CHARLOTTE, N.C. – While scrutiny of the Durham district attorney’s handling of the Duke lacrosse case intensifies, key members of the county’s influential black community still back the prosecutor, though cautiously.

The district attorney, Mike Nifong, dropped rape charges Friday against former players David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann after the 28-year-old accuser said she was unsure whether the players had penetrated her.

The move spurred outrage against the district attorney for continuing a case many legal experts say has completely unraveled.

But several members of Durham County’s African American community said they believe Nifong is keeping his word to fully investigate.

“It’s not going in our favor at this point,” said Durham County commissioner Michael Page, adding that he felt Nifong would continue only if he had evidence of something occurring that deserved punishment.

“The question is what and who did it.”

Cora Cole-McFadden, Durham’s mayor pro tem, said she thinks Nifong is doing what he believes is right.

“I’d rather not be judgmental,” she said. “I’m certainly anxious to see how this legal process is going to work.”

The Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP, urged patience.

“This is not a sound-bite case,” Barber said. “We do not want a rush to judgment or a delay of justice.”

The support of the African American community has been key for Nifong, who has received strong support among black voters. More than a third of registered voters in Durham County are African American.

The accuser, an N.C. Central University student hired to perform as a stripper at a team party in March, has long said that three lacrosse team members raped her in a bathroom. On Thursday, however, she told an investigator that she was no longer sure that a penis was the body part that penetrated her.

The defendants still face at least 20 years in prison if convicted on the remaining charges of first-degree sexual offense and one count of kidnapping.

Nifong hasn’t returned requests for comment. He told The New York Times on Thursday that the accuser is determined to continue. He said he will prosecute the players unless “she tells me these are not the right guys.”

The players’ lawyers and family have demanded the case be dropped based on lack of DNA evidence and questions about the accuser’s credibility.

U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., and state Rep. Stephen LaRoque, a Lenoir County Republican, among others, have called for Nifong to be investigated for possible prosecutorial misconduct.

The Rev. Frederick Davis, pastor of First Calvary Baptist in Durham, said he is withholding judgment on Nifong until the case is over. He expressed concern of the media storm is having on the accuser stating he hopes she is receiving the proper counseling and family support.

“My prayers are with her,” he said.


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