In response to Daniel Q

I do not try as many criminal defense cases as civil cases for the injured.

I tried many criminal cases as a young prosecutor, and I am not proud of the fact that I never lost one that went to trial. Could I have been right that many times? I once convicted a man of first degree murder with the death penalty attached after which I pled to the Wyoming Supreme Court to reduce the charge, and the court did.

It is usually not hard to win your cases as a prosecutor–usually. You have the evidence, the investigators, the leaning of ordinary citizens toward your side of the case.

Winning as a defense attorney is another thing. Some public defenders try in a single year as many cases for persons charged with serious crimes as I try in ten years. I know a public defender who has seven hundred cases to watch over and who tries scores of cases each year.

This system is terribly broken because public defenders are often, more often than we know, not provided the time to prepare and the resources to launch a competent defense. These lawyers, hated by some, fight on with little pay and are the true heroes of the profession.

When many years ago I saw the light and refused to take on any cases on behalf of corporations or to longer represent the state as a prosecutor, or otherwise, I began to take criminal defense cases that appealed to me. They were usually seen as losers by those who claimed know, but I could give myself the time and the money to properly prepare and present these cases.

I have just finished the defense of Geoffrey Fieger in Detroit, a case I worked on for more than two years, one in which I had all of the resources necessary to make a competent defense. Mr. Fieger was acquitted on all ten counts.

But in the Imelda Marcos case, one that lasted more than three months, I had only three weeks to prepare. This, was an anomaly.

I have tried many other jury cases, including murder cases (written about in two of my books, Gunning for Justice and The Smoking Gun) but I had the time and the assets to properly prepare. Preparation and passion are the key to winning, always. Always.

When lawyers compare their own records to mine and ask questions, they are being unkind to themselves, because most criminal defense lawyers have dockets with too many cases. It takes a lot of criminal cases to provide the income necessary to survive in this field. Most criminal defense lawyers would love to have the time to prepare their cases that I have had in most of mine.

I do recall having pled one of my clients in the middle of a trial when the US Attorney offered a deal no one could refuse–no jail time and a smile. But that has not been my M.O.

Thanks for your question.


10 responses to “In response to Daniel Q

  1. Gerry –

    It would be nice to hear some stories of any lasting transformations you have seen in folks going through the psychodrama experiences you describe at the TLC. I’ve been spending the afternoon listening to your “How to Win” on my ipod, and it’s pretty powerfully infectious – and at the very least quite encouraging – but as a psychotherapist, I have developed a healthy respect for constancy and resistance to change. . so what all do you see there in the way of ONGOING transformations. . . escapes from slavery. .. .??

    Thanks much for your thoughts.

  2. Gerry,

    You correctly point out that many criminal trial lawyers are overworked and cannot provide a proper defense for their clients. Though you are very modest in your post, few lawyers can provide a defense that compares to yours even with unlimited time and resources. Considering all this, how should we reform the criminal justice system in this country to make it more fair?

  3. Mark:

    The courtroom is a psychodrama, that is the lawyer is the director, the witness the protagonist and the jurors the group that shares the experiences conveyed by the witness. This doesn’t make much sense until it is experienced.

    I see life-changing personal issues that are resolved in a couple of hours that sometimes take standard therapy months or years to settle. You are right. Standard psychotherapy is resistant to change as is the trial lawyer and the whole judicial system. Change is frightening, especially to those in power.

    When we crawl inside the hide of another and play out that role when that person is the perceived source of our pain, and when this is put into a relevant drama led by the psychodramatist, the locked up world of the protagonist begins to show itself, and that learning is healing.

    We experience countless examples of this at Trial Lawyers’ College which gives the student the opportunity of self learning without which little can be understood about others. So it always is in a courtroom. If we know ourselves we have a better chance in understanding all of the other participants in the courtroom to the end that a decision can be made based on truth.

  4. In response to the comment about describing psychodrama, I attended a recent psychodrama workshop after first experiencing it at TLC. One of the instructors compared telling someone about what psychodrama is like to describing the way an apple tastes to a person who’s never seen one.

    It’s a little like trying to grasp a great closing argument by reading the court reporter’s words on the paper: you just have to have been there to get the full effect and any later, intellectualized description will probably not adequately describe the live event.

  5. Gerry —

    It is great to have you here in the world of blogs. I had the pleasure a number of years ago to watch one of your video CLEs by way of our local Legal Services office. I enjoyed learning that a long opening statement is not necessarily a bad thing.

    In reviewing the posts and comments, I think one reason that there may not be much reaction to the question of slavery/freedom is that many of us cannot see that we are enslaved. Being told that we are in that state is a foreign concept, one that the brain cannot process. It may take a while for the idea to sink in. It would almost be akin to being told that the people you believe to be your parents are not, in fact, your parents.

    For me, I generally understand one level or facet of the enslavement–we live in a “free” country where power is in the hands of a relatively few wealthy individuals. Blogging has brought about a very slight reduction in the corporate media’s control, but the audience of blog readers is still tiny. If we look at podcasts–an idea originally intended to bring independent voices to a broader audience–we see that the most popular ones are often those created by the corporate media.

