Joey Low, one of the best trial lawyers in the country, wins the unwinnable cases. He discusses a capital murder case where he stood up to General James Mattis (who later became the United States Secretary of Defense) and to the United States government. His 23-year-old client, and seven other marines, were accused of killing an Iraqi civilian behind enemy lines. Six of the eight marines had already taken plea deals. Joey traveled to a war zone, into enemy territory riddled with IEDs (improvised explosive devices) that was no longer patrolled by the U.S., to recreate and get a sense of the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of the events of the case.
Joseph H. Low, attorney4people.com, has a national reputation for his expertise in trial law. He has conducted trials all over the country in Federal, State and Military Courts. He focuses his attention in representing people who have been bullied by corporations and the government. Areas of his trial work have seen him with victories for his clients including personal injury, medical malpractice, business litigation, civil rights violations and criminal defense.
The murder Joey Low’s client was accused of occurred during his third tour in some of the most dangerous battle areas in Iraq. He was not guilty and taking a plea deal meant he would serve several years in prison and be required to testify against those who hadn’t yet taken plea deals. He was not willing to testify against his fellow servicemen.
Trying this case was a huge risk. Joey was informed by renown trial lawyers that it was not safe to be on the case, not safe to travel to Iraq, and the client would be brutalized by others – including the 6 marines who had already taken plea deals and would testify against him. The client also faced a potential lifetime behind bars or even execution.
Joey said as he worked on this case and reenacted the crime in Iraq, “a lot of people suffered and went through a lot of pain to make this right. It is easy to do the right thing, and it is hard to know what the right thing to do is.” “I’m grateful for the experience even though it was terrifying.”
Transcript of Episode 58, with Joey Low, Part 1
Welcome to Trial Lawyer Talk. I’m Scott Glovsky, and today we have a doozy of a story. Joey Low is with us, and Joey is one of the most spectacular trial lawyers in the country. He proceeds time and again to win the unwinnable cases. He’s got an amazing ability to tap into other people’s feelings and to connect with other people. Every time I sit down with Joey, I learn, and I’ve been doing that for many years.
I’m very pleased that he’s here today to share with us one of his amazing stories, and this story takes us to Joey standing up to power, standing up to General Mattis who later became Secretary of Defense, standing up to the prosecution of a murder case, and Joey traveling into a war zone to be able to recreate the events that happened in his case so he could get a sense of the sights, and the sounds, and the smells, and what it looked like and the feeling. And he wraps that into really a wonderful story of how he won his case. So, let’s get started.
I’m very happy to be sitting with truly one of the best trial lawyers in the country. Joey Low is a phenomenal lawyer who has been teaching great trial lawyers how to try cases for many, many years. Joey does criminal cases and civil cases, and he’s truly the only lawyer I know that goes around the country, tries cases, and wins the unwinnable cases, and wins big. I’m very happy that Joey’s taken the time to share with us some stories here today. Joey, thanks for being with us.
Thank you for having me, Scott. That was a really nice thing you said. It makes me feel a little unworthy. I know I’m supposed to say this to be artificially humble, but, what? I know a lot of really good trial lawyers, and I never thought I was one of them, but anyway. So, thank you for having me.
Can you share with us the story of a case that had a profound impact on you?
Yes, I can. There are several that come to mind. Yeah. But there is one that has come to mind very recently. I have a friend who recently graduated from law school. I went to his graduation this last May. When I first met this friend, it was 13 years ago, and I met him in a jail cell where he was waiting to stand trial for capital murder. It was a death penalty case. He and seven other Marines and one corpsman were accused of killing an Iraqi civilian, murdering him in the middle of the night.
So, the reason why this comes to mind is that once I started working the case I had a number of people on the team working with me, some of which are military lawyers because this is a military case. The facts involved, or at least accused, were that the squad, the Marine Corps squad, had been dropped off behind enemy lines in a place called Hamdaniya in 2006, and they had gone out and were supposed to be laying in waiting for insurgents to plant IEDs in the middle of the night, and then deal with them as a result.
