For Mike Nifong, Levicy was a dream witness. Though endowed with forensic credentials, she proved willing—as the Attorney General’s report noted—to base her diagnoses solely on subjective criteria. These criteria, coincidentally, conformed to her experience that women never lie about being raped.
As has been widely noted, the first
On March 16, she told Officer Ben Himan that Mangum’s physical exam revealed evidence consistent with a sexual assault. (The Durham Police used this statement as justification to obtain a warrant to search 610 N. Buchanan.) In a later interview with defense attorneys, Levicy confirmed that she had, in fact, passed along to Himan this diagnosis—based, she said, on her subjective evaluation of the hysterical Mangum’s pain.
In other words: Mangum said she was raped. Mangum said she was in pain. Therefore, the physical exam corroborated Mangum’s story.
Kethra, a longtime SANE nurse who frequently posts at Liestoppers, has expressed outrage at Levicy’s March 16 behavior:
That means it looks like Ms. Levicy is speaking as if she did the exam rather than simply watch, which we now know is exactly what occurred. However, Ms. Levicy did not disabuse the police of that notion . . . This, as any RN will tell you, is very unprofessional and is in fact professional misrepresentation.
Not only did Himan not interview Manly on March 16: at no point in the investigation did anyone from either the
Levicy’s next contact with a
In her November 15 defense interview, Levicy confirmed that Gottlieb’s report quoted her accurately. Doug Kingsbery then asked Levicy how she defined this term. It meant, she said, that the tissue had been forced against. And how did she diagnose that Mangum experienced “blunt force trauma”? Her subjective observations of Mangum in pain.
So, in short: “blunt force trauma” amounted to a nurse who never came into contact with a woman who lied about rape passing along the assertions of a patient who showed no physical signs of pain, much less “blunt force trauma”—and who was behaving atypically from real rape victims.
A question to ponder: how many New York Times readers believed that was what Duff Wilson and his editors meant on August 25, 2006, when the paper gave such prominence to Levicy’s assertion?
In an April 3, 2006, interview the Herald-Sun, Theresa Arico, herself a SANE nurse and coordinator of the Duke SANE program, explained the process for detecting “blunt force trauma”:
“You can say with a high degree of certainty that there was a certain amount of blunt force trauma present to create injury” by the physical examination, which uses a device called a colposcope to magnify a woman’s internal parts where injuries consistent with a sexual assault would occur, Arico said.
Yet in Mangum’s examination, the report shows no indication that a colposcope was used. (Levicy appears to have lacked sufficient training to use the instrument.) Neither Levicy nor Arico ever explained why Levicy didn’t follow the policy publicly outlined by her supervisor.
In her interview with Gottlieb, Levicy added two other items that never appeared in her March 14 report. First, according to the Gottlieb memorandum, she stated that Mangum “had edema and tenderness to palpitation both anally and especially vaginally.”
Yet Julie Manly’s examination had shown no anal edema or tenderness; indeed, the doctor later told defense attorneys, she had expressed surprise that no anal bruising existed given Mangum’s claims. Nor did the March 14, 2006 report co-signed by Manly and Levicy contain any mention of anal edema. And Levicy later admitted that she had no first-hand knowledge of either the vaginal or the anal examinations, since she couldn’t see Mangum during Manly’s work.
Levicy has never explained these discrepancies; she, along with Theresa Arico, declined two requests for comment about this post. The day after I contacted her, Levicy’s e-mail address and phone numbers disappeared from the Duke website.
In her interview with Gottlieb, Levicy also noted another previously unmentioned tale—that Mangum had become hysterical after Levicy left her in the examination room with a male rape crisis counselor. Who was this person?, Doug Kingsbery later asked Levicy. She couldn’t recall his name, the SANE nurse replied. She could only remember that he was white and soft-spoken.
So, according to Levicy, Duke hospital sent in a white, male rape crisis counselor to comfort a black female who was claiming that three white males had raped her. But the SANE nurse-in-training couldn’t provide specifics on the identity of the person who could corroborate her story.
Kathleen Eckelt, a SANE nurse with decades of experience who trains SANE nurses in her home state, was dubious:
The name of any person in that room, besides the nurse, must be documented. If it’s an unlocked room, the door is shut and the curtain is pulled to protect the patient’s privacy. The staff know not to enter and the nurse must remain in the room with the evidence until it’s locked up.
