Thursday, September 7, 2023

Donald Trump's lawyers seem unable to defend their client, so a criminal-defense expert is offering free advice, with help from a law-review article for the ages

Donald Trump, with lawyers

Part One

Donald Trump's defense lawyers are performing so poorly that they appear to need help. Longtime Alabama attorney and criminal-defense expert Donald Watkins intends to provide it by offering free advice in a series of posts that began last night, with the initial article updated this morning. From his Web site, the legal veteran -- with almost 50 years of experience -- writes:

For months now, I have watched Donald Trump's defense attorneys stumbling through his four criminal cases. The criminal-defense teams hired in Donald Trump’s four criminal cases appear to be so inept that I feel the need to point them in the right direction.

Otherwise, the proceedings in Trump’s criminal cases will turn into a total and complete embarrassment for the nation’s criminal-defense bar.

Upon what is Watkins' advice based? It's a combination of personal experience and insights from a sharp-eyed -- and bright -- former legal student who now is a state prosecutor. Watkins explains:

On October 1, 2006, a smart Texas A&M University, Texas Wesleyan Law Review student named Walter "Trey" Stock wrote an article titled, “United States v. Scrushy and Its Impact on Criminal Prosecutions Under the Certification Requirements of Sarbanes-Oxley.” The article is published in 13 Tex. Wesleyan L. Rev. 239 (2006). Mr. Stock's article was republished by the Texas A&M Law Scholarship in 2022.

Mr. Stock carefully analyzed my criminal-defense team's work in Richard Scrushy’s $2.7-billion fraud case. We defeated federal prosecutors on all 85 felony charges lodged against Scrushy in the original indictment. This feat stands as a record in American jurisprudence for a single-defendant case.

Stock’s analysis was perceptive and brilliant, especially for a law student. He figured out how and why we won Scrushy’s case. The techniques Stock discussed in his article have apparently eluded Trump’s $40-million criminal-defense lawyers.

When the not-guilty verdicts were issued in the case of Richard Scrushy, founder and former CEO of Birmingham-based HealthSouth Corporation (now called Encompass Health). The press generally framed the outcome as a miracle, as if the jury's determinations fell out of the sky. In fact, the outcome was a result of strategy, execution, and lots of hard work.Watkins' provides examples of press coverage at the time:

The Washington Post analyzed the “Not Guilty” verdicts in Scrushy's case and called them a “miracle.”

“God works in mysterious ways, but his or her decision to acquit Richard Scrushy …. on all charges of financial fraud is especially inscrutable. Five consecutive HealthSouth chief financial officers admitted to cooking the books and copped pleas. They all fingered Scrushy. But jurors chose to believe that the man on top knew nothing about what was going on directly below him.... Only one word can describe Scrushy's acquittal. It is a miracle.

[Michael Kinsley, Editorial, “The Lord and Richard Scrushy,” Washington Post, July 3, 2005, at B-07]

Calling the “Not Guilty” verdicts a “stunner,” the New York Times had a similar take:

“If ever a chief executive seemed destined for prison, it was Richard M. Scrushy. Mr. Scrushy has always maintained his innocence. But at his trial, no one disputed that there was a staggering $2.7-billion accounting fraud at HealthSouth, the company he helped found in 1984. Federal prosecutors lined up many former executives, including five former chief financial officers, to testify that Mr. Scrushy orchestrated the wrongdoing. In court, they played a secret tape-recording that seemed to incriminate him. Jurors, who heard from dozens of witnesses but never the man himself, agreed with Mr. Scrushy -- to the surprise of many lawyers watching the case. "It's a stunner, given how strong the government's case seemed to be.”

[“A Style That Connected With Hometown Jurors,” New York Times, June 29, 2005, at C-1.]

What form will Watkins' advice take? Well, that is to be determined, and we invite you to stay tuned, here at Legal Schnauzer and at We have no doubt that Watkins' insights on the legal peril facing Donald Trump -- and a possible path for fighting the charges -- will be well-grounded. Few people on the planet understand complex  criminal cases the way Donald Watkins understands them. For now, we  close with these words from Watkins:

Donald Trump’s criminal defense lawyers need to quit pretending like that they know what they are doing and start reading the following passages from Walter T. Stock’s Law Review article:

III(A), Scrushy’s Pretrial Strategy, at pages 249-250, and

III(C), The Trial-Why Did Scrushy Win?, at pages 252-259.

Mr. Stock does not identify all of the techniques Trump’s attorneys need to win his criminal cases, but he provides enough information to keep Trump's four trials from turning into blowouts for the prosecution.

I do not know Mr. Walter T. Stock, but I can tell from his article that he is a very smart attorney. He is now a state prosecutor in Dallas Texas.

Amazingly, no other attorney since the "Not Guilty" verdicts were rendered in Richard Scrushy’s case have picked up on the defense technique Stock discusses in Section III(C)(3)(b) of his article, at page 258.

We will see if Donald Trump’s criminal lawyers are capable of comprehending and processing the information in Stock’s article.

 (To be continued)

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