Later that night, around 3:30 in the morning, there was a call made back to the rear to a unit called the QRF, which is the quick reaction force. The idea is, any time you engage or meet some contact, as they called it, or you’d get in a fire fight with the enemy, you’d call the QRF and then you’d get reinforced. They’re in the back waiting to … like being on call to come help you out. That call comes in, and they go out there. When they get there, they find a dead Iraqi in an old IED hole, and lying next to him is an AK-47 and a shovel.
As the QRF is looking at it and they’re taking reports and so forth, one of those guys looks over at the corpsman, and the corpsman just got kind of an odd look on his face. What unravels from there is that eventually NCIS gets involved. That’s the National Criminal Investigative Service. It’s a military criminal investigative service. They start conducting interviews, and make accusations, and the corpsman decides he doesn’t want to do this anymore, and says that the other seven Marines had drug this guy out of his house in the middle of the night, zip tied his hands behind his back, and drug him to this hole. Walked back about 100 meters, then shot him and killed him. Went back to his body, cut the zip ties off, laid the AK-47 next to him, and the shovel that they had brought with them, to make it look like he was digging an IED hole, because the rules of engagement at that time said that they could kill anybody who was actively involved in planting an IED.
Well, what the government sought to prove as to why they would pick this person was that they just claimed that the Marines wanted to target somebody in this little village or hamlet to intimidate them. That’s why these men were charged with capital murder and why they were going to go to trial. At that point in time, I’m told … I can’t confirm whether it’s true or not, that I had the record for winning a criminal case with the most rats. And, yes, I did say rats. The most rats that testified against somebody, which was three. Normally the convention is that if you have one rat in a case, you run down to the prosecutor’s office and you beg for a deal. If you have two rats in a case, you take whatever they give you, and you thank them for it. If you have three rats in a case, well, you don’t even take the case. Clearly, you give it to the public defender, because there’s no case, et cetera. Well, I had won a case with that many, despite what they had to say.
But in this case, one of the accused of the eight ran down and cut a deal right away. The government put a lot of pressure on her. As soon as the first one went, boy, they all started running down to the office, because each deal got worse. The first guy got 12 months. The second guy got 18 months. The third guy got … And the number keeps going. Also part of the deals that they were cutting is not only did you have to agree to it and do some time, but you had to testify against anybody else left standing.
So, they get to my guy, and the general, it’s General Mattis at the time, who used to be … he was Secretary of Defense. He wants to talk to me. I go down there and see him, and he says, “All right, here’s the deal,” and on, and on, and on. I say to him, “Look …” I think the deal at the time was eight years. My guy was number six out of eight. There’s three left that hadn’t taken a deal yet. I said to the general, “My guy will take what’s coming to him, but he will not testify against the other two.” The other six or the other five don’t matter because they already cut a deal. He was like, “Well, that’s not acceptable. There’s no exceptions. Your guy’s going to testify against the other two. Take it or leave it.”
I said, “Well, my guy’s been real clear he’s not interested in burying anybody else in a concrete tomb to benefit himself. That’s not how he’s built, and that’s not how he was trained, and that’s not what he’s going to do.” General Mattis, sitting closer to me than you are right now, about a foot away, a foot and a half away, leans in and says, “Son, do you really think you’re doing the right thing for your client?” I leaned in a little closer, and I said, “You know what, general? I think I’m doing the best possible thing I can for your Marine. How about you? You have the power to make this all go away. And all you have to do is say, ‘I can respect why you don’t want to rat on somebody else, and I respect you will take your punishment.’ But for some reasons that’s not good enough for you, is it?”
He sat back, and he gave me that look like, “I hate your guts,” but he was trying not to smile at the same time. I know what that means. So, we went to trial, and I was assigned as a lawyer on the case-
Wait. Let me back up.
Yes, go ahead.
I understand that when you got the case you did a little travel to the scene.
Tell us about that.
You want me to talk about it? All right. So, if I have had any successes in the past, it is because I’m one of those unusual nut jobs where I actually want to feel everything my client felt, and I want to feel everything that the witnesses involved in the case felt. So, what I do is I go, and I’ve always gone, to the scene of every case that I’ve tried, and I’ve done a reenactment in the location itself. Not only do I do a reenactment, but I play all the roles of the characters, or even inanimate objects, that are involved. Not only do I play all the roles, but I have somebody force me through questioning to go down to the very bottom layers of emotional content that are associated with whatever action’s going on so that I can understand not only what happened, but also how it happened, but mostly why it happened, and what I was feeling.
