Mark Geragos (@markgeragos) is a criminal defense lawyer who has represented high-profile clients like Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder, Gary Condit, Susan McDougal, Chris Brown, and Scott Peterson. He is the co-author of Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works…and Sometimes Doesn’t.
“You never know what’s going to happen — especially when you’re kind of the emergency room doctor of the law.” -Mark Geragos
What We Discuss with Mark Geragos:
- How (and why) does a criminal defense lawyer stand up for the rights of someone who seems clearly guilty?
- How nonverbal communication and body language are used effectively in the courtroom.
- The court of public opinion and why it matters today more than ever.
- The skills Mark uses to control his emotions during life and death trials.
- What Mark witnessed in his youth that ensured his choice to defend people from criminal charges rather than prosecute them.
- And much more…
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Worksheet for This Episode
Defending the rights of people already found guilty by the court of public opinion is hard enough — but doubly so when they also happen to be famous.
Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works…and Sometimes Doesn’t co-author Mark Geragos is a criminal defense lawyer who has represented some of the highest profile defendants in the past 20 years, including Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder, Gary Condit, Susan McDougal, Chris Brown, and Scott Peterson. Here, we get a rare peek into his world and how it works. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll down for Full Show Notes and Featured Resources!
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More About This Show
Celebrity lawyer and co-author of Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works…and Sometimes Doesn’t Mark Geragos was kind enough to do this interview on a Saturday at short notice, but he assures us he’s no stranger to working weekends.
“About 10 years ago on a Sunday morning, I was in L.A.,” he says. “It was about 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning and I got a call from a buddy out in New York. He said, ‘I’ve got a client. LAPD’s got an arrest warrant for him. His name’s Chris Brown and the victim’s name is Rihanna. And I said, ‘Okay. I’ll meet him at the hotel.’ They didn’t want him to get arrested on the stage at the Grammys that evening.
“So I walked into my then-16-year-old daughter’s room, woke her up, and said, ‘Teny, who’s Chris Brown and what is a Rihanna?’ She said, ‘Dad, you’re such a loser!’
“So that’s Sunday morning. You never know what’s going to happen — especially when you’re kind of the emergency room doctor of the law.”
From accompanying his lawyer father into the courtroom during his formative years, young Mark found a career in law appealing on many fronts.
“You go in,” says Mark. “There’s no real heavy lifting. You shoot your mouth off. You get a two-hour lunch. And then you go home at four or five o’clock. I was kind of attracted to it because I loved the idea of using your brain; my father was very skilled at making us do chores and hard work so we’d know what the alternative was!”
“How Can You Defend That Scumbag?”
As a criminal defense attorney, Mark is often called upon to stand up for the rights of those considered by many to be the dregs of humanity. But just as a doctor swears to preserve all life — not just the most popular — a lawyer in the role of advocate zealously asserts the client’s position under the rules of the adversary system.
“I don’t lose sleep over the people that I defend who I think are good for it. The cases I lose sleep over are the ones where I think the client is innocent. That, to me, is the real pressure,” says Mark.
Mark could have become a prosecutor, but his philosophy mirrors that of the late judge Clarence “Red” Stromwell: “Don’t bring me or prosecute any cases in my courtroom for crimes I would’ve committed or have committed.”
His course was further influenced by witnessing his father prosecuting a teenager who wound up being sentenced to prison for 16-18 months simply for being in a room where marijuana was smoked.
“It just blew my mind. I couldn’t get my brain around it. How could this kid go to prison and have his life ruined for just being in a room where somebody else was committing a crime?”
Advocating In Public
“If you don’t respond in the court of public opinion, then you’ve lost your case,” Mark says.
When Mark is advocating for a high-profile client, he doesn’t have the luxury of limiting that advocacy to the courtroom — he has to advocate in public as well.
“You have to understand basically who your audience is in any particular case,” says Mark. “Sometimes if it’s a case that I know for instance is never going to go to jury trial, my audience may be the prosecutor and the judge — so I may take a different tact. If I know the case is going to have to be tried and it’s going to be in the jury pool, then I’ve got a duty to respond to whatever the prosecution’s doing in terms of painting a picture of my client. Otherwise…there’s a real problem, because by the time I get to picking a jury, I may be so far behind the eight-ball that it doesn’t matter what goes on in the courtroom with the evidence that we’re never going to get past the jury selection.”
Helmuth von Moltke the Elder once said that “no plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.” Mark agrees, and says the most important thing to keep in mind is to remain fluid — capable of adapting to the changing tides of battle in the courtroom.
“The mark of a true trial lawyer is when you can ask a question you don’t know the answer to and you get the answer you want,” says Mark.
Listen to this episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show to learn more about what it takes for a lawyer to secure a pardon for his client from a president or governor, why Mark chose to become a defender rather than a prosecutor, the tolls of representing a celebrity in a high-profile case, what Mark means when he tells a client they “can beat the rap, but not the ride,” the difference between advocating in the courtroom and advocating in public, why a good trial lawyer needs to be a constant student of human nature, how studying anthropology in college has served Mark’s legal career, how Mark maintains composure during a particularly emotional trial, and lots more.
THANKS, MARK GERAGOS!
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Resources from This Episode:
- Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works…and Sometimes Doesn’t by Mark Geragos and Pat Harris
- The Reasonable Doubt podcast
- Mark Geragos’ website
- Mark Geragos at Twitter
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Clinton Pardons McDougal, Hearst, Others by Josh Gerstein and Beverley Lumpkin, ABC News
- How Former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio Became the Most Hated Lawman in America by Michelle Mark, Business Insider
- Gideon v. Wainwright
- Crawford v. Washington
- Give Me Back My Reputation!: Ex-labor Secretary Donovan Is Acquitted After a Nine-month Trial by George J. Church, Time
- Sheppard v. Maxwell
- Irving Younger’s 10 Commandments Of Cross Examination at UC Hastings College Of The Law
- Attorney for Family of Unarmed Man “Executed” By Police Outraged Cop Acquitted of Manslaughter