In his pre-primary publicity barrage, Nifong highlighted Levicy’s statement in virtually all of his public appearances. (That the district attorney did not distort what Levicy told Himan and Gottlieb in no way mitigates the impropriety of his statements; the only aspect of the Bar’s ethics charges involving Levicy revolves around Nifong’s misrepresentation of the report’s unequivocal statement that Mangum said she didn’t use condoms.) To Dan Abrams on March 29:
The circumstances of the case are not suggestive of the alternate explanation that has been suggested by some of the members of the situation. There is evidence of trauma in the victim’s vaginal area that was noted when she was examined by a nurse at the hospital. And her general demeanor was suggestive of the fact that she had been through a traumatic situation.
Nifong gave similar statements to CNN, CBS, and local television and newspapers.
Nifong’s highlighting of Levicy’s March 16 comments to Himan—which reappeared in the March 23 non-testimonial order—helped shape media coverage: journalists, unsurprisingly, took Levicy’s representation as suggesting that forensic evidence existed of a crime. Given his biases, Duff Wilson unsurprisingly played up the comments: his April 11 article strongly implied that an “emergency room physician” joined Levicy in her findings.
But even fair-minded reporters had to include Levicy’s statements in any early articles on the case. Take, for instance, Ben Niolet’s exceptionally even-handed March 30 N&O article, which quoted from both protesters and defense lawyers extensively. Niolet summarized the state’s rationale for moving forward:
, a nurse trained in sexual assault forensics and a doctor examined the woman, court documents say. “Medical records and interviews showed that the woman had signs, symptoms and injuries consistent with being raped and sexually assaulted vaginally and anally,” according to the order a judge signed that required the team to submit DNA. Duke Hospital
On the ground, the Levicy item likewise carried weight.
I was at one of my daughter’s 5th year birthday party in
. The parent attendees were mostly doctors (mostly from DUMC) and lawyers. The party was the day the story of CGM’s previous allegation of rape hit the newspapers (the Creedmoor thing). I speculated to the parents that this was the end of the hoax and that there was no way this could proceed in the face of this news. Many of the parents remained convinced that “something happened.” In all cases the reason cited was that the nurse “expert” who did the “rape kit” said that the injuries were “consistent with a sexual assault.” I argued but got nowhere in the face of the “expert’s” statement. Durham
While Levicy facilitated Nifong’s effort behind the scenes, Arico went public. In an April 3 interview with the Herald-Sun, Duke’s SANE supervisor stated, “I can reasonably say these injuries are consistent with the story she told.” In the article, Arico left unclear whether she was talking about Mangum specifically or about sexual assault patients in general. According to a memorandum of law penned by its chief attorney, Al McSurely, and posted on its website last August, the state NAACP interpreted the statement as referring to Mangum. (See item 50.) Arico appears to have taken no steps to remove the information if she considered it false—the item remains present even as of this posting.
After the three indictments, Levicy remained the key medical figure in the case. As Nifong continued to ignore Manly, on June 9, Levicy and Arico traveled to the district attorney’s office for a 9.00am private meeting to discuss the case. Much like his conversations with Dr. Brian Meehan, Nifong produced no memorandum of this conversation, despite its obvious relevance to the case.
Arico’s presence suggested that even as massive evidence of innocence had emerged—Mangum’s changing stories, the exclusion of all lacrosse players’ DNA from the rape kit—Duke hospital was standing firmly behind Levicy’s work.
At the June meeting, Arico had an opportunity—regardless of Levicy’s biases—to correct the record for Nifong. Did Duke hospital wish to re-examine the wholly subjective criteria that Levicy employed? Did the medical staff want to press Nifong to summon Manly for an interview? Did the SANE staff wonder why DNA tests that seemed likely to confirm guilt if Levicy’s hunches were correct instead strongly suggested innocence? Was the hospital willing to defend being represented by a then-SANE-in-training in such a high-profile case?
If Arico expressed any concerns about these issues, no record of it survives: Duke’s SANE department remained firmly in Nifong’s corner, even as his case began to collapse. And as it did, as tomorrow’s post will explore, Levicy displayed memory skills that put Sgt. Gottlieb’s “straight-from-memory” report to shame.