High court turns down lacrosse players’ appeal
For the second time in about a month, the U.S. Supreme Court has turned down a request that it review a lower-court ruling in the Duke lacrosse case.
On Tuesday morning the justices announced that they'd rejected an appeal from a trio of former Duke University men's lacrosse players represented by Durham lawyer Bob Ekstrand.
The three -- Ryan McFadyen, Breck Archer, and Matt Wilson -- wanted the justices to overturn part of a North Carolina law that allows judges to order people to give DNA samples.
They and their teammates on the 2005-06 Duke men's lacrosse team faced a police investigation in 2006 after a stripper, Crystal Mangum, falsely claimed she'd been raped at a team party.
Police obtained DNA from most members of the team after securing a court order requiring the sampling. Ekstrand and his clients say the state improperly allowed testing without forcing authorities to show there's probable cause to believe each target of a test may have committed a crime.
Tuesday's decision by the Supreme Court came four days after the justices discussed the case during a closed-door conference. A published order said Justice Samuel Alito didn't take any part in the discussion.
Four justices had to support granting review for the case to have received a full hearing.
In October, the court also rejected an appeal from three members of the 2005-06 team who'd been indicted and eventually exonerated of rape charges.
Both decisions left intact a December 2012 ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that sharply narrowed the scope of the players' lawsuits against the city.
Combined, the 4th Circuit and Supreme Court decisions leave Ekstrand's clients only a catch-all claim, arising under the North Carolina Constitution, against the city that officials in 2006 violated their state-granted civil rights.
The city of Durham issued the following statement in reaction to the ruling: "The city is extremely pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision today, refusing to hear the appeal of the second of the three Duke lacrosse cases, and absolving all of the named city employees of any legal liability. ... Given that this second suit was particularly lengthy, exaggerated and outrageous in its claims against city employees, the city had great confidence that the courts would see through the complaint to determine that there was no merit to the dozens of claims against the city and city officials."
Ekstrand's clients also have claims pending against Duke University. All other members of the 2005-06 team who'd filed suit have settled with Duke out of court.
That includes a third group of 38 former players who in late August told a judge they also intended to drop their claims against the city unless the Supreme Court accepted the appeal from Ekstrand's clients.
The 4th Circuit allowed the indicted-but-exonerated players -- David Evans, Colin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann -- to pursue a common-law malicious-prosecution claim against the two police detectives who investigated the case.
A statement from city officials was not forthcoming by press time on Tuesday. Ekstrand didn't respond to an emailed request for comment.