Lawyers Kym Worthy and Dan Webb are a pair of ferocious competitors in the courtroom. That's both good news and bad news for the mayor.
Worthy, a prosecutor, and Webb, a defense attorney, have emerged as the legal faces of a text-messaging sex scandal that has embroiled Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his former top aide.
Worthy, the first black attorney and first woman to head the Wayne County prosecutor's office, is seeking to prove Kilpatrick lied under oath. Webb is a high-priced litigation gunslinger aiming to keep the mayor out of prison.
Slight of build, the 62-year-old Webb is considered a legal heavyweight in the courtroom, ranked among the nation's top trial lawyers by several publications.
"I hate failing. That's more of my driving force, why I work as hard as I do," he said last week while preparing other cases in San Francisco, Las Vegas and St. Louis.
A big part of Worthy's success is her focus. That's what she preaches to the team of assistant prosecutors preparing for Kilpatrick's next court hearing.
"I spent most of my weekends and holidays here in the library," said Worthy, 52, looking back at her career. "I tried to cross every 'T' and dot every 'I.' Too many things can go wrong in a trial."
Kilpatrick has been besieged since late January, when the Detroit Free Press published excerpts of sexually explicit and embarrassing text messages left on the city-issued pager of his then-Chief of Staff Christine Beatty.
The messages contradict testimony both gave last summer during a whistle-blowers' lawsuit when Kilpatrick and Beatty denied having a romantic relationship in 2002 and 2003. Kilpatrick also is accused of lying under oath about his role in the firing of a top police official.
The text messages also were referenced in a confidential agreement that led to the city settling that lawsuit and a second whistle-blowers' suit for $8.4 million.
After a two-month investigation, Worthy filed multiple felony perjury, misconduct and obstruction of justice charges against Kilpatrick and Beatty. Convictions could send each to prison, and force Kilpatrick from his perch as Detroit mayor.
The embattled mayor is the latest of Webb's high-profile clients. He's represented tobacco giant Philip Morris on racketeering charges and computer giant Microsoft in an antitrust trial.
Former U.S. Attorney Patrick Collins crossed swords with Webb in a six-month corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, who is serving a prison sentence on a fraud and racketeering conviction.
"Dan is a tenacious competitor," said Collins, now a defense attorney. "He's a competition junkie, and I think he loves the action and he's very good at his craft."
Worthy, who moved often while growing up with her military father and earned her law degree from the University of Notre Dame, pursued a law career because of what she didn't see.
"I can only say my father told me I could do anything I wanted," she said. "There were no lawyers in my family. When I watched TV, I didn't see any African American lawyers. They didn't even have black police officers on TV back then."
After two years as a contract worker for the Wayne County prosecutor's office, she was hired on as an assistant prosecutor in 1986. In 1992, an unemployed black steel worker named Malice Green was beaten to death during a confrontation with several white Detroit police officers.
The case put the young, black, female assistant prosecutor on the nation's stage and in the daily glare of cable television. She won second-degree murder convictions against two of the officers.
"She is highly skilled and she could work the courtroom. She prepares as well, if not better, than anybody," Detroit defense attorney Carole Stanyar said.
Webb also is no stranger to the spotlight. He's cross-examined former President Ronald Reagan and won a conviction against U.S. Navy Admiral John Poindexter in the Iran-Contra affair.
Although he would have preferred playing second base for the St. Louis Cardinals, Webb said he discovered his love for law growing up in the small farming community of Bushnell, Ill., about 170 miles southwest of Chicago.
"Somewhere before I got out of high school, I decided I was going to be a trial lawyer come hell or high water," said Webb, who took law classes at night at Loyola University while holding full-time banking jobs.
"I didn't have any money. I was broke," Webb joked. "That's why I worked my way through law school. I knew I didn't want to do banking work."