The Lawyer Who Saw the Lightning

The Lawyer Who Saw the Lightning

In the spring of 1970, steve glynn became sitting in a prison cellular in a madison courthouse, bruised from head to toe. Two weeks away from graduating with honors from the uw–madison law faculty, and already a husband and father, he’d dared, that may night time, to invite the badge numbers of sheriff’s officials he’d visible roughing up college students who took to the streets to protest the invasion of cambodia. Glynn, then an intern with the aclu, become with two different law college students to document viable police overreaction, and he didn’t have to cross some distance to discover it. “i was patted down and the officer found what he referred to as a ‘rock’ in my returned pocket,” glynn remembers. “it become definitely greater like a pebble. Wherein did it come from? Likely my son. We might regularly power my motorcycle over to the student union and pass stones on lake mendota. He changed into four on the time.” due to the pebble, glynn became thrown against a wall with a gun cocked to his head, beaten with night sticks and tossed in jail. “that turned into the worst night time of my life,” glynn says, then adds: “even though i was the least injured character in that mobile. Others had damaged bones, blood throughout, broken noses.” it wasn’t the first time glynn had witnessed police brutality—two summers preceding, he’d interned for the aclu in chicago at some stage in the 1968 democratic convention—however it changed into the primary time he’d experienced it himself. His incarceration had accidental effects. The lawyer who got here to bail him out that night was of recommend to the milwaukee crook protection company shellow & shellow. Following his launch from jail (and a clerkship with federal choose james doyle, father of wisconsin’s modern governor), glynn might work there for almost 30 years. Right here’s the second unintentional outcome: glynn became the primary student subjected to a “moral fitness” hearing, conducted by the deans of his regulation college, with a view to be admitted to the wisconsin bar. “it was a very polarized time,” glynn says. “some of northern bar institutions had complained approximately my admission to the bar. The fact that an honors law grad become charged with against the law captured media attention.” the hearing became out to be a no brainer. Glynn become represented by way of his boss-to-be, gilda shellow, and the leader police witness honestly got here again into the hearing room after his testimony to mention, “i suppose this guy will make a very good legal professional.” doug kammer, now of kammer & studinski chartered in portage, turned into one of the different regulation students at the protest that night time, and he testified on glynn’s behalf on the hearing. “steve simply couldn’t consider his authorities could act as it did towards its very own citizens,” kammer says. “he’s an admirable guy because he sees what’s going on and isn't always afraid to do something about it.” absolutely everyone on foot into glynn’s milwaukee workplace inside the historic beaux arts northern consider bank building will see a haphazard pile of awards at the credenza in the back of his cluttered table. They’ve been there when you consider that he moved into this top-floor suite of workplaces nearly 8 years ago. He's proudest of the reality that his peers, in milwaukee mag, named him the pinnacle protection legal professional in milwaukee 5 times in view that 1985. “he has a brain and a coronary heart,” wrote one nominating legal professional in 2003. “as compared to him, maximum legal professionals simply have a mouth.” “i notion approximately beginning a glory wall, however i’m ambivalent,” glynn says, gesturing across his expansive columned office accented in burnished woods, modernist wrought-iron furniture and a fire to take the threshold off bloodless wisconsin days. It’s a space as open and inviting as glynn himself. Glynn, sixty three, the father of and grandfather of four, has been in those places of work when you consider that 2000 while he struck out on his own with shellow partners and some other legal professional to form glynn, fitzgerald & albee. The firm now handles on the whole corporate crook protection paintings in federal court docket, as well as excessive-profile customers together with former packers famous person james lofton. His first company case, in the early ’90s, concerned protecting a distinguished racine company towards federal prices for doing enterprise with libya. Glynn got the case due to the fact an in-residence legal professional remembered a communicate glynn gave on corporate crook responsibility. Glynn became on the treadmill at his health club while he got the call that federal customs sellers have been “swarming” all around the potential customer’s enterprise. After six years of negotiations conducted with the aid of glynn, a subsidiary become found answerable for the libyan connection, and the corporation become allowed to maintain receiving authorities contracts. Glynn became hooked. “one of the problems with [criminal defense] is that it’s your fault [when the client goes to jail],” he says. “i don’t want a defense lawyer who doesn’t experience that way, however it’s very hard now and again to continue to take instances.” nonetheless, he does. After years of pretrial litigation, he is set to begin defending every other customer accused of murder. Glynn grew up in stevens factor, schooled in the virtues of working tough, analyzing everything and worrying for others. In excessive faculty he was stimulated by way of the 1960 spencer tracy film inherit the wind, which turned into based on the 1925 scopes trial. “[clarence] darrow turned into a hero,” glynn says, “due to his willingness to tackle unpopular reasons, a lawyer who didn’t care an excessive amount of about cash.” after a 12-12 months catholic schooling, his mother and father—an insurance office manager and an govt secretary—assumed he would go to a catholic college, but he lasted just 29 days as a christian brothers novitiate. “i was rethinking my vocation whilst [my brother] jim despatched me a letter,” glynn remembers, “telling me he had met a splendid lady who had an excellent prettier younger sister and how lengthy was i going to hold up this craziness anyway?” jim glynn were within the military, and had even monitored the flight of francis gary powers over the soviet union in 1960, but an car twist of fate left him a paraplegic. Inside the letter, jim stated he can also use assist picking up ladies in his new, handicap-geared up convertible. Two days later, steve left the novitiate and enrolled in uw–milwaukee. At some point of his college years, glynn lived together with his dad and mom in wauwatosa. For numerous months in 1967, activists passionately and regularly marched on his quiet avenue in protest of a choose who lived there, and who ruled on open-housing troubles even as a member of the eagles’ aerie, an all-white social membership. The protest helped kick-start