Well, in this particular case, unfortunately, the whole accusation happened not in the U.S. It happened in Iraq during a time of war and in a combat zone. I’m like, well, I’m not doing that. I’m out of the Marine Corps now. I’m happy to be out. But as I began to work the case and the enormous amount of information, and an even larger amount of lack of information, it just dawned on me. Just a voice in my head says, “If this case goes badly and this kid gets convicted, how are you going to feel that it’s the first one that you didn’t do a reenactment on? Are you going to be okay with that?” Well, unfortunately the answer in my head was no, I won’t be able to live with myself.
So, I made a decision that I had to do that, but that wasn’t easy. Logistically, I had to file a motion with the Marine Corps judge saying I want to go over there. That created a huge shit storm, as you can imagine. The government was against it, but the judge was persuaded and said okay. That put into action a lot of logistics. But essentially, I had to get into training again. Then I got issued gear, and then I got embedded with the Marines. Then I got flown over there, and then I got in their vehicles. They drove me out to where they were going to conduct an interview of a shake that they needed for some other mission.
Once that was done, they said, “Okay, well, this is it.” I said, “Well, this is not where it happened. This is not even close.” And they said, “Well, this is as far as we’re willing to go.” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” They said, “We’re not willing to drive to where it happened because that’s an area of operation that’s no longer controlled. We’re not patrolling it any longer. It’s enemy territory, and it’s violent,” which is the whole part of the story in the case anyway. Of course it’s violent. They were the same.
So, there in the presence was an Army lieutenant colonel. I’ll never forget this guy’s name. Never met him before, never heard of him, never seen him since, but his name was Pinkerton. That has a little historical, similar to … given our stagecoaches. But it is now his area of operation, this Hamdaniya area, but he’s not patrolling it either. I tell him, I said, “Look, man, I need to get out there.” And he’s like, “I can’t help you. I’m not going. It’s too violent, and we’re going to get shot at, and I’m not doing it.”
So, in that moment I’ve already spent I don’t know how much money, and time, and days, and I’ve been in the country now 10 days just to get where I’m at right now. You don’t just show up, get in a cab, and go. You have to go from military transport, to air transport, from base to base. You have to hopscotch. And they don’t have a special flight for you. You wait your turn. And you don’t make a reservation. You sit in a waiting room for days sometimes. So I finally got here, and I’m like, I better come up with something, otherwise this is over.
So I told him the story. I told him the story of a guy who had been on his third deployment, and on his first one he was an OIF-1, which was the most violent part of the Gulf War, with this Desert Eagle operation. He had seen a lot of really ugly, bad combat, but somehow survived it, went back to training, and came back for his second round and got the next worst, or if not even far worse encounters, and that was for the Battle for Fallujah where President Bush ordered all these troops to go in and root out the insurgents who had stockpiled and entrenched themselves in the city of Fallujah anticipating the Marines coming in, in retaliation for the execution of those four Navy SEALs who were working as contractors, and they hung them from the bridge, and their charred torsos are swinging back on ropes.
I said, this kid, during that battle, was upset that people were not taking their turns kicking in doors, which is the job that nobody wanted. He felt bad because a couple of guys in the squad were taking everyone else’s turn because that’s just the way they are. One of them was his friend, and he felt badly that his friend was now going to do it for the third time in a row. Because it basically is like playing Russian roulette. One of the times you kick the door in, there’s going to be somebody standing there and you’re going to get shot. That’s just how it goes.
So, his buddy went to do it again, and he said, “Refuse, I’m not going to let you do it. It’s not right.” And so he kicked the door in, and there was a man sitting there with a shotgun. The boy was the rabbit they saw in the street who ran into that door, and that’s why they ended up at that door chasing the boy, because they weren’t supposed to be there. It was bait. Kicked the door in, and that blast hit him in the chest with a shotgun about three, five feet away. It’s a kill-shot, you’re dead.
