This post is by guest-blogger Edward Schwartz (The Jury Box), the Chair of the ASTC Pro Bono Committee. It coincides with the launch of the new sidebar link to the ASTC Pro Bono Initiative (look to your right). I have been assailed by the rigors of life and shall return next week with a new fun-filled episode. Thanks Edward!
Did you know that you might be able to get free trial consulting for your next case?
ASTC consultants have assisted in a pro bono capacity in a whole range of cases. From a simple eviction hearing to a case that garners national attention, consultants have donated their skills. Many ASTC members give generously of their time and energy to promote justice for the budget-strapped who find themselves entangled in the American legal system. To facilitate these efforts, ASTC has developed an active pro bono initiative that helps ASTC members provide their services at no cost (or at a substantially reduced charge) to attorneys across the country. The following is one such story...
Andrew Sheldon is one of the giants in the trial consulting world. He received the ASTC Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009, after more than 40 years in the profession. While Andrew has certainly done well in the profession, what stands out most is that he has always done good in the profession. Throughout his career, Andrew and his colleagues have dedicated thousands of hours to pro bono efforts, mainly in cases involving civil rights and capital punishment.
There is a remarkable little film making the rounds at this year’s film festivals, entitled "Neshoba: The Price of Freedom." It is a gripping documentary about the efforts to finally bring to justice Edgar Ray Killen, the man thought to be responsible for killing three civil rights workers in Neshoba County, MS in 1964. (A version of those events was portrayed in the movie, Mississippi Burning.) Somewhat startlingly, Killen gave the filmmakers extensive access to his daily life, ultimately revealing his deep-seated racism and bigotry. Almost as surprising was the ambivalence of the county’s residents towards the idea of trying Killen, a man most of them knew personally, for the murders.
It was in this guarded, reluctant environment that prosecutors faced the prospect of seating a jury and mounting a case. Luckily for the prosecution team, they had help. Andrew Sheldon and Beth Bonora (another long-time ASTCer with a track record of good works) donated their services to the district attorneys working on the case. That’s right, they each spent hundreds of hours working on this 40-year-old case – for free.
The trial took place in 2005. Initially considering only murder charges, the jury seemed to be stumped. Finally, when Judge Marcus Jordan instructed the jurors about the lesser-included offense of manslaughter (over the defense’s objection), Killen was convicted of three counts of manslaughter. The judge gave Killen a 60-year sentence, the maximum permitted by law.
For a terrific interview with Andrew Sheldon and Beth Bonora, conducted by ASTC President, Beth Foley, check out this month’s edition of The Jury Expert.
Consulting with a Conscience
Could you use help fashioning a visually effective timeline? Does your case involve highly sensitive, emotional issues and you’re not sure how best to handle them during voir dire? Do you need a digital representation of a crime scene to use at trial? ASTC has trained, experienced consultants available to help with all of these challenges, and then some. In addition, ASTC members from all over the country regularly donate their time to give presentations and teach others.
Don’t know what you might need? Most of my pro bono clients tell me that they really benefit from just being able to pick my brain about their cases. I ran a series of drop-in clinics for Massachusetts Bar Advocates (those who represent indigent criminal defendants) and often just a half-hour of brainstorming would really help an attorney clarify his or her own thoughts about trial strategy.
You don’t need to have a case of historical importance to get help from an ASTC consultant. If you think you could use pro bono trial consulting assistance, please visit the ASTC Pro Bono Publico Committee homepage.
Edward Schwartz, a trial consultant from Lexington, MA, is the Chair of the ASTC Pro Bono Publico and Awards Committee. Edward can be reached through the ASTC Pro Bono Committee homepage. His blog, The Jury Box, can be found here.