Author Archives: Roy Black

The Lament of Zachary Warren

Zachary Warren was a master of the universe. At least the legal universe. At 29 a Stanford degree, a magna cum laude graduate of Georgetown Law School, a clerkship at the Sixth Circuit and a job at the Wall Street titan Dewey & LeBoeuf. But this legal prodigy made a bonehead mistake any grizzled veteran of the criminal bar educated at a third rate law school would have prevented. He talked to a prosecutor without a lawyer.

Cross Examination: The Sympathetic Yet Deadly Witness

The challenge – how to cross examine, impeach or even just diminish the impact of sympathetic witnesses without losing your audience?

Richard Sharpstein: A Tape Surfaces

In my post about Richard’s particular skill in presenting final arguments, I lamented there was no video tape of his courtroom performances. Fortunately I was partially wrong: Dore Louis, an excellent criminal defense lawyer and friend, emailed me an audio clip of a Sharpstein final argument.

Richard A. Sharpstein 1950-2013

Miami has lost an outspoken lawyer-public citizen. This past December, my friend and colleague Richard Sharpstein died by his own hand. If you knew Richard you knew he was part criminal lawyer, part social commentator and all showman.

Final Argument: Rebutting “Commonsense”

At least 311 innocent people were condemned by “commonsense.” There are probably a lot more languishing in our dungeons, but at least that many convicted inmates have been exonerated through DNA. I bet in each one of those trials the prosecutor told the jury to use their “god-given commonsense” to fill in any gaps in the evidence and convict the accused.

Final Argument: Douglas MacArthur

Few doubt that General Douglas MacArthur was a brilliant man. He graduated first in his class at West Point. He earned over 100 military decorations from the U.S. and other countries. During the First World War he won the Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Cross twice, and Seven Silver Stars.

UM Moot Court Competition

Last week was packed full of advocacy. On Wednesday, Howard argued at the Supreme Court while I tried a 3-day civil non-jury case (a declaratory action, so no jury), and Sunday afternoon I was a judge for the semi-final round of the law school’s moot court competition.

Final Argument: Edgar Lee Masters

How does a poet fit into this series? Edgar Lee masters was not an ivory tower academic – he was a lawyer who advocated for the poor and powerless just like one of his law partners — Clarence Darrow. I came across Masters while teaching myself English literature. His legacy is the Spoon River Anthology, a series of 244 poetic monologues in the voices of the dead. He took the names off tombstones in an Illinois cemetery and combined fact, fiction and speculation to create their voices.

Final Argument: Electronic Presentations

Modern juries, spoiled by TV and CSI, want to see the evidence not just listen to a talking head describing it. This link takes you to a creation (not a recreation) of the prosecution’s final argument in the Oklahoma City bombing case. I call it a creation because it doesn’t attempt to duplicate the actual argument but instead it presents the damning web of circumstantial evidence through a quite compelling video presentation. Proof we are only limited by our imagination in delivering a story through graphics.

Final Argument: Verbal Tics

I watch Sports Center almost every morning while getting dressed. Boston Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino, in an interview, said “y’know” – 72 times in three minutes. Yes I counted them. Sounded like he was afflicted with tourette’s. It was grating – fingernails on a blackboard. Imagine a jury suffering through an hour of intensely annoying verbal tics.