Thursday, July 10, 2008

Your Witness

Your Witness: Lessons on Cross-Examination and Life from Great Chicago Trial Lawyers features fifty chapters, by fifty trial attorneys, including prosecutors and defense attorneys, personal injury lawyers and corporate lawyers. The chapters are short and quick to read (but that doesn't mean they lack substance), so this is a book you can dabble in as well as read straight through.

I think a lot of the stories would be very helpful to aspiring -- or even experienced -- trial lawyers. Many of them are also interesting to anyone who likes a good story.

There's humor too.

I witnessed two legendary defense lawyers get scorched by taking a chance in cross examining Outfit enforcer Jimmy LaValley, a street-hardened thug who feared nothing in life. At least, he feared nothing until Matt Lydon explained to him the risks of being sentenced by a certain judge some considered rather unpredictable. He flipped and testified for the government in a half-dozen major organized crime cases.

In one, LaValley was cross-examined by the famously flamboyant (and now deceased) Julius Lucius Echeles, who was defending a former LaValley protégé name Nick Gio in an arson-for-hire case. Echeles' defense of the young Gio was that he had lost his father as a teenager, that he had come under LaValley's spell, and that LaValley had dragged him unwillingly into a life of crime.

Echeles was on a roll, getting LaValley to admit that Gio lost his father at a young age, that he met LaValley shortly afterward, and that Gio looked up to LaValley, when he asked the fateful question:

Q. Isn't it true that this young man came to you for guidance in his life?

A. I think is exact words were, "I want to be in the mob. Can you help me?"
Chris Gair, p. 107.
Every trial lawyer "borrows" from other trial lawyers -- whether it is stories we tell in final argument, approaches we use in cross-examination, or the way we may stand in the courtroom.
-- Steven F. Molo, p. 244

Your Witness gives you a host of trial lawyers to borrow from, as they share a maxim here, a turn of phrase there, a bit of caution, a funny story, an embarrassing mistake.

It will be available in the library soon (it hasn't been cataloged yet), in our Good Reads section.

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