A few weeks ago, a couple of readers asked for a cast of characters list, especially for those who weren’t following the case in the initial months. Here, at least, is a partial list.
The Central Player
D.A. Mike Nifong: A figure about whom widely disparate views exist.
Here’s how he described himself, in a letter posted on his campaign website:
- “I have earned the reputation among my colleagues in the court system as a prosecutor of the highest level of professional skill.”
Here’s how some of his colleagues in the court system, in this case the State Bar, described him:
- “Nifong engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation . . . prejudicial to the administration of justice.”
Nifong: In a procedurally improper move, he assumed personal control of the case on March 24, eight days into matters.
Sgt. Mark Gottlieb: He abruptly vanished as lead investigator for the case after a September N&O article by Michael Biesecker revealed that he had a 10:1 disparity in arresting Duke students compared to the other three District 2 supervisors combined. The Biesecker piece was closely followed up by a Jared Mueller Duke Chronicle story that laid out convincing allegations of the sergeant engaging in deceit, excessive force, and ethnic intimidation in cases involving Duke students.
Before that time, best known for his “straight-from-memory” notes, a typewritten memo produced months after the events it allegedly described, and a document that conveniently filled in many holes which then existed in Nifong’s case.
Inv. Linwood Wilson: Nifong’s chief investigator, whose personal background and subsequent behavior in the case performed the impossible—making Gottlieb look ethical by comparison.
Best known for his December 21 “interview” with the accuser, which he conducted outside the presence of any law enforcement officer and in which she conveniently filled in all the holes in the case that had emerged since the Gottlieb memo.
Inv. Ben Himan: Best known for actually going through the motions as a police officer early on—reporting that Kim Roberts deemed the allegations a “crock” (March 20) and taking down the accuser’s descriptions of her “attackers” on March 16. These descriptions bore no resemblance to either Reade Seligmann or Collin Finnerty.
Police Chief Steven Chalmers: Otherwise known as the police chief who’s always on either leave or vacation.
Wahneema Lubiano: Principal author of the Group of 88 statement, best-known for claiming books are “forthcoming” when they seem not to have existed.
William Chafe: Former dean of faculty; author of March 31 op-ed asserting that the whites who lynched Emmett Till provided the appropriate context through which to interpret the lacrosse players’ behavior.
Houston Baker: Now departed for Vanderbilt, best-known for his racialist screeds and incredibly nasty, poorly spelled, e-mails.
Karla Holloway: Group of 88 member who has been describing herself as a “victim” of this affair since last June, even as she leveled criticism at the women’s lacrosse team.
Alex Rosenberg: Group of 88/“clarifying” faculty member who has maintained that the ad was about excessive drinking and the availability of “hook-up” with “rich, attractive co-eds.”
Grant Farred: Group of 88 member who contended that Duke students registering to vote projected their “secret racism” onto
Brad Bannon: If the courtroom exchanges between Nifong and him were instead contests in Nifong’s one and only community service activity (his son’s little league), the games would have been called in the first inning under the “mercy rule.”
Joe Cheshire: Subject of this wonderfully done piece in this week’s Chronicle, and the person who has been the public face of the defense, coordinating strategy and emerging as Nifong’s bête noire.
Wade Smith: To my knowledge, the only defense attorney of whom Nifong spoke positively in public. Of course, the remark came a few days after Nifong accused Smith, one of the most respected lawyers in the whole state, of violating the bar’s ethics canon with a clearly acceptable defense poll of possible community bias.
Kirk Osborn: Made the risky yet critical decision to make public Reade Seligmann’s defense—a move that allowed all to see that Nifong was putting a demonstrably innocent person on trial, thereby providing a face to the corruption of the process.
Jim Cooney: Brought in to coordinate Seligmann’s defense in October. Has distinguished himself as the master of the motion (especially a brilliant motion on the April 4 lineup) and for politely delivered remarks that decimated Nifong’s position—whether the D.A.’s false claim not to have received reciprocal discovery in the October hearing, or the Perry Mason moment in the December session.
In a case that has been so charged on lines of race and (to a lesser extent) gender, it’s ironic that almost all of the people who have most clearly distinguished themselves in the case are either African-American men or white women—each of whom said they behaved in this case as they would have in any situation.
Jim Coleman: Critical in two respects—first by leading a thorough but fair investigation of the lacrosse players’ personal behavior and then by becoming the first major legal figure to demand Nifong’s recusal. His June letter to the N&O looks prescient now.
Moezeldin Elmostafa: An African immigrant who swore out an affidavit bolstering Reade Seligmann’s alibi before the electronic aspects of Seligmann’s alibi had been established. For his trouble, he was arrested on a bogus charge dug up by Linwood Wilson, resulting in a quick verdict of not guilty.
Beth Brewer: Chief spokesperson and organizer for the Recall Nifong-Vote Cheek effort, a person with little background in political activity who devoted countless hours to the recall campaign, simply because she considered it the right thing to do.
Jackie Brown: Chief political advisor to the Recall Nifong effort—someone for whom the easy approach would have been to sit out the fall campaign, thereby avoiding alienating potential clients among Durham’s political establishment, but who instead masterminded what was almost a stunning upset in the November election.
Joseph Neff: N&O reporter who was virtually the only member of the print media to look critically at Nifong’s actions almost from the start, and has headlined an N&O team (Ben Niolet, Anne Blythe, Michael Biesecker, Eric Ferreri, and commentator Ruth Sheehan) that from late April onwards published more quality articles on the case than the rest of the mainstream media combined.
Kerstin Kimel: The Duke women’s lacrosse coach, the first person affiliated with Duke to speak out publicly on the men’s players’ behalf, and a critical person behind the scenes in keeping people on an even keel last spring—a time in which Duke didn’t even offer counseling services to any members of the lacrosse team.
Nifong. Never passed up the chance to offer some race-bating rhetoric, despite the guidelines of the bar’s ethics code.
Al McSurely: Chief of the NAACP legal redress committee, and author of the outrageously biased legal memo on the case posted at the NAACP website.
Wendy Murphy: Adjunct professor at a low-profile
Chan Hall: Head of the NCCU student government’s legislative affairs committee and runner-up for speaker of the government; said in the spring that he wanted to see the Duke students prosecuted “whether it happened or not. It would be justice for things that happened in the past.”
“Cousin Jakki” a/k/a
Victoria Peterson: Only in