Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays from TLC

Happy Holidays fellow Warrior for Justice!

May you all reflect on the past year, feel proud for all you have done to fight for justice for the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned.

May you feel fortunate for the friends and family which surround you.

May you feel the blessings and spirit of the seasons now and in the coming year.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Gerry Spence and Jude Basile,
on behalf of the entire board and your friends at TLC

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

TLC methods helped me get a client home for Christmas

By:  Lynda Carter  (July '10)

Receiving her 8th "non-guilty" on a criminal charge since her graduation from TLC, Colorado Warrior Lynda Carter (July '10) has freed another innocent man. After a year in jail on a charge he never committed, and because Lynda believed him and was able to use TLC's methods in every phase of her trial prep and in the courtroom, he will be back with his family for Christmas. Here is her story:

"I start the trial of my client’s life on Monday so please light the fires! It is a child sexual assault case where the stepdaughter did not like her new father's rules and thought this was the best way to get rid of him. There is no evidence other than "he said-she said," but I am very scared because juries here in Colorado tend to believe kids - I am hoping that does not extend to teenagers who try to take advantage of the justice system. My client is facing life for these charges and it dawned on me this morning: I have only been an attorney three years. What am I doing trying cases like this already? I would love to win this one because the system has failed so miserably for this man. My client is a good man with a good family. He has been locked up for a year because they could not afford bond, although there was no evidence against him other than her allegation. I feel like Don Quixote battling windmills."

On the following Monday:
"We got a verdict! Not guilty on two counts of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust; indeterminate sentence to life in prison. My client's entire family was there, including his 87-year-old grandmother. I have never received so many bear hugs and kisses in my life.”

“This case was botched by law enforcement from the very beginning and never even investigated by the District Attorney's Office. No evidence against my client was presented, except the teenager’s allegation that could not possibly be true, yet he had been locked up for over a year without bail because his family could not afford bail at all.” 

“My client was allowed to wear street clothes during the trial but had two officers escorting him to and from court. I felt this information to be relevant so I used it to show my client was an innocent man who had been locked up for a year, could not afford bail and, as a result, had to wait a year to clear his name. Each time the DA said the jury should not blame the victim for a botched police investigation, I reminded them my client was a victim of this botched investigation - losing his freedom for a year without anyone to listen to him but me, while I was powerless until I had a chance to speak for him in court.”

“During the trial, I conducted a TLC direct on the accuser’s sister, who testified that their biological father allowed them to date at 12, did drugs together with the girls and did not make them go to school. In a TLC soft-cross, the accuser testified she had not been in school in a year. In addition to having given birth to a child fathered by her 20-year-old boyfriend ten days before, the 14-year-old accuser appeared to be under the influence of a mind-altering substance, so my Opening Statement was reaffirmed and my client was very believable. I conducted a direct exam on the mother who testified that she and my client had tried to put the girls in counseling for many issues but their biological father refused to follow up on it.”

“At 11:30am we wrapped up and the jury got the case, they picked a foreman, ate lunch and delivered the verdict at 1:15pm. Picture this scene, just one of many scenes from this trial that will stay burned in my mind: My client had maintained his innocence all along. Just before the jury verdict was read, the Chief of Police, the Sheriff, three detectives, two police officers, two probation officers, and other uniformed officers came in and sat behind the DDA. I stood alone with my client, with his wife and family behind me. After the verdicts were read, they left the courtroom without comment. The DDA did not even shake my hand.” 

“I am so happy for my client and his family. I am still in shock over how quick the jury came back and the feedback they provided me when I spoke to them afterward. After my Opening Statement, the jury was very alert when watching the accuser. None of them believed the story from the time she set foot on the stand. They noticed the difference in how she behaved when the DA asked her questions and when I asked her questions. One observed her conservative dress on the stand was not at all like normal teenagers dress in the community. Others just felt something was simply not right.”

“And now, ‘Not Guilty!’ I love the jury each time I think about them. My two-year stint as a criminal defense attorney has resulted in an 8-0 record for criminal jury trials! This never would have happened without TLC, the wonderful friends I have made there and the great instruction I received from the faculty. During the F Warrior Alumni annual meeting I attended in November, I worked through a case which helped me during this trial in my cross exam of the police officer who botched the case. The jury was able to see he was kind, but also that he had no training. I tried to reverse roles with each person on the jury throughout the process and it worked. The five jurors I spoke to expressed their fear that someone could be locked up for a year on no evidence. They did not want this happening to anyone else - certainly not themselves or someone in their family! I had two jurors ask me to run for Sheriff in two years and one ask me to run for DA to ensure this does not keep happening.”

“My client will now be home for Christmas with his family. I am just so happy and so proud of the jury and how the TLC methods worked to help get justice for this man. Thanks to you and to every TLC faculty member and alumni who has helped me along the way. I am so much better as a lawyer and as a person for having taken the chance and come to TLC! I can't wait to for my next case!"

Love always,
Lynda Carter (’10)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Alumnus Reflections on Gerry's Trial

I have heard a lot of arguments since 2000. I have heard a lot of "stuff" about what works and what does not.

This Thursday and Friday, I heard the real deal.

I will be the first to admit that my ego is bigger than anyone's. Yes, it is. But I was humbled to see Gerry, the Lion of the Courtroom, roar. 

I had already made a deal with myself that I would not take notes, that I would just experience the opening, closing and rebuttal, and that I would read the transcript later.

