Carr & Emory

December 5, 2014 George Curtis

I recently was a judge in the UM moot court competition. While walking down the corridor to the faculty lounge I noticed the class picture of the first graduating class in 1929 and was jolted to see a very young Henry R. Carr. His picture brought back memories of my public defender days.

photo of henry carr

Henry is in the 3d row, 1st picture.

For decades Henry Carr was the top criminal defense lawyer in Miami. He played the southern gentleman to the hilt, at least it was my impression he was playing a part. He spoke in a slow southern drawl, it took him five minutes to say hello, while I am sure his mind was whirling at full speed figuring out what to say next. Henry practiced in the era before the criminal discovery rules and he had to think on his feet in the courtroom. Quite frankly, I don’t think he was as effective after defense lawyers got the right to discovery and motion practice. He lost his edge over all the other lawyers.

His most famous client was Melvin Lane Powers, who was charged, along with his aunt Candy Mossler, with killing her husband Jacques. Texas legend Percy Foreman was lead counsel and Henry joined him at the defense table along with Harvey St. Jean. St. Jean later became famous for representing Jack “Murph the Surf” Murphy, who stole the 116.75 carat Star of India sapphire from the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Miami always had great criminal lawyers.

Melvin had been conducting a torrid affair with his aunt Candy and the state claimed that was the motive. As a rebuttal the defense claimed that Jacques was killed by his gay lover. The salacious sexual testimony transfixed the country. Richard Gerstein prosecuted the case along with Jerry Kogan. Gerstein was so disgusted by their acquittal, he stopped personally trying cases. He would only show-up at sentencings to express the community’s outrage.

Henry became partners with Marvin Emory. Emory had been a public defender and provided more up to date knowledge of the rules which Henry desperately needed. Their office was only a short walk to the Metro Justice Building at 1298 NW 10th Ave. I was good friends with Marvin and we handled several high profile cases together.

We were both appointed to represent George Curtis, who had been arrested in the June 1970 Rotten Meat Riot which broke out in the Brownsville section of Miami. The 18 year old Curtis was shot in the neck and the chest in what the police called a shoot out. The police claimed he was a sniper shooting from his second floor apartment on NW 27th Ave and 46th St.

photo to george curtisCurtis had already been convicted at a trial, but the judge was not so sure of his guilt. He vacated the verdict for ineffectiveness of counsel and appointed us to take over the defense. He figured two young, aggressive lawyers might find out what happened. As it turns out he was right.

Marvin and I went to the scene and spent many hours cataloguing the 35 bullet holes in Curtis’ apartment. In those days we didn’t have access to a modern laser so we had to go back to Pythagoras’ Theorem and trigonometry using triangulation to get a rough approximation where the shooters were located, and we were able to prove they all came from police guns. They never found a rifle or other guns in Curtis’ apartment. Since he was severely wounded, he didn’t have a chance to hide them. We were able to convince the court it was a police cover-up and the case was dismissed. In all probability this could never happen today. It was an ends-of-justice type ruling.

We also jointly defended Luis Bulas Barquet who was Miami’s most notorious abortionist. The SAO treated abortion as a serious crime back then.

We had a lot of fun along with hundreds of hours of hard work on these cases and I greatly respected Marvin’s ability. Unfortunately, he died with most of his career ahead of him. Marvin burned to death May 17, 1978 in his Cadillac on NW North River Drive when its gas tank exploded. It was a bizarre “accident” and many thought it was a fire bomb but nothing ever came from it. Scuttlebutt around the Metro Justice Building was that the police didn’t try too hard to solve the case.

Neither Henry nor Marvin would recognize the sorry state of the criminal practice today. They believed a trial was the preferred way to resolve a criminal charge.