People's Lawyer Goes to Jail
May 17, 2012 by TMO <http://muslimmedianetwork.com/mmn/?author=8
By Karin Friedemann, TMO
Goes-to-Jail_E0D6/0920_barry-wilson-624x464.jpg> File: Attorney Barry
Boston"The fiery attorney who represented former Boston city
councilor Chuck Turner in his bribery trial is now headed to jail
himself," the Boston Globe reports.
Superior Court Judge Patrick Brady sentenced famed "people's
lawyer" Barry Wilson to 90 days in the South Bay House of Correction
in Boston for contempt of court for being "loud, abusive, insulting
On May 15, 2012, Wilson was escorted off to jail in front of a
courthouse crowded with his supporters.
Attorney Wilson was attempting to ensure that his client, a 22-year-old
African-American man on trial for his life, had a jury of his peers in a
first degree murder trial. Wilson protested when the prosecutor struck
off all young people and people of African-American descent from serving
on the jury. Wilson then "went ballistic" after the judge then
empaneled a white man who had worked many years for Homeland Security.
David Boeri of WBUR reports that Wilson's "pyrotechnics"
went on for six minutes.
"You're going to sit him. Lock me up now. Just lock me up, lock
me up and declare a mistrial," Wilson ranted. "That's
ridiculous. Fifteen years a federal agent and he's going to be
unbiased are you kidding me?"
As Wilson strongly objected, the judge found him in contempt. The Judge
then stayed the sentence until completion of the trial and ordered
Attorney Wilson to proceed. As a result, Wilson said he was under the
sword during the whole trial and therefore distracted from defending his
Two days after the jury found the defendant guilty of first degree
murder, Judge Brady sentenced Attorney Wilson to ninety days in jail.
Barry Wilson has a 36 year long history of defending political
activists, labor organizers, immigrants and minorities. He was lead
counsel in the Plymouth 25, Marcus Jean and Amer Jubran cases, the first
lawyer for the Boston School Bus Drivers, Steelworkers Local 8751 in the
1970s, and counsel for framed African-American City Councilor Chuck
Turner. Wilson served six months in federal prison in 1985 for refusing
to violate attorney-client privilege.
According to Wilson's lawyer, Judge Brady had dropped "a nuclear
bomb" without warning, "chilling the advocacy" of defense
Associate Appeals Court Justice David Mills, in reviewing Wilson's
alleged misconduct, considered it a clear breach of decorum. "He
screamed at the judge and made a scene," Mills said.
"All I'm trying to do is stand up for my clients'
rights," Wilson said. "You got to be in those pits to understand
what you have to do.
You're standing between your client and a jail cell. And you have an
ethical, professional obligation to be a zealous advocate."
On Thursday May 3, 2012, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court denied
Attorney Wilson's motion for further appellate review, thus
upholding the Court of Appeal's March 20, 2012 decision denying
Attorney Wilson's appeal. The Appeals Court called Wilson's
conduct "without parallel" in a 21-page rebuke.
During the contempt hearing, Wilson was defiant.
"Mr. Wilson, your behavior before me two weeks ago was
atrocious," said Suffolk Superior Court Judge Patrick Brady, calling
Wilson's conduct "the worst I've seen in 20 years on the
"I don't think my conduct was egregious or out of line in terms
of what occurred in court," the criminal defense attorney replied to
the judge in his well-known booming voice. "In 2011 an
African-American man cannot get a fair trial."
"Wilson has a right to his own opinions but he has no right to
interrupt the proceedings and turn the courtroom into a platform from
which to hurl disrespectful words at the judge and the criminal justice
system because he did not agree with the judge's ruling," the
Appeals Court concluded.
"This flagrantly reactionary repression which comes from the
same poisoned well that jailed people's lawyer Lynne Stewart (who
represented the blind Shaykh Omar Rahman) is designed to send a
threatening message to the progressive movement and to all defense
lawyers who stand with it," comments Kirshbaum in Workers World.
Larry Pinkney writes on BlackCommentator.com, "On February 10th,
2005, attorney Lynne Portia Stewart, after having been targeted for many
years by the US Government for her vigorous defense of the rights of
Black and other people of color, found herself convicted of a despicably
and conspicuously bogus `conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism'
This was "an obvious attempt by the U.S. government to silence
dissent, curtail vigorous defense lawyers, and install fear in those who
would fight against the U.S. government's racism," state her
Prior to sentencing, Stewart wrote a letter to the judge pleading for
mercy: "What might have been legitimately tolerated in 2000-2001,
was after 9/11, interpreted differently and considered criminal
government disparages the idea of zealous advocacy because it has never
practiced criminal defense law as I did, with heartfelt concern for my
clients. I tested the limits of what the courts and law would allow for
my clients because I believed I was, as criminal defense lawyers often
say, "liberty's last champion."
Unfortunately the rules of ethics have moved away from excusing zealous
or intemperate behavior and language. 90 days in the county jail for
Wilson still seems quite extraordinary, when the customary penalty for
an attorney's contempt of court is normally a fine, but jail time
for zealous attorneys seems to be occurring more frequently, especially
in political cases.
Michigan criminal defense attorney Scott Milliard found himself in jail
for four days after being held in contempt by District Court Judge
Kenneth Post because he told a client at arraignment not to answer the
judge's questions about personal drug use because the client might
Kentucky attorney Amelia Adams got 6 months in jail after she refused to
disclose to District Judge Karem the name of her 17 year old client who
had sought permission from the court to have an abortion without her
Wilson told his supporters, "I'll go do my 90 days, I'll
smile through the whole 90 days. I'll go out the way I came in
No I don't regret anything. I did what I was supposed to do."
Wilson plans to retire after he does his time. "I'm gone,"
Wilson says. "I don't want any more part of this. Why would I
want to do this job any more and be surrounded by judges who are idiots?
I legitimized a bankrupt system, and I was very good at it. I achieved
everything I ever wanted."
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