RALEIGH — John Edwards, the former U.S. senator and presidential candidate, reflected this week on his first trial as a lawyer since his political collapse.
Nearly two years after walking out of the Greensboro federal courthouse, where he experienced life as a criminal defendant, Edwards walked out of a Pitt County courtroom this month with a renewed enthusiasm for his law career.
“I really loved being back in the courtroom,” he said this week during a phone interview. “It really felt like a gift for me.”
Edwards hung out a law shingle again in November with Raleigh lawyer David Kirby and his daughter, Cate Edwards.
John Edwards joined forces with lawyers Robert Zaytoun and Matt Ballew for the recent medical malpractice case in a Greenville courtroom.
The trial ended with the Pitt County jury deadlocked on whether to hold an emergency-room doctor responsible for brain damage and physical injuries that a 4-year-old Virginia boy received in December 2009 when he was an infant in the care of Pitt County Memorial Hospital.
The family and guardians of Kaiden Gaymon contended that the doctor and hospital failed to provide adequate oxygen and airway support for the infant.
The hospital paid $13 million to settle its portion of the lawsuit before the case went to the jury.
Zaytoun brought Edwards onto the legal team, knowing his previous reputation as a personal injury lawyer and powerful closer in cases.
Edwards, 60, was acquitted in his 2012 trial of one of six campaign finance charges against him. Prosecutors dismissed five other felony charges after a jury deadlocked and the judge declared a mistrial.
After staying out of the public eye for more than a year, Edwards returned to law in November.
“What happened in real life was I bonded immediately and strongly with this family,” Edwards said about how his experiences as a defendant and a politician played a role in his courtroom return.
Being back in a courtroom as a lawyer felt familiar, Edwards added. “The honest truth was it came back really quickly. It felt great.”
Edwards said he has been working on a case in New Orleans, representing a Louisiana landowner in a proposed class-action lawsuit on behalf of people who receive oil royalties or have interests in oil leases.
Cate Edwards has been focusing on discrimination suits – age and gender.
Though he declined to elaborate much on politics, Edwards said he thinks his message of “two Americas” still resonates.
“Two Americas – heartbreaking for me and a lot of people – is still alive and well,” Edwards said. “It’s not gotten better. There’s a lot that can be done.”
Though Edwards has spoken recently about the wealth divide in this nation, he said his focus now “is legal. That’s what I do.”
Zaytoun equated the Pitt County courtroom experience as part of the fight to narrow the distance between the “two Americas.”
“The courtroom allows a family like this to level the playing field,” Zaytoun said.
Blythe: 919-836-4948; Twitter: @AnneBlythe1