I share this experience out of sheer pride because our Gerry Spence is the best I have ever or will ever expect to see: From the beginning of the closing argument, where he introduced his pride of lions standing, attacking the lies of the city Council Bluffs, to the introduction of the love of his life, Imaging. From paying his respect to His Honor and His Staff, while ignoring the defense, to painting the defense as Goebbels and ministers of propaganda. Gerry commanded, "If you tell a lie nine times, they will believe it is true.” From asking Terry whether he was proud to be punished with solitary confinement for standing up for his innocence and refusing to ever close the cell door on himself, to telling them Terry had instructed him to, "Trust the jury."

These were just some of his many planned and inspired strokes of genius. I saw Gerry stand in the middle of the courtroom and ROAR, even when he did not need to, for justice, for freedom. 

The rebuttal was epic - a thirty-minute crescendo that culminated with the exact words carved above the Judge's seat: Justitia Obnibus. Justice for All. As he educated the jury about the word games the defense was playing, his indignation at being called a "liar" reached apocalyptic range.

To further illustrate his points, he told the jury a story about a group of men who gathered having no knowledge of what their long deliberations, arguments and reasoning with each other would mean in the future. These men, whose names were unknown on their previous continent, were Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Franklin, men who were unaware of the impact they would have on the free world as they stood for freedom against the tyranny of England. He then reflected on whether we, in Iowa, would understand the impact this case would have on the free world by deciding the case based on freedom and justice, while holding those who trample on these principles accountable to we, the people.

While sitting on a chair in front of the jury, he finished with a final story, a story of a young man planning to squeeze two birds to death, who was then told by an old man that the birds were in his hands. Then, as only Gerry could do, he transformed the idea of these birds as he turned to the jury and said, “Justice is in your hands.”

He did not elaborate, he did not express gratitude, as he had already done so. He stood up, walked toward Terry and sat down.

He had spoken.

I am a Dreamer, a Utopian. I don’t know what the jury will do, but I can say for certain that when the Lion in Winter roars, he roars for our freedom, and that is good enough for me.

- Alejandro Blanco ('00)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Update on Gerry's latest trial

Lawyers: Men were framed for murder, seek 'justice'
An article from the Des Moines Register
(December 7, 2012) Two men wrongly convicted of a 1977 murder who spent “25 years in hell, where there is no love, where love is a dirty word,” deserve nothing less than “full justice” for suffering caused by the Council Bluffs police department, lawyers told a federal court jury in Des Moines on Thursday.
“Full justice,” as defined by attorneys for Terry Harrington and Curtis “Cub” McGhee, requires that Council Bluffs and two white, former police detectives pay at least $115 million for allegedly framing the two black then-teenagers for the murder of white Council Bluffs Police Capt. John Schweer.
Closing arguments continue this morning in Harrington’s and McGhee’s five-week-long trial, alleging that their civil rights were violated by former detectives Daniel Larsen and Lyle Brown. Plaintiffs contend Council Bluffs officials showed deliberate indifference to what the officers were doing while Larson and Brown coerced witnesses into lying and hid evidence of another viable suspect in the killing from defense.
Lawyers contend the two detectives, under pressure to solve a high-profile police killing, pressured witnesses and ignored obvious lies told by a teenage car thief who had to be coached on many of the crime’s details.
“When you’re seen as an inferior, that’s when your rights disappear,” McGhee attorney Stephen Davis argued to jurors. Larsen and Brown “knowingly used a pack of lies to send these two black kids to prison, because they didn’t matter.”
Harrington and McGhee, then teenagers from Omaha, were convicted in 1978 of shooting Schweer with a 12-gauge shotgun while he worked night security at a Council Bluffs car dealership. They both served more than 25 years in prison before the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that prosecutors were guilty of misconduct by failing to turn over reports that another shotgun-toting man had been seen near the scene of the crime.
Plaintiffs say Charles Gates, then a 48-year-old loner who had been suspected in another murder, failed a lie detector test and disappeared after the Council Bluffs detectives told him he was a suspect in the Schweer killing. Roughly a month later, teen Kevin Hughes was pulled over in a vehicle stolen from an Omaha car dealership.
Harrington and McGhee say the detectives seized on Hughes’ bid for a “get-out-of-jail-free card” and coerced other members of a black teen car theft ring into backing up the story. Those teen witnesses — including one who said he agreed to sign a statement for police only after he was raped in jail — all recanted their statements when they were in their 40s.
Lawyers for Council Bluffs and the two police detectives, who dispute any charge of fabrication and have not conceded that Harrington and McGhee are innocent of Schweer’s killing, did not make any closing arguments Thursday.
Their turn is scheduled to come this morning, followed by a short plaintiffs’ rebuttal before the case goes to the jury.
Harrington attorney Gerry Spence on Thursday blasted what he described as Larsen’s and Brown’s racist habit of periodically driving from Council Bluffs to an Omaha ghetto in 1977, rolling up to black teens in a police car and asking, “Hey, bro, what do you have for us today?”
Spence described the practice as “entertainment” for the detectives and a danger to young men, who would immediately be suspected by their friends of being a police informant. “Can you fathom the sadisticness of that?” Spence asked. “Can you even make room for it in your mind?”
Spence, 83, is a renowned litigator who came to national prominence as a television commenter during the O.J. Simpson murder trial. He made no apologies for seeking a large settlement on Harrington’s behalf.
While a final reward amount will be set by the jury, that portion of the requested award includes $2 million for every year Harrington was incarcerated and $500,000 for every year that actuarial tables suggest he will continue to live with post-traumatic stress disorder and other illnesses.
Davis, who requested $52 million for McGhee, reminded jurors of the trauma involved in spending 25 years behind bars for a crime you didn’t commit.

For more information on this article, click here or visit www.desmoinesregister.com.