Is Duke accuser's pregnancy relevant?

Updated: December 15, 2006, 8:19 PM ET
By Roger Cossack | ESPN.com

Just when you think the Duke rape case can't get any more unseemly, along comes a report the alleged victim is pregnant and already might have given birth.

Skeptics will point out that the birth occurred approximately nine months after her alleged rape by members of the Duke lacrosse team.

What does this mean legally?

Possibility No. 1: DNA evidence determines that the father of the child is one of the alleged attackers.

This would prove that the father/player had sex with the alleged victim. It wouldn't prove the sex was non-consensual, or even that it happened the night that the alleged victim claims she was raped.

However, because the defense claims that none of the players had sex with the alleged victim, consensual or otherwise, the knowledge that one of the players is the father of the baby would damage seriously at least his claims of innocence, and I think, would make his claim of innocence difficult to sell to a jury.

Possibility No. 2: None of the lacrosse players is shown to be the father of her child.

This would bolster the players' claim that they did not have sex with the alleged victim. It also would show she had sex with someone else around the time the alleged rape supposedly occurred. It would not prove the rape did not occur. It would show only that none of the defendants is the father of the child.

Possibility No. 3: The fact she gave birth would not even be admissible in a court of law.

Rape shield laws protect a woman's right of privacy and prevent defense lawyers from making an issue of her sexual history.

The days of the "tainted woman" arguments are over.

However, while her pregnancy might not be admissible in court, it will be admissible in the court of public opinion -- a court that has been masterfully manipulated by the defense.

The defense in this case seems to be based upon two foundations. First, that the assault never occurred. As a basis for this we have seen the defendants deny their involvement ("60 Minutes") and have heard leaks from defense lawyers who claim their clients' DNA was not found on the alleged victim.

A lack of DNA evidence would make it difficult for the prosecution to get a conviction. The second part of the defense strategy is this: The alleged victim is a "dancer" who was plying her trade at a "party" that the players attended, and as a "dancer" she has no credibility whatsoever.

This is why I think her pregnancy would not be admitted in court.

It could cause much speculation, but would prove nothing other than she had sex with another man.

Roger Cossack is ESPN's legal analyst.