe what they had found when one of them discovered favorable DNA test results buried in prosecutor Michael B. Nifong's files.

Testifying yesterday in Nifong's misconduct trial, a lawyer for one of the accused players described how he had locked himself in a conference room for more than 60 hours with a textbook and 1,844 pages of technical documents. The defense team had pried the documents from Nifong and a DNA lab.

Lawyer Bradley Bannon, who is not a DNA expert, found previously undisclosed test results showing that DNA from unknown men had been recovered from Crystal Gail Mangum's body and underwear. Mangum, an exotic dancer, had accused the players of raping her at a team party.

Bannon shared his findings with the other defense lawyers. One by one, they said his findings were interesting but didn't believe what he was saying. "You have to understand we had been in court all summer and fall being told that there wasn't anything that was found," Bannon testified. "We were all bewildered that it hadn't been provided to us before."

Bannon's testimony came on the third day of ethics charges from the North Carolina State Bar against Nifong, the Durham district attorney. His testimony was a blistering assault on the prosecutor.

The bar, which licenses and regulates lawyers, says Nifong made prejudicial public comments and wrongly withheld DNA evidence favorable to the players. The state attorney general's office this year dropped the charges against the players, declaring them innocent.

A state bar prosecutor asked Bannon to describe the effect that Nifong's behavior and statements had on the three men falsely accused of rape.

"I cannot count how many times I heard that there is no way the district attorney would have said the things he said in this case unless there was something there. That is why people who still believe something happened at that house that night believe it, because they were told over and over and over again with absolute certainty," Bannon said.

Bannon testified about the defense team's repeated attempts to get complete DNA test results from Nifong. The prosecutor repeatedly said everything had been turned over. But the three-member panel sitting in judgment of Nifong knows the prosecutor knew about the test results and failed to supply them.

Bannon also testified yesterday about a telephone call in which Nifong berated him over the implication that he had withheld evidence.

A DNA expert testified Wednesday that he told Nifong in April 2006 that tests had found DNA from multiple, unknown men. Nifong contends he did not intentionally withhold evidence. One of his attorneys, David Freedman, has said that Nifong always intended to turn over all the test results, but that they were left out of the first report because the DNA lab director had privacy concerns.

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