He survived it. It all went into his armor plating, they call it a SAPI plate, and his protective armor. But it did knock him down the stairs, broke some ribs. He got some shard in his face. He got wounded, but he didn’t die. I said, “I’m sure you’ve seen combat like that, too, Lieutenant Colonel, but this man is now languishing in a jail cell because the reason why he’s in there is because his buddies were ordered to go drag this guy out of a house, and to kill him because he is the one who’s been planting all the IEDs along the supply route between Baghdad and Fallujah. They were killing a lot of Marines, and they’d warned this guy to stop doing it, but he wouldn’t stop doing it. So they went out there to execute him, but my guy said he wouldn’t have anything to do with it because he didn’t believe in it.
But when his buddy behind enemy lines went in to kick in doors to find this guy, he just went in there with him to make sure he didn’t get shot by the people in the village. But he never shot the guy.” So I said, “That man’s going to spend the rest of his life in prison for caring a lot about somebody else, and actually more about that person than he did himself, which is exactly what he was trained to do. And now he’s being told as a result of him doing exactly what he swore he would do, and trained to do, which is protect somebody else, and he didn’t shoot the dead guy, he’s going to die in prison. He’ll never get an education, he won’t have a woman, he won’t have a child, he won’t have a family. I don’t know about you, but personally, I’d rather die than do that.”
He sat there and looked at me, and he put his head down and took his cover off, which means his hat, his Army hat, and ran his fingers through his short hair. Cussed a few times, got up, drank some more of his high-octane energy drink. Looked like about the third or fourth can. Sat back down, sat in his chair, crossed his legs, put his hat back on. He said words to the effect like, “You bastard. I’ll take you in there, but the first sign of trouble, we’re gone, and we’re running like hell. I’m not going in there to take these people on because I’m not equipped for it. We don’t know what we’re getting into.”
Then I said, “Colonel …” It’s more respectful to call a Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel. I said, “Colonel, trust me. If there’s some firing, shooting going on, I bet I leave you at least 20 yards behind as I’m the first one getting back in the vehicle.” He laughed, and he goes, “Hell no.” So anyway, this guy did what the Marines were not willing to do. He loaded me in his vehicle. He’s got his interpreter. He took me out and drove me all the way out there through these IED ridden roads, most of them dirt and gravel, through the hamlet. He got out of his vehicle, which he didn’t have to do, and he actually did more than he said he would do. He went with me to every single door on every single house. There was, I believe, 12 of them. He banged on every one of them and had the people come out, and he used his interpreter to find out all the information I was looking for, and I did my reenactment.
Now, what’s most interesting about that story is what I got from that, and it was this. It was a sound. In arriving out there, it was a sound. The sound I heard was this chorus of dogs barking some big, deep, heavy, slow barks. Some with those little Chihuahua-sounding barks, they’re fast and they’re sharp. And then everything in between. I didn’t think anything about it at the time, it was just a lot of dogs. But as I reflected upon it, and as the case was being worked and I was getting closer to trial, it dawned on me that that was a Baghdad burglar device, which means that they don’t have fancy in-house cable alarm systems that speak an electronic female voice that says system armed or disarmed, or front door open. What they have are dogs who will start barking when you’re 250 yards, 300 yards, 300 meters away, and all the way in. And they’re not happy to see you when you get there. They don’t attack you, but they’ve been barking for a while.
Okay. So what, right? One of the issues came down to the government trying to convince the jury that the man that had been executed was a poor, lonely, old goat farmer. That’s it, just some harmless old man, just living his life, raising goats. But because the trip that I had gone on, and the other things I’d done while I was there, I had learned, and discovered, and found files on this guy through old records in old, abandoned buildings that used to be the police departments and government buildings, that who he really was, was a demolitions expert from the Iran-Iraq War.
Why is that relevant? Well, it turns out that behind his house, in the field behind his house, out in the middle of nowhere, the government had found the largest weapons cache they had ever found that was not on a military base, an Iraqi military base. A weapons cache means someone had dug a big ditch in the dirt in a farmer’s field right behind his house, and put in a huge amount of guns, ammo, and shells, or if you will, large bombs. That’s what they were using to plant IEDs.
