Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Remembering Kirk Osborn

The memorial service for Kirk Osborn is scheduled for tomorrow. A colleague writes, “Kirk Osborn was a hero, in this case and all cases he took on. It did not matter how young, old, black, white, rich, poor, guilty, or innocent his clients were: he fought for all of them and gave them (and the system) the advocacy that justice cannot do without. He fought many noble battles in the courtroom, and those of us who were lucky enough to fight with him along the way have lost a true friend and inspiration, as well as a face that managed to smile and a spirit that managed to infect a cause with optimism no matter how difficult it might have been. He was one of a kind, and he will be missed greatly.”

Some other remembrances:

Orange County DA Jim Woodall: “Not only was Kirk Osborn a very good friend, he was also a zealous attorney and a stellar representative for his clients and showed great professionalism in the courtroom.”

Joe Cheshire: “North Carolina has lost one of its true warriors.”

Buddy Conner: “He hated injustice. That was the essence of his life. He carried a tremendous amount of credibility, but he did it without getting all angry and aggressive and arrogant.”

Judge and former DA Carl Fox: “I often said that if I had a situation where I needed to be represented, I would call him. He was never a person who was very showy or anything like that. You’d never see him in the paper for a lot of the cases. That just wasn’t his thing.”

Jeralyn Merritt: “I too am shocked to learn of Mr. Osborn’s untimely passing. I didn’t know him, but he did a great job for Reade Seligmann in this case. May he rest in peace.”

Bill Anderson: “My heart goes out to his family, his loved ones, and all who knew him. He will be missed, and missed greatly. I ask for the Mercy of God to be upon him.”

Osborn’s passing generated a number of thoughtful comments on this blog, at Liestoppers, and at Talk Left. Below is a sampling.

“As an attorney, I have greatly admired Mr. Osborn’s work in this case. It is not easy to stand up against the ‘establishment’ in one’s own professional arena, and when someone is courageous enough to do it, it usually has quite a cost associated with it. I wish his soul a safe and speedy journey to the next world, and may the love and protection of God surround his family and friends at this difficult and painful time.”

“I am so very sorry to hear about Kirk Osborn. My earliest memories of him are those of a dapper man about town....always with an air of sophistication. A classmate of mine considered Kirk a role model and went into law because of him. His amazing role in this case will be remembered.”

“Mr. Osborn’s achievements in addressing the state’s abuse of his client, its own justice system, and the public trust compel our attention and respect. I join with all of those honoring his life and grieving his death. And I pray that like Moses, Mr. Osborn could see well the inevitable success of his worthy strivings and that his vision of eventual triumph was very sweet.”

“Kirk Osborn is one attorney I have always admired. If courage is grace under pressure, then his appearance in court with Reade Seligmann was courageous. His website with the text of the defense motions was the sunlight that illuminated the darkness, especially early in the case. He understood the forces Reade and his fellow defendants were up against and he acted with great foresight and strategy. His passing is a sad loss but he lived his life with dignity and purpose. Rest in peace.”

“As others have said, Kirk walked beside Reade while thugs in the ridiculous NBPP party shouted threats to him...Kirk walked with Reade while looking very positive and UNAFRAID...his presence right beside Reade must have been a great comfort to this young man, who at this time had barely started his adult life. I find myself with tears in my eyes, thinking about a man I never knew...but I knew, through the work he had done on Reade’s behalf, that he was a good, decent man...Reade was well-represented by this man, and he will surely be missed...but Kirk I’m certain will be with Reade still...God bless the family of Kirk Osborn, and all those who loved and knew him.”

“Kirk Osborn was one of the good guys. I think he saw the writing on the wall early on and he was proven right time and again. He fought to move this case forward and I’m very sad that he won’t be here to see it end. He did a wonderful job for Reade. As a future lawyer, he’ll be someone I remember and strive to emulate. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

“When I read of the people Kirk Osborn had chosen to defend as a lawyer—those accused in the Little Rascals scandal and now Reade in the Duke Rape scandal—I thought at once of a passage in the Bible: ‘Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is’ (1Corinthians 3:12-13). My deepest sympathies to the family and friends of such an honorable man as Kirk Osborn.”

“As a person who recently lost his father due to a sudden, massive heart attack, I can truly empathize with the Osborn family. This is devastating for them and my deepest, heartfelt condolences go out to them. May he rest in peace and hopefully he took comfort in knowing that many people appreciated his efforts in this case.”

