(CN) – A North Carolina lab correctly fired a man for mishandling DNA evidence of Duke lacrosse players who later proved that they were falsely accused of rape, a state appeals court ruled.
Brian Meehan filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against DNA Security Inc. (DSI)
Meehan prepared the analysis of 46 players on the Blue Devils team during the Durham Police Department’s investigation in 2006.
An exotic dancer claimed that members of Duke’s lacrosse team raped her.
DSI fired Meehan after he prepared his DNA analysis report.
“The report obscured findings that exculpated the charged players, and in the controversy that followed, DSI terminated plaintiff’s employment,” Judge Robert Hunter Jr. wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel in the North Carolina Court of Appeals. They upheld a ruling from the Alamance County Superior Court.
Meehan founded DNA Security Inc. in 1998 before selling the company to American Media International LLC and Richard Clark. Meehan continued to work at the company after the sale. Meehan sued Clark and American Media in the same underlying case.
Meehan’s analysis showed that none of the Duke players’ DNA contacted the alleged victim, and that she had multiple recent sex partners, which did not include the players.
But Meehan’s report used the phrase “non-probative” to describe the rest results, and three of the players were charged with rape, kidnapping and first-degree sexual offense.
(The case made national headlines. Duke’s lacrosse team was portrayed, even by some fellow students and Duke supporters, as having a long history of acting like spoiled brats who were catered to by a sports-mad university.)
Meehan testified at trial that his report did not include all of the tests he conducted. In a “60 Minutes” interview with Leslie Stahl, Meehan said the district attorney did not instruct him to exclude any test results.
The 31-page ruling cites a transcript from the “60 Minutes” interview, to which it says Meehan submitted “reluctantly.”
After the interview was broadcast, DSI’s “revenue declined. Defendants directly attribute this decline to plaintiff’s 12 May 2006 Report. Additionally, the charged players filed a civil action for damages against DSI and plaintiff, which, according to the record, remains unresolved,” Judge Hunter wrote for the appeals court.
DSI fired Meehan.
The appeals court quoted from Clark’s termination letter to Meehan: “While I know for certain that the allegations against you, the company and myself are completely false, your failure to adequately explain DSI’s role in this case to the public and to the lacrosse families during the multiple times you have testified has directly led to the dire situation our company currently faces. Based on our conversations, I also know that you fully acknowledge that your poor communications have put you, DSI and myself in this ridiculous situation.
“This letter will serve as notice that DSI is terminating your employment immediately. Standing alone, your misstatement that you committed an alleged ‘big error’ in the handling of the Duke Lacrosse case, as you characterized it on national television during a ’60 Minutes’ interview, constitutes just cause for ending your employment as executive director of the lab pursuant to the employment agreement the company entered into with you in October of 2004. As we have discussed many times and you have consistently told me, there in fact was no ‘big error.'”
The Alamance County trial court dismissed Meehan’s lawsuit, and the appeals affirmed.
“We determine that by obscuring results in the May 12, 2006, report, plaintiff engaged in ‘substandard performance on the job’ as defined by the DSI employee handbook and consequently met the Employment Agreement’s grounds for termination,” Hunter wrote.