So I suppose it’s a coincidence that the one area between the main supply route for the Allied Forces from the west into Baghdad … It’s a single road, like driving from L.A. to Vegas. And along that route, you have this hamlet, this village, and it just so happens that one of the top bomb manufacturers from the previous war has a huge weapons cache sitting in a field behind his house, and this is where all these Marines are getting slaughtered as they drive by, and they get blown up. My point is, it wasn’t exactly as the government is trying to get the jury to believe. Until the government says, “Well, he had no idea about that weapons cache.” I’m like yeah, I don’t believe it. But remember, everything we do is about what you can prove, not about what you know. All of a sudden, it dawned on me. Those dogs.
So, I ask the NCIS agent who’s now on the stand … and NCIS, again, is National Criminal Investigative Service. They’re the people who did the investigation for the … They’re cops, if you will, and they work for the prosecutors and put the case together. So he’s on the stand and he’s saying all this stuff, and then all of a sudden it dawned on me. I said, “Hey, do you remember when you went there.” He goes, “Yes.” I said, “Do you remember those houses?” He goes, “Oh, yeah.” And I did it in a way to challenge him and pretend like he hadn’t actually been there so that he’ll offer more than I need him to. He’ll brag on how much he knew. I needed to do it that way so he’d volunteer a lot.
He goes, “Oh, I was definitely there.” And I said, “But you may not have seen all the …” “Oh, I saw all the houses.” “Well, maybe you didn’t get a chance to get close enough to …” “Oh, no. I definitely went into every one. I walked in.” I said, “Tell me, if you were there, and I’m sure you were, but since you were there, you must know the answer to the following question.” He goes, “What’s that?” I said, “What did you hear, if anything, before you got close to the homes, as you were driving close to them or walking?” He goes, “I don’t remember hearing anything.” “So, you’re sure you don’t remember hearing at least one dog, maybe two?” And he goes, “You know what, come to think of it, those dogs will light that place up. Boy, you even get slightly close, and man, they were howling, and growling, and barking. They had a lot of dogs out there running around.”
I said, “Yeah. How do you think that the people who dumped all those weapons into that hole, that cache, were able to do so and not have those dogs bark and tell the owner that you say didn’t know a thing about it?” And his face went blank. There was absolute quiet in the courtroom. Even the people who were writing or scribbling, and the sketch artist, everyone was like, “Holy shit.” Because what had happened is, we had told a story along the way, which I haven’t told you yet, that you wanted to believe, but it was always missing one fact. And every single time you’d make a little ground with it, they would have a counter-fact. Then you would have one to that, and you were watching like a good tennis match where the ball’s going back and forth across the court, and you know someone’s going to miss it. And whoever misses the ball is going to lose a point, and that’s going to be the end of it.
So that … Purposely, again, I’d told the story in a way where I was waiting for that to happen. I rolled my dice on this thing. I had no idea it was going to happen this way. But that’s really the last answer. When I did that, it was the first time in his entire testimony he had no comeback. Some of them weren’t that good, but this one, it just shut him down, almost like watching that portion of 8 Mile where the guy goes, and then the guy can’t respond and just chokes up. He chokes up, and just stood there and looked around, and then started looking at the jury. Then he couldn’t look at them anymore, and he looked at the ground.
As I’m standing there, your lawyer mind says, “Well, I better ask another question, or I better ridicule him, or I better do something.” And no, I just said you know what, I’m going to let it sit. And the silence got uncomfortable after a while. But I wasn’t going to be the first one to break it. Then finally, he looked up, he looked over at me, and I just stood there like I’m still waiting for the answer. He just said to himself and to everyone else who could hear, he goes, “Yeah, I’ll never forget those dogs.” It’s beautiful.
So the point of the story is that yeah, I got shot at a lot on that trip, and yeah, I got stopped. I was terrified. I had this guy who was driving this car that I was in, who would just be sitting on the road waiting sometimes because we had a minesweeper in front of us. He’s this big Swedish guy, even though he was in the Marine Corps. But anyway, he had these big lungs, and he yelled at the top of his lungs, “Boom!” Like he’s making a bomb sound. First couple of times, it’s like, well, I ain’t going to let him see me sweat because I’m a former Marine. I ain’t going to let these fools see that.
But by the eighth or ninth time he did it, I got … Man, I was like, “Man, you’re killing me with that.” That was his way of dealing with the stress because the whole time you’re out there, if you’re not getting shot at, and you had to hear it on the side of the car, or on the glass, you’re worried that this is … you’re going to get blown up. Why am I even bringing this whole story up to you? We went to trial on that … one of the-
Let me interrupt you for a second.
