Great Criminal Lawyer Samuel Leibowitz

leibowitzI have just finished reading Not Guilty-The Story Of Samuel S. Leibowitz by Fred Pasley. It is a great biography that was written in 1933 while Leibowitz was in his prime practicing law in New York City. It is an inspiring story of a Rumanian born Jewish kid who puts himself through school and becomes one of the greatest criminal lawyers in the United States. Leibowitz hung his shingle out in 1919 and soon developed into one of the most successful criminal lawyers in New York.

The key to Leibowitz success was intense trial preparation. Leibowitz was always the most prepared lawyer in the courtroom. He was also a tremendous orator and actor who had a flair for drama. He knew that psychology played an important role in every trial and used it to his advantage especially when selecting a jury. During the roaring twenties Leibowitz represented many of the most well know mobsters in New York and was successful and getting most of them of. His reputation had grown so large that Al Capone brought him to Chicago and wanted to hire him to represent him in his upcoming trial. Capone and Leibowitz disagreed on trial strategy and Leibowitz returned to New York to fight off his own trumped up charge of witness tampering.

In the 1930’s Leibowitz agreed to represent the Scottsboro Boys in Alabama. Leibowitz went to the deep south and courageously represented the innocent men while facing numerous death threats. Some of the closing arguments are in the book and the lengths prosecutors went to prejudice the jury will  shock you.

Most criminal trial lawyers are so busy with their cases they have little time for recreational reading. I would make the time to read Pasley’s Biography of Leibowitz. Pasley has included transcripts from some of Leibowitz’s most famous trials. The transcripts demonstrate Leibowitz’s brilliant tactics and provide great examples of how to cross examine witnesses.

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