“I hope that a suitable tribute can be made in honor of Mr. Osborn. I believe when the whole story is told he will be viewed as a Hero. There was a time when the world was caving in on Reade and Osborn stood by his side unflinching in the face of the New Black Panthers and the Power of the State. Judge Stephens, Nifong, and the Durham PD were stacking the deck and Kirk was the man who stood up to them.”

“My condolences to Mr. Osborn's family and associates. Early on, I emailed him to tell him that I believed in Reade and thought the charges were untrue. He emailed me back and thanked me for my support. I was surprised because I had not expected any response. He was a man of courage and integrity. I am so sorry for his family and for the Seligmann family that they have lost such a wonderful, honorable man who cared so deeply about justice. I have always believed that immortality is really the memories and stories that we leave behind us with those we’ve loved and those whose lives we have touched. Kirk Osborn leaves a legacy that goes far beyond Durham and North Carolina—small comfort to his family, I know—but he has touched the lives of people he never met, in cities and towns he has never seen. God bless him and keep him and hold him in the palm of Your hand.”

“Even though he was involved as a defense attorney, Kirk Osborn showed tremendous courage walking into the courtroom past the protesters with Reade and in the courtroom itself. At a time when the judge did nothing to bring reason to the proceedings even as death threats were being hurled at the 3 boys, Osborn stood proudly with the confidence of someone who knows truth is on his side. Rest in peace, Kirk.”


Anonymous said...

Anyone who missed the tail end of the last thread on Kirk Osborn should have a look, if only to see why it is that the truth so greatly needs to be broadcast as widely as all of the false allegations have been.

Anonymous said...

J. Kirk Osborn

Practice Areas: Criminal; Drug Crimes; Driving While Intoxicated (DWI); White Collar Crimes; Homicide; Traffic Violations; Premises Liability; Personal Injury; Nursing Home Litigation; Wrongful Death; Civil Rights.

Admitted: 1974, North Carolina; 1980, U.S. District Court, Middle and Eastern Districts of North Carolina and U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit; 1994, U.S. Supreme Court

Law School: University of North Carolina, J.D., 1974

College: University of Colorado, B.S., 1965; Colorado State University, M.S., 1967

Member: Orange County, 15-B Judicial District, North Carolina (Chairman, Criminal Justice Section, 1990-1992; Member Board of Governors, 1992-1995) Bar Associations; The North Carolina State Bar; North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers; National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Biography: Three-Year Letterman, University of Colorado Football. Member of Board of the Fair Trial Initiative. (Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Law including Appellate Practice, North Carolina State Board of Legal Specialization)

Reported Cases: State v. Wilson (Little Rascals Defendant) 118 N.C. App.166, 456 SE 2d 870 (1995); State v. Marley 321 NC 415, 364 SE 2d 133 (1988); State v. Parker 315 NC 249, 337 SE 2d 497 (1985)

Born: Havre, Montana, July 4, 1942

Anonymous said...

Baldo at Liestoppers wrote a moving tribute to Kirk Osborn, with a picture of him as a University of Colorado football player (Division I). This tribute is, in part, a testament to the importance of sports in educating a young person. The letterman on the football field became a fair fighter and courageous defender in the courts of law.

Anonymous said...

So, KC -- "hate-fest" -- sounds interesting and civilized to any truly objective person...

The Tiger Woods phenomenon

By Leslie Williams, The Herald-Sun
March 23, 2007 11:41 pm

It has been a decade since Tiger Woods exploded onto the golf scene, inserting himself forever into the American psyche.

A public conference at Duke University on Friday sought to examine his impact on the game and beyond, delving into the ways Woods has reached into every aspect of American culture as sports icon, multimillionaire and man of mixed racial heritage.

Conference co-organizer and Duke cultural anthropology professor Orin Starn said he and other professors organized the conference because Woods' position as a cultural icon warrants a lot of interesting discussions.

As a panelist, Starn spoke about the construction of race and how it bears on the public lives of Woods, presidential candidate Barack Obama and professional golfer Phil Mickelson.

Mickelson might have seemed out of place in the discussion, but Starn brought him up as a counterpoint to illustrate the way in which whiteness seems "invisible" in American society. As a result, he said, "people of color bear the burden of representing and talking about race."

Woods and Obama, who are both of mixed ancestry, are part of a new phenomenon of public figures who embrace their multiracial heritage, he argued. However, he said, both occupy a long-discussed niche.

"Tiger and Barack are really part of a long-running set of debates and conversations about multiracialism and about what it means to be black in America," Starn said.

Edward Wanambwa, the editor of African American Golfer's Digest magazine, credits Woods' 1997 Masters victory with changing the landscape of golf forever.