Because I can see your tears.
If your tears could talk, what would they say?
I don’t know. They would probably say … There was a lot of people who suffered and went through a lot of pain to make this right, and it’s hard to know what the right thing to do is. It’s easy to do the right thing. It’s hard to know what the right thing to do is. I guess that gets to the last part of this story, and that is, I had some military counsel assigned to the team as well so that we had both … It was a military court-martial, of course. We wanted to make sure we had everybody on the team that was best at their position. That’s part of putting a good team together. Can’t win the World Series if everybody on the team is a pitcher. You need the good first-baseman, shortstops, catchers. You get it. Anyway.
So, the military gave me their number one trial lawyer that they had at the time. He’d just won again for I don’t know what year in a row. But at one point while working a case up, he got my client alone without me and he convinced the client he needed to take a deal because there’s no defense, there’s no way to win. As a result, if he goes to trial, he’s going to lose and lose big. Because at one point … Again, it was capital murder. They’re going to execute him. Then another point, they were willing to offer a deal where if they did this and the other, he would get life without the possibility of parole, which means the best sentence he could get was buried alive in that prison. He’d never see the outside of it. And this is a young kid. He was 23 at the time.
So, the client breaks down, cries, the whole bit. He’s willing to take a deal, and I have to find out about it through another channel. Like, what? That’s my client. So I went and interviewed him, and he said, “Look, I just … It was a moment of weakness.” This, that, and the other thing. “I felt really bad, and the guy just terrified me.” So, I talked to the lawyer about it, and he was adamant about it. I said, “Look, if that’s what you believe, you’ve got to advise your client. I’ve got no problem with that. What I do have a problem with, though, is with you trying to execute and see it through without telling me. You’re not the lead lawyer on this.”
So, anyway, he decided he didn’t want to be part of the team anymore, and he got out of the Marine Corps, actually, and went to work in the civilian practice. But again, everyone was saying there is no defense, there’s no way to win, and you’re going to have six rats testifying in this trial who were also there. This is insanity to try this. It’s malpractice, is what I was told by a lawyer, to try the case. So yeah, there was a lot of pressure on there and I’m terrified. I remember going to the ranch and doing a psychodrama about it because I was just like, how am I going to try this case?
I got Gerry Spence, the Gerry Spence, telling me, “You’re an idiot. Why would you even take this case? I’m telling you, it’s not safe for you to be on it. It’s not safe to go to Iraq. There’s no triable issue here. You’re going to … That kid’s going to get brutalized.” So, after doing the psychodrama and getting real with it and how I felt, I came back and saw the client. I told him, “Look, man, you need to take the deal. You’ve got no defense. You’ve got all these rats who are going to testify against you.” He’s the only one, by the way, who didn’t give a statement to NCIS during the investigation. So they didn’t have any statement to use against him.
But he goes, “Look, I’m right, and I’m good, and I’m accepting my fate with my decisions.” But he said, “Let me ask you this.” I go, “What?” He goes, “Without all the things that everybody else has said, and all the other things that are at risk, if you cleared away all the debris, answer this question.” And I go, “What?” He goes, “Do you think you can win it?” So, after I got through the same kind of tears I’m having now, because I’m reliving the moment … While I’m sitting there in his cell by ourselves, and the smell, the horrible smell in those jails, and the yellow crud that somehow accumulates on the walls and they can’t scrub off, and the feel of that metal, and the way it rattles your body when the jail cell slams shut and you can just feel it vibrate through the floor and up through your feet, just the sheer disdain, and the ugly facial expressions that even the guards give you there … It’s truly banishment, which is … psychologists will actually tell you it’s the worst form of punishment there is, is banishment.
After I was able to take a minute and calm my mind and get my breath, I said to him, “Yeah, I think I can.” I couldn’t tell him why. I couldn’t tell him how. I had done four focus groups at that point and had some pretty good feedback, but that’s not real. Not in this kind of situation. Because if I guess wrong, he’s down for the count. That’s it. But I said, “Yeah, I think I can.” So, the reason why I went to a graduation last night, because after we went to trial and won, which we were the only ones who did out of the eight, he got sent back to a grunt unit after I had another meeting with General Mattis, which we’ll … That’s another discussion.
