Gerry spence defends geoff fieger
Wyoming lawyer Gerry Spence has been defending Detroit lawyer Geoff Fieger in Federal Court on charges of illegal political contributions. He’s charged with having his staff contribute to the campaign of John Edwards and then reimbursing them for the contribution – a crime under federal election laws. The government has to prove intent to violate the law and the defense is that Fieger, and his partner who is also charged in the case, did not believe they were violating any laws when they made the contribution. The newspaper reports that in Gerry’s opening statement he told the jury: "The prosecution sees them only with one eye and it’s the evil eye." Spence said powerful people at the justice department in Washington decided to go after him. He described the government sending 80 agents to conduct a nighttime raid on the firm and to question terrified employees in their homes to create the case. "You would have thought he was Osama bin Laden" Spence said in claiming an abuse of justice. "If the government can do this to Mr. Fieger, they can do it to any of us. You don’t need the powers that be in Washington telling us what to do here. Thank God we have juries like you that don’t have to answer to anybody." This language is effective in (1) creating a protagonist- the evil government justice department (2) showing an excess of abuse of power by government – hated by everyone (3) implying a "nullification" power in the jury to disregard laws they don’t agree withand (4) involving the jurors in a sort of "golden rule" statement that if the jury didn’t put a stop to this they and their families are threatened. In evaluating the effectiveness of this language one has to put aside lawyer like analysis of words and look at the "behind the scenes" communication. You can communicate these ideas in a variety of ways, but if the thought (not the actual words) resonates with gut level issues in the jurors you have touched their hearts. Since survival is one of the key primate motivators, this thought of personal vulnerability is powerful if the jurors identify with it.