Social scientists OK, maybe just I call it the Johnnie Cochran Phenomenon.
After attorney Cochran helped O.J. Simpson become the first person in the world to skate on a murder charge I know: He really wasnt, but youd have thought he was the first person to get away with murder, judging by the vituperation that resulted Cochran became even more hated than his ex-jock client.
Whatever you call that phenomenon, John Edwards is now being beat upside the head with it.
With Edwards back in the courtroom after his flirtation with politics was derailed by his flirtation with a woman who was not his wife, he is being subjected to a similar level of anger.
The former senator, vice presidential and presidential candidate was back in the courtroom last week representing a family seeking compensation for their sons brain injury.
Back to the future
Cases such as this one made Edwards rich and famous before he ran for office.
The only thing missing when he returned back to the future OK, back to a Pitt County courtroom last week to help select a jury in this latest trial was the silver DeLorean with the winged doors.
The same way I hated that movie, Back to the Future especially the part where Michael J. Fox invents rock n roll is the way a lot of people hate Edwards. Why, youd think, after reading some of the comments posted online, that Edwards had cheated on them personally when he succumbed to Rielle Hunters blatant street-corner come-on outside New Yorks hot-sheet Regency Hotel.
Psst: He didnt. How one feels about Edwards may say more about the feeler you than it does about the feelee him. Most of the comments Ive seen were personal jibes, but one reader expressed what I consider a legitimate gripe: By taking himself out of the game with his wanton, unbridled behavior, Edwards removed from the political discussion any candidate in 2008 who was even talking about economic justice and poor people.
Are you angry at him for that? So am I.
Whatever he did after being captured by the street-corner hunter the repercussions were between his late wife and his children. They seem to have forgiven him. Why cant you?
Part of the animus toward Edwards is, of course, nothing personal. Its boilerplate lawyer bashing, a national pastime. Lawyering is not, in many peoples eyes, an honorable profession until they need one.
OK, all you Edwards-phobes out there. By a show of hands, how many of you would not dial his number if you were the plaintiff in a big-money case that called for a top-notch legal practitioner?
You can bet your Perry Mason boxed set that Edwards, pretty hair and all, would be at the top of my list of attorneys, even ahead of Algonquin J. Calhoun. He was oh, never mind.
Having Edwards as ones law partner or lawyer has its advantages, no doubt. Hes obviously a brilliant jurist who brings a certain je ne sais quoi to the proceedings, a quality that can positively sway starstruck, sympathetic jurors.
Of course, it can negatively sway people at the other end of the political spectrum from Edwards or people who are repulsed both by his behavior and that $200 haircut.
Craig Croom, a former District and Superior court judge who is running for an open seat this year, declined to speak specifically about Edwards, but he said that in his time on the bench, he saw attorneys antagonize juries. Oh, that definitely can happen. It depends upon how infamous you are, or how long folks memories are. It can become an issue of credibility. You can upset a jury if you as a lawyer object to everything.
I asked Catharine Arrowood, an attorney with Parker Poe and incoming president of the N.C. Bar Association, would she prefer an unknown attorney or one who is famous. Id want an attorney who knows what theyre doing, she laughed. Thereve been an awful lot of jury studies done, and how the jury feels about your attorney is something youre trying to get information on.
I think whats most important, really, is how the lawyer performs in the courtroom. Thats what the jury is going to pay attention to, she said.
If I were an attorney in a North Carolina courtroom, you know who Id fear even more than a prospective juror who hated or loved Edwards because of his locks or anything else?
One who didnt know who the heck he was, as one prospective juror admitted last week.
There is a hilarious scene early in the movie Deliverance where Burt Reynolds gets lost in the woods trying to find the river. Dont worry. Ill find it, he says after backing out of the dead end.
It aint nothin but the biggest (expletive deleted) river in the state, one of the mountain men replies.
To any prospective juror who doesnt know who John Edwards is, all I can say is He wasnt nothin but the most polarizin politician in the state.
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