    I see one part of the problem, but I’m not yet able to see a solution.

    Please keep posting on your blog. We need to hear from you.

  6. In response to Bill:

    I believe that U.S. blog readership is rather healthy and growing stronger every day.

    As of 2007, there were 215,088,545 Americans (representing 71.4% of the US population) online.

    Of that segment, 48% (about 103,242,502) were online “Spectators” (including those who read blogs) according to “Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies” –
    highly recommended reading…in addition to Gerry Spence’s books, of course. 🙂

  7. George Harrington

    What if Gerry is right ? Its often a good bet you know. What if this question which he has tried to nurse along, of pain and in some sense slavery ,is the central one. If that is true then, if you read our collective comments so far, what we did was to run from the question and by citing the classics and the founders and assuring him that we needed to hear his voice we turned this group into a faculty cocktail party held behind a high brick wall.
    This spring I gave myself the gift of watching a
    Gerry Spence Trial all the way through. Six weeks and one day. I was only forced to miss three or three and one half days. All the trial lawyer superlatives aside, I discovered that he has a deep gift for reading people, for sensing where the seams are in peoples personalities.
    There were two very important witnesses. If the jury bought their testimony then ,on an emotional level, they were free to convict, free to find guilty intent. Gerry was unable to interview either one before cross examination. It would be learning by doing a very dangerous thing to do.
    The first was the defendants longtime (six years) personal aide. The prosecution had her on the stand for atleast a day and a half. While her testimony, by itself, was not enough to convict , it painted a dark back drop of an office where the things that the prosecution alleged might well have taken place. Her manner was clipped and matter of fact. On cross Gerry started out by getting her to deny that she was tailoring her answers out of any sense of compulsion which she enthusiastically did. Then slow, caring step by slow caring step ,he got her too admit each fact which would make any normal person fear for her future if she displeased the goverment with her testimony. It was painfull for all. Then without her admiting the ultimate question of fear, but having had to agree in front of everybody to a host of facts that would make any warrior pause he started asking small ,dailey life facts ,about the defendant which ,by accretion, painted over the prosecutions dark canvas and left a pleasant view of upland meadows. It did not end when he sat down. When the codefendants, a very nice guy, got up and introduced himself the relief of having testified at first 100 percent against a friend and then being
    rescued by being confronted with her fears and then allowed to testify about a place and person she careed about was so great that she started weeping and the effect was complete.
    You cannot do that with strangers unless you have a real feel for the personality of an individual.
    So what say we give Gerry the benefit of the doubt. Even if we can’t deal with his thesis that each of us is in overwhelming pain because of what he calls slavery lets talk about other people that we know ( that’s always fun ) and just focus on their pain and how it manifests itself and then see if we can work backwards to common causes.
    I just throw this question out there and then I got to get back to work. Does anybody know what percentage of households in suburbia have atleast one person who is on mood altering drugs. anecdotally it has to be enormous. What would history be like if the free men of ancient Athens were on happy pills.
    Lets loosen up and talk about other people and see if this helps Gerrys inquiry.

  8. Hi again Gerry –

    It’s quite intriguing to hear about faster transformations through psychodrama. But do you not see predominant trends towards backsliding into habitual coping and defensive strategies? Are you seeing mopers become bright, effusive bulbs? Is it genuine when they do?

    It’s quite intriguing to me to see one of my spiritual heroes (e.g. yourself) and someone who seems to embody gutteral credibility assert lasting change through these quick techniques. What do we know about where these transformees go in their travels and ways after their short experiences in psychodrama?

    Sorry if this is somewhat off of the topic of legal issues, but I hope it goes directly to the challenges you are focussed on as to “slavery”, etc. itself.. . .

  9. Hey George –

    I read someone talking about reading the actual transcripts of the Feiger trial, which is undoubtedly the one you were at – many more days than I could be. Do you know of a place where those transcripts are publicly available. I’d like to read over the transcript of that cross you’re referring to.

    What’s fascinating to me about these discussions about slavery and pain – and the percentages you suggest about suburban houses and anti-depressants, etc. – is just how FULL CIRCLE this has all come since my early days as a therapist, when it seemed to me that “suffering” was just the lot of us “weirdos” who had to go to therapy in college, which did NOT seem to be the lot of the many, but only the very few. I don’t know how when or where the world has changed to make it all seem so much more universal – though it DOES now seem that way.

  10. George Harrington

    Hello Mark,
    I do not know the answer to your question. On the one hand one party has no need to appeal and the other party has no appeal available. But maybe someone has ordered it. Perhaps the parties to the knew case in California
    that has been mentioned. Your could always call the Court reporter for Judge Paul Borman and ask if it has been ordered and if it will be posted on pacer. It’s the Federal Coutrts online filing system. Downloards are 8 cents per page. You can find the site by googling pacer feredal courts. good luck

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