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Will Gerry Spence's Winning Streak End?

According to his Web site, at 78, veteran lawyer Gerry Spence has never lost a criminal trial. But will this phenomenal streak come to an end in Detroit, where Spence is currently defending Jack Kevorkian  lawyer, Geoffrey Fieger against charges that he violated campaign finance laws with illegal contributions  to John Edward's 2004 presidential campaign? Criminal lawyer and blogger Norm Pattis thinks it might.

Pattis wonders whether Spence's signature "my client is a hero, the government is evil" argument will play effectively in Detroit. Pattis writes:

This is a risky argument. It works well out West, where gun racks are a commonplace and the woods are crawling with militiamen. Will it work in Detroit? The Motor City is a small slice of the third world, decaying year by year in the near midwest. There are plenty of folks there prepared to believe that but for evil people in Washington, life would be grand. But I have a hard time seeing Gerry Spence singing Aretha Franklin tunes; he's a pork and beans sort of cowboy better at fireside tales....

I can hear Spence's gravely voice now, and see him cock his head back, chest out, a spindily [sic] finger pointed at the prosecution table as he glares over the bridge of his nose. "But the king, the king has denied us the rights of Englishmen. He's taxed our papers, our tea, and now he wants to put soldiers in your home. He wants them to sleep in the bed your momma gave you as a wedding present. King George wants your wife to serve his soldiers supper while they sit at your table. You now have the privilege to serve all the king's men, but as a livery boy in the home you built with your own hands."

Wrong fight? Wrong century? Sure, it is. But it is the same rhetoric.

The other problem that I see with Spence's "common man" defense isn't just that it's not well suited for an urban forum in the Midwest, as Pattis suggests, but neither does it fit when the defendants are lawyers. While most jurors will empathize when the big, bad government stomps on a layperson, my bet is they're not as forgiving when lawyers, who should know better, are the target of government abuse. 

So what do you think?  Will Spence pull this one out?  Or will Fieger be the lawyer (and client) who breaks Spence's winning streak?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on April 25, 2008 at 03:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)


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