She was the most feared, most hated, most exasperating defense litigator anyone had ever run across. She was a one-woman wrecking crew, and believe me when I say that you did not want to get in her way.
Often described as the quintessential irresistible force paradox, she had us all playing mental gymnastics as to whether she was the immovable object or the unstoppable force.
She defended murderers, rapists, child molesters, drug dealers, and was renowned for once successfully getting an acquittal for a known serial killer.
On two occasions I was fortunate, or unfortunate enough depending on your view, to go head-to-head with her in a courtroom.
I was an up-and-coming prosecutor for the District Attorneys’ Office and I was determined to make my mark. I was confident but I was not a know-it-all. I was definitely not a pushover, and my lack of experience did not reflect my work ethic. I suffered no fools, but I have to say that only one litigator ever scared the living hell out of me. That person was Parker Carolina Patterson, also known as “PCP” and I’d bet my last dollar that she was five thousand times more deadly.
One common street name for PCP is “Angel dust” but it certainly didn’t apply to her. She was more often than not described as a less commonly used term, “Embalming Fluid.” She would gut you, laugh while you were bleeding, and have you at the morgue before you even knew you were dead.
It was a given that any attorney was going to be crucified as soon as a trial began and if possible, the seasoned attorneys who had been emasculated and virtually gelded by her, passed their cases onto unknowing, wet behind the ears associates, like me.
That process was called “the Baptism of fire.” It was sort of like throwing Daniel into the lions’ den, only they knew the lion was going to eat Daniel alive. She chewed up novice attorneys like a wood chipper and spit them out into piles of mulch, wearing off-the-rack neckties. She did it to me…twice.
I used to say “she won,” rather than “I lost.” I thought it sounded better. “She won vs. we lost.” To me, phrasing it that way somehow lessened the sting of defeat. It may be a pride thing or a man thing or a Freudian thing. I don’t know but speaking of Freud, in her case “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” was accurate. Sometimes a raging bitch is just a raging bitch.
I would describe her as a cross between Angie Harmon and Charles Manson. She had the stunning beauty of Angie, but something about her eyes made you think you were staring straight into the face of Satan. Her porcelain skin appeared to have never seen a ray of sunshine and was absolutely flawless. Her fire-engine red pouty lips, when parted, revealed either a perfect Hollywood smile, or a string of insults that would make God blush.
I remember the first time I was snared into the web of Parker Patterson like it was yesterday. I had what we call a “slam-dunk case,” and I was armed with indisputable evidence. There was motive, opportunity and the ultimate coup de grace…a confession. Although Parker had successfully convinced the judge that the confession had been coerced and was therefore inadmissible, I wasn’t worried. I was also not worried that there had been any collusion or underhandedness about the judges’ decision.
Parker Patterson was not only hated by other litigators, she was hated by judges. She talked to them like they had shit for brains, and to her, being slapped with a contempt of court fine was like being handed a parking ticket.
My first case was prosecuting a man named Bernard Copley. In a fit of rage, he stabbed his wife Maureen, two hundred and sixty-five times. I had seen many crime scene photos, but I will never forget those. They were, even today, some of the worst I had ever seen, and the first time I looked at them I thought I might wretch.
Parker submitted the “crime of passion” defense and successfully convinced the jury that “each and every one of us is capable of anything, under the right circumstances. “It has nothing to do with love or hate,” she said. “It has to do with passion, and in the throes of passion, people seldom have the presence of mind to measure their words or their actions.”
Bernard Copley was sentenced to time served, which amounted to 38 days in jail. That wasn’t the only coup she pulled off. She requested, and was granted protection for her client due to the violent outbursts and threats from family members when the verdict was read.
This was common practice for her. She definitely had a way of proving that revenge was not always a straight line, and had no qualms about looking the judge straight in the eyes and saying, “I demand protection for my client. They should be afforded safe harbor.”
It always requested, and reluctantly and quite often with malice, it was always granted for reasons no one could ever really understand, unless it was like several judges said…”I’ll agree to anything to get you out of my face and out of my courtroom.”
Apparently, she had connections, and told the presiding judges that she could make someone “anonymous” faster than any federal agency, and always petitioned the courts to allow the now free defendants to be put into her custody. She also reminded the judges that her first concern was the safety of her clients, and any delays would put said clients at risk.
Judge Dunbar asked Parker to approach the bench. He told her that he would reluctantly grant her request, followed by the statement, “I don’t know how you sleep at night, after so skillfully and successfully manipulating the law to release a known murderer.” A vainglorious Parker said, “it was not I who released, as you put it, a known murderer. It was a jury of his peers.”
After our case was over, Judge Dunbar, who had repeatedly been compared to the infamous Judge Roy Bean, looked at her and said, “if true justice was served today, madam, you and you client would be hanging from the nearest tree.” Her response was, “all things being equal your Honor, if true justice was served, you would be undergoing an autopsy.”
Balls? Yep. She had them.
Judge Dunbar sarcastically thanked the jury and dismissed them. That is typically when attorneys shake hands and obligatory congratulations, or “we’ll see you at the appeal” are exchanged.
I admit that I was not feeling very cordial and like a spoiled brat, I offered no congratulations. After Parker put her paperwork into her Coco Chanel briefcase, she handed me the latest edition of “Understanding The Law For Dummies.” I stood there like a wounded puppy, and said nothing.
As we were walking out, Maureen Copley’s mother grabbed Parker’s arm and asked, “do you think God will forgive you for what you do?” Parker hesitated for a moment and without blinking an eye, turned toward her, smiled and casually said, “God doesn’t live in this courtroom.”
To be continued______________________