Lawyers I’ve Known
No. 7: The Very Reverend Roy Burrell, Esq.By Dave Grossi | Jul 27, 2015
Someone once said that the courtroom is a stage and all the players have a part. And if attorneys are the actors, then the jury must be the audience, and the judge the director.
With that said, trials can be either tragedy or comedy. Certainly cases where a death has occurred must fall into the tragedy category. But those where no real injury has resulted, except for maybe a bruised ego, sometimes fall into the comedy column. Such a case occurred down here in Paradise a while back.
Act 1: “Burrell v. Maxwell”
The Stage: Federal civil rights trial for improper handcuffing. U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida.
The Script: 45-pg. complaint of pain, with a Jury Demand for HUGE damages.
It is fairly common knowledge that during my Calibre Press days I did an evaluation for one of the defense attorneys involved in the Rodney King Incident in March, 1991. My research had to do with the quality of the PR-24 baton training the LAPD provided their officers. I never authored a report or testified at either the State trial a year later or the Federal trial in February 1993. However, that didn’t make any difference to a noted, high-profile civil rights attorney we’ll call the Reverend Roy Burrell.
Fast forward a dozen or so years to the aforementioned civil trial. The plaintiff reportedly refused a very generous sum of money by the agency’s insurance company to settle the issue of excessive force against the officer and his agency.
Scene No. 1: Courtroom
Cross examination of yours truly by the Very Reverend Roy Burrell, Esq. who had been imported by the plaintiff from San Francisco specifically for the premiere of Martha Broadhurst v. Officer Charles Maxwell, et al. My CV has already been presented during direct, and no objection has been made by either the local counsel or the Rev. Burrell when I was offered as an expert in use of force, specifically handcuffing techniques.
Rev. Burrell: (Authoritatively.) Isn’t it a fact, Mr. Grossi that you testified during the trial of those four LAPD officers who beat Mr. Rodney King a few years back?
Mr. Grossi: No, sir. I was retained as a consultant only. I did not testify at any of the trials.
Rev. Burrell: (Louder, condescendingly. Wave arms wildly.) And isn’t it also a fact that you opined that it was perfectly acceptable for them to repeatedly beat on Mr. King with their nightsticks?
Mr. Grossi: No, sir.
Rev. Burrell: (Louder still, walking away from the podium toward the witness stand while stomping on the floor.) And that you said it was okay for them to stomp on and kick Mr. King?
The Judge: (Firm but professional.) Mr. Burrell, please refrain from approaching the witness.
Rev. Burrell: Sorry, your Honor.
Mr. Grossi: No, sir. As I said, I never testified at any of the trials in that case nor did I author a report.
Rev. Burrell: (Yelling while jumping up and down and slamming both feet on the floor loudly.) And finally Mr. Grossi isn’t it true that the jury disagreed with you when you said it was okay to stomp on Mr. King, and actually found those officers guilty?!
The Judge: (No-nonsense tone). Mr. Burrell, approach the bench. (Alter tone to quiet but stern.) I will not have any of those theatrics in my courtroom. Do you understand? Now, do you have any more questions for this witness?
Rev. Burrell: (Head down and spoken in a quiet, polite voice). No. No more questions, your Honor.
As he walked back to the plaintiff’s table, the Very Reverend Roy Burrell, Esq. had that glazed look in his eyes like a man who’d just been whacked in the forehead with a 2 x 4. He quickly learned that the federal courts in Florida operate a little differently than those out in California.
Scene No. 2, Courtroom: Defense verdict after two hours. During which time the jurors chose their foreperson, ordered and ate their lunch.
Closing Scene, Airport: The Very Reverend Roy Burrell, Esq. is seen leaving Southwest Florida, hat in hand and all expenses (fees, lodging, meals, rental car, and first-class air travel) paid out of pocket.
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