The Duke lacrosse case was a 2006 criminal case resulting from what proved to be a false accusation of rape made against three members of the men's lacrosse team at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, United States. The fallout from the case's resolution led to, among other things, the disbarment of lead prosecutor Mike Nifong. In March 2006, Crystal Gail Mangum, an African-American student at North Carolina Central University who worked as a stripper, dancer and escort, falsely accused threewhite students, members of the Duke Blue Devils men's lacrosse team, of raping her at a party held at the house of two of the team's captains in Durham, North Carolina on March 13, 2006.
Many people involved in, or commenting on the case, including prosecutor Mike Nifong, called the alleged assault a hate crime or suggested it might be one. In response to the allegations Duke University suspended the lacrosse team for two games on March 28, 2006. On April 5, 2006, Duke lacrosse coach Mike Pressler was forced to resign under threat by athletics director Joe Alleva and Duke President Richard Brodhead canceled the remainder of the 2006 season.On April 11, 2007, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped all charges and declared the three players innocent. Cooper stated that the charged players Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans – were victims of a "tragic rush to accuse."
The initial prosecutor, Durham County's District Attorney Mike Nifong, labeled a "rogue prosecutor" by Cooper, withdrew from the case in January 2007 after the North Carolina State Bar filed ethics charges against him. That June, Nifong was disbarred for "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation", making him the first prosecutor in North Carolina debarred for trial conduct. Nifong served one day in jail for lying about sharing DNA tests, although the lab director says it's a misunderstanding and Nifong says it's weak memory. Mangum faced no charges for her false accusations as Cooper declined to prosecute her. Cooper pointed to several inconsistencies in Mangum's accounts of the evening and Seligmann and Finnerty's alibi evidence, in the findings report's summary.
The Durham Police Department came under fire for violating their own policies by allowing Nifong to act as the de facto head of the investigation; giving a suspect-only photo identification procedure to Mangum; pursuing the case despite vast discrepancies in notes taken by Investigator Benjamin Himan and Sgt. Mark Gottlieb; and distributing a poster presuming the guilt of the suspects shortly after the allegations. The ex-players are seeking unspecified damages and new criminal justice reform laws in a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the City of Durham. The case has sparked varied responses from the media, faculty groups, students, the community, and others.