Defense Attorneys Clean Up Clients Before Court
Conservative Outfits Often Come From Thrift Stores
Whether by prowling the aisles of thrift stores or by raiding their own closets, attorneys are outfitting clients who can't buy clothes for court.
"Legally, it's probably not our responsibility to do it; it's the client's responsibility to get clothes together for court," said Horrox, who was Monteverdi's standby counsel and sat with him at the trial. "When a client is in jail and is indigent and doesn't have relatives nearby, it becomes your responsibility."
Orange Is Definitely Out
The first rule of dressing for court:
Don't wear an orange jail jumpsuit and handcuffs. Attorneys say juries will assume your client is guilty before the trial starts.
So public defenders keep a stockpile of clothes for poor clients. The Hillsborough County public defender's office has a walk-in closet filled with donations from staff members.
"Sixty to 70 percent of the people in jail don't have anything, shall we say, acceptable to wear," said assistant state public defender John Skye. "Do you want a client to sit there and look like a jailbird or look like a next-door neighbor or a member of the community?"
Diane Berry, an assistant investigator at the federal public defender's office, has spent many hours at Goodwill looking for court clothes for clients. Berry usually buys khaki pants, white shirts, conservative ties and socks. She washes and irons the clothes before passing them out to defendants.
A Biker In Pinstripes
Harry "Taco" Bowman looked more like a conservative businessman than the boss of a violent motorcycle gang at his trial in April.
The Outlaws motorcycle gang leader wore a dark pinstriped suit that hid his tattoos. His hair, once long and curly, was neatly trimmed.
His attorneys presented Bowman as a family man living in suburban Detroit who shouldn't be held responsible for the actions of a few rogue Outlaws members. They brought in his mother, in a dress and pearls, as a witness.
Bowman was convicted and is serving a life sentence.
"You can't fool juries. You can't put a thug in a suit ... and think they won't notice," said Harvey Moore head of Trial Practices in Tampa. "That's the beauty of the American jury system... No Halloween costumes will make a difference.
It's still safer, he said, to wear mainstream clothes, especially if defendants don't plan to testify. Body piercings should be removed and blue hair dyed its natural shade.
Defendants often grow beards and mustaches while waiting in jail for trial to look too tough to pick on, Horrox said; they should be clean shaven for trial.
Makeover For Mom's Killer
Moore worked on the high profile murder trial of Valessa Robinson in May 2000. The Carrollwood teenager was accused of masterminding her mother's murder with the help of two friends.
Moore, part of the defense team, said they were criticized for dressing Robinson like a schoolgirl and trying to play on jury sympathy.
Robinson wore pale pink and white sweaters and simple skirts, white stockings and black shoes. Her hair was pulled back with barrettes.
"It's difficult to buy clothing for a 16-year-old that's also appropriate for court," he said. "It's not so much what they [defendants wear so much as the expectation of what they should look like that frames our reaction."
Robinson was convicted of third-degree murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors, who sought a first-degree murder conviction and a life sentence, were stunned by the decision.
But Monteverdi, who wore his attorney's blazer, didn't fare so well.
The jury took just 40 minutes to find him guilty of sending threatening letters about the release of anthrax. He faces up to 15 years in prison.
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