Local News

Ex- Judge to Advise Panel Probing Durham PD's Lacrosse Investigation

Posted July 18, 2007 5:00 p.m. EDT
Updated July 20, 2007 5:08 a.m. EDT

— A former Superior Court judge will serve as legal counsel to a committee investigating the Durham Police Department's handling of the Duke lacrosse case.

Wade Barber, 63, a Pittsboro lawyer who also used to serve as district attorney in Orange and Chatham counties will advise the 12-member panel, former state Supreme Court Justice Willis Whichard announced Wednesday.

Barber served as district attorney from 1977 to 1984 before returning to practice law in Pittsboro from 1984 to 1998. From 1998 to 2006, he was a senior resident Superior Court judge.

"It was my firmly held opinion that the committee would be best served by someone from outside the Durham Bar, an attorney who would not be concerned about his or her future dealings with the Durham Police Department," Whichard said in a statement.

The committee, which Whichard was appointed to head last month, will hold its first meeting on July 20.

Whichard has said defense attorneys for the accused -- David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann -- and possibly the accused themselves will be the first people called to present information to the committee.

He said their testimony will allow members of the police department to know what the defendants contend was done wrong in the investigation before they are called before the committee.

The Durham City Council formed it following an internal police department report that found no wrongdoing by detectives in the more-than-yearlong criminal investigation of three former Duke lacrosse players falsely accused of raping, sexually assaulting and kidnapping an exotic dancer.

Durham Mayor Bell and at least three other City Council members started calling for the review almost immediately after the report was publicly released on May 11.

Bell said that report lacked focus and left questions about the police department's role in the case unanswered.

He has said he hopes the committee can begin conduct a thorough review within 60 days but that he also wants to give it adequate time "to do the work to get the truth out."