Got an honorable discharge. Got him … Stayed very close with me. He was over to my house for every holiday, all the functions, go on vacations with my family, got him into college, which he’d failed miserably at before. He never graduated high school. He got a GED. But he had a terrible history with academics. Worked on that step by step. Got into a community college first, then he ended up going to UC, California, after that. He graduated the top of his class in his focus, or his major. Got a job, did well with that. Decided he wanted to go to law school because he had some connection with me and his past. Went to the same law school I did.
At his graduation this last May, I met his wife. Sorry, I met his fiancée, who he is now getting married to. And a week ago, I got a picture of his new baby who had just been born. So, I get emotional about this story because there has been plenty of times in my life where, since I ran away from home, I was on my own, there’s plenty of people who do not, or will not, or don’t want to believe in you. Well, that’s fine. But occasionally, somebody comes into your life who makes all the difference. And the reason why they do is because they care. I can’t even really tell you that they did something specific, or they gave me something. Mostly, it’s because they are willing to be present, and they care about you, and they’d let you know, and they would be there for support emotionally, and they encourage you on past the limitations of your own insecurities. I never thought I’d ever be able to pay them back.
One of those people was Gerry Spence for me, and he said, “You’re not ever going to be able to pay me back. But like,” and you’ve heard this before, Scott, “but like we believe with the Native American tradition, a gift isn’t complete until you pass it on.” He says, “The only way you pay me back is you pay somebody else back, or pay it forward, or pass it on.” And so, again, the tears now are … If I never do anything else for the rest of my life, I will remember that moment on my deathbed because I got to see someone I care a lot about get to feel what it is when your own child melts on your bare-skinned chest right after they’ve been born. Just the feeling of that connection you have with a child is one of the five forms of love available on this planet, and in my opinion, is the purest one.
It’s such an honor to feel that I had some small part in him getting to experience that, because he was so deserving of that because of the way he took care of all his fellow Marines when he was in the service. I had a long line of people who testified at his trial, many which were famous in the Marine Corps and in the military for being heroes and doing incredibly heroic things in combat. They had a lot of rank, and they had enormous medals. They were legends. And these guys are on the stand testifying for my client, many of which were in tears, which you never see in the Marine Corps, because they said they were willing to do it because of how many times he was always willing to take care of everybody else, then put himself last. That’s a-
And he put his life in your hands, and trusted you despite everybody else abandoning him, if you will.
You know, just hearing you say that, it just dawned on me. Maybe he changed my life more than I did his.
And maybe you were the father to him that you never had.
Yeah, that feels true to me. I’d never thought of that, either. We’re not going to get into daddy issues today, but yeah, that’s absolutely, 100% … no one’s ever said that to me before. I’ve told this story before, but yeah, that I think you were right on. That feels absolutely true to me.
I can sense a lot of healing through your love for him.
Yes. That healing didn’t happen right after the verdict, though. But you’re right.
Take that in.
Yeah, no, you’re right. There has been a lot of healing that has gone on since that moment in time, and it’s the kind you cannot do overnight. But I had no idea how to put those two together, so I agree with you. Again, that’s the first time I’ve heard that. And I’ve paid people to tell me intelligent things about how to heal, and they haven’t said that. So I think you’re right. That feels true, and I’m grateful for the experience, even though it was terrifying. Terrifying. So, that’s the answer to your question about one of the cases that comes to mind.
You know, the feeling of heroism, the concept of heroism … as you were telling your story I could hear the chimes from the university bells down the street, and the chimes of freedom and chimes of justice. That just felt right.
Thank you for joining us today for Trial Lawyer Talk. If you like the show, I’d really appreciate if you could give us a good review on iTunes, and I’d love to get your feedback. You can reach me at www.ScottGlovsky.com. That’s SCOTT, GLOVSKY, dot com. And I’d love to hear your feedback. You can also check out the book that I published called Fighting Health Insurance Denials, A Primer for Lawyers. That’s on Amazon. I put the book together based on 20 years of suing health insurance companies for denying medical care to people, and it provides a general outline of how to fight health insurance denials. Have a great week, and we’ll talk to you in the next episode.