How Ugly Can It Get?
What Mackey did in front of a packed courtroom in Eagle, Colo., was skate dangerously close to violating Colorado's rape shield law, which is supposed to protect—in most cases—an accuser's sexual history from being introduced in court. First Mackey casually mentioned the accuser's name in court. She apologized—then dropped the name five more times. Next Mackey asked Det. Doug Winters whether the numerous "pinpoint" lacerations found in the genital area of the young woman who has accused Bryant of rape might be "consistent with someone who's had sex with three different men in three days"—a suggestion that prompted a furious Judge Frederick Gannett to halt the proceedings until Oct. 15. (According to the accuser's civil attorney John Clune, Mackey's innuendo is "absolutely untrue.")
The public response was swift and equally unsubtle. On Saturday Night Live, Tina Fey delivered a withering skit in which she compulsively uttered Mackey's name, then gave the name of the lawyer's firm and the area code for anyone who wanted to complain. No word on whether the office was flooded with calls, but according to a source, Mackey has told at least one colleague on the Colorado Women's Bar Association that she has received more than 40 death threats.
Nevertheless, some in the legal community saw nothing wrong with Mackey's in-your-face style. "Part of a defense's job is to keep you off-center," says Kristian Miccio, a former attorney who founded New York City's Center for Battered Women's Legal Services. "Good work."
Bryant is not Mackey's first high-profile client. In 2001 she represented Patrick Roy, the former goaltender for the Colorado Avalanche, when he was accused of criminal mischief during a domestic dispute. (The charges were dropped.) Yet the irony is that almost everyone who knows Mackey, 47, insists that she is no Dream Team wannabe. "Pam is not a media person," says her mother, Roseanne. "They are kind of reeling from all this."
Mackey came to the practice of law almost by accident. Raised in Indiana, she dropped out of two colleges before enrolling as a journalism major at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She met Hal Haddon, one of the top criminal defense lawyers in Denver, who was so impressed with her talent for digging out facts that he gave her a job as one of his investigators. After graduating from George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., she did a stint as a public defender in rural Eagle County, where the Bryant case is now being heard. "I loved being up there," she said in an interview with the Denver Business Journal. "I learned to work without a net." Now a partner in Haddon's law firm, Mackey lives with husband Craig, 49, an official for Outward Bound, and their two children in a comfortable Denver suburb.
Many legal pundits had expected Mackey to waive the prelim in order to spare Bryant a torrent of negative publicity. And certainly some of the testimony from Detective Winters was disturbingly graphic, including allegations that Bryant put his hands around the accuser's throat and, despite her protests, bent her over a chair and raped her. Winters also said that the accuser's blood had been found on Bryant's T-shirt. But it appears Mackey has found some avenues of rebuttal. When Winters admitted he had not seen any marks on the accuser's throat several hours after the alleged attack, the attorney pounced. "You didn't see a single thing, correct?" she demanded. "Not a bruise. Not a finger mark. Not a scratch." Whether the rest of Mackey's defense will play as well remains an open question. "She threw some serious mud," says former Denver prosecutor Craig Silverman. "We'll have to see if it will stick."
Vickie Bane in Eagle and Jason Bane in Denver