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Dykes acquittal sparks debate

Sam Davis | Wednesday, September 17, 2003

The Monday acquittal of former Notre Dame football player Donald Dykes sparked a torrent of reaction from the families of both the alleged victim and the cleared defendant, the jurors and the prosecuting attorney.

WNDU reported Tuesday that special prosecutor Maureen Devlin said she wants to interview jurors to determine why they found Dykes not guilty of the charges of rape, conspiracy to commit rape and sexual battery. Dykes’ trial followed that of another former player, Abram Elam, who was convicted of sexual battery in the same alleged incident. Two other players – Justin Smith and Lorenzo Crawford – also face charges, with trials set for October and November.

“The amazing thing about this is you can have four separate cases about the same incident and each one of them will be very different,” Devlin told WNDU.

She said the prosecution may re-evaluate its tactics before the trials of the other two co-defendants.

“That may be something that we can address through a different presentation of our evidence and it may be something that we’re going to have to decide we’re going to have to look at the case from a different angle,” Devlin said. “We’re trying Notre Dame football players in South Bend, that’s not an easy hurdle to overcome from the very beginning.”

The parents of the alleged victim, who was not present when the verdict was read, also showed discontent with the outcome. They hurriedly left the courtroom after the woman’s father yelled at jurors and then the media.

The family of the defendant, however, rejoiced tearfully and raised their fists in the air in celebration.

“I believed him from day one when he said ‘Daddy, we had sex with that girl, but it was consensual,” Donald Dykes Sr. told WNDU. “I believed him then and I believe him now.”

Dykes’ family said that he can now continue on with his life because his name is cleared.

Deciding the fate of someone’s life, however, was exactly what bothered jurors.

“It was one of the worst experiences of my life,” a jury member told WNDU.

Ron Nizgodski, the foreman of the jury, told WNDU that there were too many testimonial inconsistencies to merit a conviction.

WNDU contributed to this report.