The Duke Case: Standing Down

The three Duke lacrosse defendants just got more good news. District Attorney Mike Nifong, who'd once called them hooligans, has asked to be recused from the case, suggesting a special prosecutor be appointed to take over.

The pressure on Nifong to step down has been building. In December the state bar accused him of disparaging the defendants and misleading the public about evidence. Then the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys--his own colleagues--urged Nifong to recuse himself "in the interest of justice."

The case itself is imploding. The accuser, who'd already changed her story numerous times, did it yet again, according to a motion filed by defense attorneys. In this new version, she says she was attacked by two men, not three. She'd originally singled out Reade Seligmann as having forced a specific sex act on her. Now, according to the documents, she told Nifong's investigator that Seligmann said he couldn't go through with the rape because he was getting married. Last month Nifong dropped the rape charges; the players still face kidnapping and sexual offense charges.

Defense lawyers, who've questioned Nifong's motives in prosecuting this case, were glad to see him go. "These young men have never had an honest look at their case," says Joseph Cheshire, who represents one of the indicted players. "We believe when that happens ... these boys will be exonerated." Cheshire expects a new prosecutor to re-investigate the case, which could prolong the timetable. Mike Nifong did not return a request for comment.