If you thought the federal case resulting from the malicious prosecution of the Duke Lacrosse team was over with last year's Fourth Circuit defeat, well, you're close. It's near-dead, and now even nearer with last week's ruling by U.S. District Court Judge James Beaty, Jr.
According to the Herald Sun, the district court dismissed claims by 38 lacrosse players against an investigator, Linwood Wilson, formerly employed by now-disbarred and forever disgraced former District Attorney Mike Nifong. The ruling should come as no surprise to these players: their attorney conceded that the plain language of last year's Fourth Circuit ruling foreclosed their federal claims.
Because the 38 players in the present case did not join the three players who are currently appealing that Fourth Circuit decision, Judge Beaty refused to hold their case in abeyance while a completely separate case was pending on appeal.
An exotic dancer, quite inconsistently, claimed over the course of a few hours in 2007 that three, no zero, no twenty lacrosse players sexually assaulted her at a Duke lacrosse team party. Despite the lack of evidence, the inconsistent allegations, and Nifong's own assessment of the case ("You know, we're f**ked."), the prosecution pressed forward against three players, and investigated the entire team, breaking more than two dozen rules of professional conduct, and getting Nifong disbarred in the process.
Fourth Circuit's Crushing Blow
As we explained last year, the Fourth Circuit tossed the entirety of the student-athletes' federal claims against the City of Durham and its police department. That left a single state law claim to pursue, and for the three players that were actually charged with a crime, malicious prosecution claims in state court.
From that point on, the cases of the various student-athletes splintered. Three students, who were charged and later exonerated, are seeking Supreme Court intervention, reports the Sun. Three others, who were similarly situated to the present thirty-eight athletes who were not charged, are also appealing to the Supreme Court.
These thirty-eight, however, seem to have reached the end of the road, at least in federal court. Their state law claim, a catch-all, civil rights, equal protection under the law claim under the North Carolina constitution, is often used as a fallback for plaintiffs whose federal claims are dismissed, according to the Sun.
As for the former investigator, he remains a defendant in the lawsuits brought by the six students who are seeking Supreme Court relief.
- Looking Back at the Duke Lacrosse Case (Duke University)
- SCOTUS Rejects Cuccinelli's Stay Request on Va. Sodomy Ruling (FindLaw's Fourth Circuit Blog)
- Duke Lacrosse Accuser Crystal Mangum Stabs Man? (FindLaw's Blotter Blog)