"It challenged the sensibilities of the game," Wanambwa said. "People were not used to seeing a young man of color pump his fists and show emotion in the stuffy game that everybody already perceived as being [stuffy]."

Wanambwa said Woods has done a lot to drum up interest in the game, but the sport still has a long way to go toward parity. One overarching theme of the conference was the complete lack of any additional African-American golfers on the PGA or LPGA tours.

He and other panel members decried the expenses involved in learning the game and entering tournaments. He said expense prevents potential players from ever discovering the game and stymies true prodigies on their way to success. According to Wanambwa, expenses for a golfer to go on tour run in the vicinity of $100,000 a year. Many golfers' expenses vastly exceed that.

"It's all about access," he said.

Discussion of the "Tiger Effect" turned to his influence on women in the game, particularly his actions when Annika Sorenstam accepted a controversial invitation to play in The Colonial golf tournament in 2003, making her the first woman to compete in a PGA event since 1945.

New York Times sports columnist Selena Roberts called Woods an "accidental feminist" for his behind-the-scenes encouragement of Sorenstam when a firestorm erupted over her decision to play. However, his influence on women in the sport lies in his visibility, she said.

"I would argue that Tiger Woods has brought more women to the game of golf than any other player in the history of the game simply because he was what everybody was watching," Roberts said.
URL for this article: http://www.heraldsun.com/durham/4-832553.cfm

Anonymous said...

Poor Kirk would be horrified to see that his legacy is lacrosse and not the incredible work he did on capital cases in NC. Where is the outrage on the death penalty, KC?

Anonymous said...


That was a wonderful and thoughtful tribute, and I appreciate your putting my comments in there. One might contrast these comments with the ones that Nifong made during the May hearing when Kirk told me that Nifong "treated us like dogs."

At the end of his life, Kirk Osborn is praised for his passion, his integrity, and his care for his clients.

At the end of Michael B. Nifong's life, he will be remembered for trying to destroy every ounce of trust that anyone could have for "justice" in the government courts of North Carolina -- just so that he could have a bigger pension.

What a difference. Both men received their law degrees from UNC, and both practiced their profession in North Carolina. Yet, that is all -- all -- that they have in common. No court decision will ever say that a defendant has been "Osborned." That the court writes about "Nifonging" tells us everything we need to know about Osborn's opponent in the courtroom of Judge Ronald Stephens that day in May.

And that Stephens would have given Nifong even an ounce of credibility -- knowing what Stephens surely knew on that day -- also tells me that Ronald Stephens was no Kirk Osborn. I guess there is truth in the saying that "birds of a feather flock together." Stephens and Nifong.

Anonymous said...

KC, a wonderful tribute to Kirk Osborn. Only if this world had more men of his character. Contrasting him with the likes of Mike Nifong is going from light to total darkness. Perhaps a chapter in your book will be devoted to contrasting the good and evil in this case. NC has lost a good and decent man and an honorable practitioner of the law.

Anonymous said...

Last week I asked for an awards listing (in keeping with the March Madness theme) of individuals who spoke out in defense of truth, due process and assumed innocence in the early days. Those people showed clear heads and courage in the face of the mob/ pot bangers.
Well, I got what I asked for. Even though he was involved as a defense attorney, Kirk Osborn showed tremendous courage walking into the courtroom past the protesters with Reade and in the courtroom itself. At a time when the judge did nothing to bring reason to the proceedings even as death threats were being hurled at the 3 boys, Osborn stood proudly with the confidence of someone who knows truth is on his side. Rest in peace, Kirk.

Anonymous said...

Before the Duke Lacrosse Case, I had never heard the name Kirk Osborn. Over the past 12 months of the case, Kirk Osborn was one of the bright lights. So many of us came to see a courageous, honorable, decent man, who cared passionately about the innocence of his client, Reade Seligmann.

Men like Kirk Osborn helped to restore my faith that the practice of law is a noble profession; that an attorney is foremost supposed to be a defender of the Constitution and an advocate of individual rights.

Perhaps if we ask what good could possibly come out of this case it is to know that men like Kirk Osborn exist and will never be forgotten. I hope that if my children even find themselves needing legal counsel, that someone like Kirk Osborn will be there to help them.

Anonymous said...

Compare what the history books will write about Kirk Osborn versus Mike Nifong. Here is what Nifong had to say about Kirk as quo0ted in the News & Observer 10/1/06. It is also in Beth Brewer's affidavit:

"The best comment I ever heard about Kirk is he was the best dressed public defender in North Carolina."