integration in milwaukee and made glynn realize that you may “embrace the charter and make it work. I thought, as an undergrad, ‘that might be a great aspect to be doing.’” a decade later, the shellow firm, with glynn main the fee, added—and won—a lawsuit towards the club, hard its tax-exempt popularity. For years, glynn’s maximum precedence become protecting the ones he believed falsely accused of crimes, which includes while he became president of the legal resource society in milwaukee. Of these clients are nevertheless in jail—despite the fact that glynn helped exonerate them. The primary is leonard peltier. The local-american activist, a veteran of the 72-day profession at wounded knee, s. D., in 1973, and convicted of a double murder in a 1975 shootout with federal sellers on the pine ridge reservation, also tangled with wisconsin law enforcement. In 1972, he become accused of the attempted murder of a couple of plainclothes milwaukee law enforcement officials. Peltier, and his religious adviser, leonard crow canine, confident glynn he became harmless, and peltier became allowed to publish bond. Wounded knee happened whilst he become out on bail. The wisconsin case began in january 1978—local prosecutors added peltier out of federal prison to face trial—and the nation’s case started out to disintegrate shortly afterwards. Glynn recollects: “i was analyzing one of the officials [peltier was accused of attempting to murder] while he gave me a perry mason moment. He informed me he had observed jesus and couldn’t lie anymore.” other witnesses, which include the alternative police officer, stuck to their memories. After the jury retired to deliberate, the decide stated he could entertain a motion for a mistrial. “i requested leonard and he stated he’d comply with the recommendation of crow dog. Crow dog advised me that after 3 electric storms, peltier might be let out. “i instructed peltier that was loopy, however he caught it out thru three in addition offers, the remaining of which included a promise through the prosecutor no longer to retry the case.” that night, glynn become having liquids along with his co-counsels in his condo overlooking lake michigan while it commenced to rain. “they requested, ribbing me, ‘are you starting to trust?’ i stated, ‘don’t give me that shit.’” then the sky lit up with what glynn calls a magic show. “lightning become going up and down, sideways, fingers of mild have been going everywhere. I’m status there on the balcony with the hairs status up on my hands, bawling. It changed into the most first rate element that had ever passed off to me.” the next morning, the jury returned with a now not-responsible verdict. Looking returned, glynn says he is still below the affect of that case. “i am plenty more open to what customers and buddies say to me. I don’t faux to recognise all the solutions.” as for the other defendant who’s nonetheless in jail despite the fact that glynn helped exonerate him? “that is the case that has affected me maximum, emotionally and morally,” glynn says. Steven avery was convicted of rape in 1986. Ten years later, glynn’s firm, shellow, shellow & glynn, pursued the concept of avery’s “real innocence” and performed a listening to to dispute his conviction. “we truly determined to check out whether there were any real issues [in his original conviction] to raise. Dna wasn’t as superior on the time, however it turned into getting there. I used to be convinced that a dna test turned into essential in avery’s rape case because he had been convicted on eyewitness testimony.” the listening to was unsuccessful, so glynn’s group appealed as much as the wisconsin ultimate court. No luck. A few years later, the innocence venture picked up avery’s case and performed a 2d listening to, throughout which the court docket agreed to test a single hair determined at the scene the usage of new dna technology. It set avery free in 2004, after 18 years in prison. Years later, glynn turned into representing avery in a $36 million civil lawsuit against the former prosecutor and sheriff in the rape case, and become in courtroom on some other count, when he heard that avery were in touch with a younger girl photographer, missing for weeks, whose tale became everywhere in the information. The identical dna strategies that freed avery might subsequently show he had murdered her, dismembered her frame and burned it in his again yard. Avery’s civil case would sooner or later accept $400,000, with the lawsuit brushed off “with out admission to fault or legal responsibility” by means of manitowoc county authorities, but glynn by no means got over the sensation of guilt he felt the day avery became arrested for the photographer’s homicide. “i desired to tug the covers over my head,” glynn says. “the effect emotionally was nearly palpable. He changed into a man i concept i knew. I was glad my spouse became with me [that day] because i couldn't have pushed back from courtroom after the whole thing began pointing to steven.” more unsettling for glynn is the idea that this case might provide the humans of wisconsin or its legislators a reason to turn in opposition to criminal justice reforms. In 2005, the wisconsin legislature exceeded reforms that required videotaped confessions in all juvenile and person prison cases. It strengthened methods for retention and checking out of biological fabric, created new guidelines for eyewitness identification and restricted the admissibility of unrecorded statements. Those reforms, originally referred to as “the avery regulation,” are actually clearly called sections 938. 195 (2)(a) and 968. 073(2) of the wisconsin statutes. “steve worked to exonerate mr. Avery,” says claude covelli, a partner with boardman, suhr, curry & discipline in madison, who represented some of the defendants in the avery civil case. “i assume that’s now not simplest the proper thing, but the only thing he should have finished for mr. Avery, who became innocent of that crime. It become steve’s obligation to get a civil judgment for his consumer if he may want to, and he did. He’s a robust recommend but he’s a delight to work with. That’s no longer as commonplace as one could hope.” “if i was in problem, i’d go to steve,” says assistant u. S. Attorney dan graber, who serves the western district of wisconsin in madison. “criminal protection lawyers have a special position. You have got clients who don’t consider you and a public notion which you’re seeking to get terrible men off. He’s in reality tough to counter from the government facet due to the fact he’s so believable. He’s notion about the entirety.” we’ve talked conflict tales for hours, barely noticing the passage of time, and glynn’s workplace has closed for the day. While the phone earrings, he is the best one left inside the workplace to answer it. A case is set to settle, or now not, and a minor spherical of to-and-fro ensues. He's determined to get the first-class deal for his customer, but if now not nowadays, then another day. “peace,” he says, and hangs up the cellphone.