Fourth Circuit Dismisses Federal Claims in Duke Lacrosse Suit

By Robyn Hagan Cain on December 18, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

We all remember the Duke lacrosse rape allegations, right? In 2007, an exotic dancer claimed that she was raped at lacrosse team party. Over the course of a few hours, the details of her story changed. She was attacked by three men. No, she wasn’t attacked at all. She was attacked by as many as 20 men.

The evidence — including extensive DNA analysis — simply didn’t support her claims. Even the prosecutor, former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong — looked at the lack of evidence and said, “You know, we’re f**ked.”

We’re just spit-balling here, but it seems like the “f**ked” stage is where you abandon a case. Or at least set it aside for a a second look. But, at Nifong’s direction, Durham authorities doubled down. Search warrants were executed. College students were indicted.

And when the charges were ultimately dropped, lawsuits were filed.

Which brings us to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

You see, the Duke lacrosse players were a bit miffed about being vilified in light of overwhelming exculpatory evidence, so they sued the City of Durham, Durham department, Nifong and a DNA lab for violating their civil rights, hiding evidence and fabricating a false case, reports Raleigh's WTVD.

Monday, the Fourth Circuit tossed their claims for damages under federal law against the City of Durham and its police department, the News Observer reports. But the decision wasn't a complete victory for the overeager officials: The three-judge panel said the former players can continue with their state claims that Durham officials violated their state constitutional rights, and allowed the three wrongfully-accused players to proceed with their state claims that police investigators Mark Gottlieb and Benjamin Himan engaged in malicious prosecution.

This prosecution was a gross miscarriage of justice. Nifong was even disbarred for the way he handled the case, which apparently involved breaking more than two dozen rules of professional conduct, according to The Associated Press. Considering the damage to the players' reputations, we wouldn't be surprised to see more appeals in this case.

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