Jim Parkman's come a long way since his days of announcing real estate sales on the courthouse steps for 10 bucks. He's soon headed to the West Coast, as part of his work with the Cochran Firm, to defend Bo Stefan Eriksson, who allegedly smashed a red Ferrari Enzo into a utility pole going somewhere between 100-200 mph and is charged with grand theft auto and embezzlement, among other charges.
A judge has now ordered what's left of the car be shipped back to Great Britain along with a black Enzo and Mercedes-Benz SLR. All three vehicles are to be released to British banks.
Update: Parkman was very bothered by this, saying that his client: "had several hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equity in those automobiles, now my client is left wondering about the wealth invested in those automobiles."
With the national spotlight soon to be on Mr. Parkman again, I thought it would be a good time for folks to learn more about the lawyer who, high tech guy he is, outlined his arguments in the HealthSouth case on the back of church offering envelopes during a Sunday service. Some folks you talk to firmly believe he'll continue his success out in Los Angeles, others are waiting for him to fall flat on his face. Parkman knows what he's capable of doing and takes it all in stride. I sat down with him in his Birmingham office to learn a little more about how he got to where he is now.
In the BeginningEarly Life
Contrary to popular belief Jim Parkman was not born in Dothan, Alabama. He was actually born in Mobile and adopted by a family that provided him with the life lessons that would eventually take hold and even make a few good stories for the courtroom.
Parkman says his parents and grandparents were "true southern gentlemen and true southern ladies." He says the major thing he learned from them is "if you start something, you finish it - no matter what it is...It's easy today to start something, no matter what it is, start something and then go, 'Aw, I don't like this.' But I've learned you've got to finish it if you start it, no matter what that may be, whether it's something as simple as a game, whether it's something that you don't like doing - cooking or whatever, or law. It doesn't matter."
He says his grandparents taught him another important lesson early on.
"They passed this early on to me and I'll never forget it - 'It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice.' And so, I've always carried that with me wherever I go. I think that has influenced me a lot too along with the idea don't quit."
Like most kids, Parkman had his share of violations of the family rules.
"I don't think I was a bad kid. I think the major problems I had as a child was lying about where I'd been and getting caught most of the time with the lies." He admits he had to go get a few twigs off the tree. "The story was true, if you didn't bring back the right twig, it got worse. So yes, that was an important thing to learn."
"But I think lying to 'em. They'd say, 'Where have you been?' and I'd say, 'the library,' and I was over at some girl's house, you know. And they knew better, because they'd been to the library."
Parkman admits his tag as a "ladies man" came "pretty early. I've always kind of liked the ladies and certainly enjoyed the dating scene during college and high school. It was a lot of fun."
So who did this future hot shot attorney admire as a kid. Parkman says as far as heroes go, he had two. "My dad was one. He was absolutely a hero to me. He was the greatest man I ever met. The greatest man I've never met was Perry Mason. I loved watching him and that's when I kind of got into the law stuff. I really wanted to be a lawyer even back as early as 8,9,10 years old. And, I would watch Perry Mason and I just thought that was unbelievable how he did it and everything. So, those two right off the bat."
Can White Men Jump?Can White Men Jump? The Army, College and Super Bunny
Jim Parkman's route to law school and future success was far from traditional.
Parkman went to Dothan High School and then proceeded on to junior college.
"I went to junior college at Marion Military Institute and stayed there a year, played basketball - college basketball, junior college basketball. And all those things they say are true, 'white men can't jump' - that was true, I can't. But I enjoyed playing. I wasn't the best player on the team, but I started it. I finished it and wasn't bad, but just wasn't talented in some areas that other people are, but still enjoyed it. Coach was a great guy and I never saw him again after that. I wish I had. I wish I could. But he was instrumental in things that happened to me."
After that year at junior college, he went on to the University of Alabama, for what turned out to be a short stay.
"I went into the Army involuntarily. I had trouble finding my way to class. I'd leave bread crumbs and the next morning they weren't there, so I missed a few and that caused me to visit with Uncle Sam and that did me a world of good."
So just what did the army have its involuntary recruit doing?
"The army in its infinite wisdom decided to put me into what was called cartographic draftsman. I drew maps, those little fine, little detailed lines all over that and I don't know where they got that from because Class A type personality that I am, I couldn't sit at a table long enough with the light shining on the back to draw those little squiggly lines. It about killed me, but that's what they, their intelligence tests, decided I was going to be."
Following his stint in the map department, Parkman came back to Alabama and went in the National Guard, "made some money and went back to school and graduated from there and then came back to the Super Bunny episode - that's what a college degree will do for you."
I never dreamed a couple of months ago that when I called Jim Parkman the legal equivalent of the Energizer Bunny that there was a real bunny story to be told. I told Parkman he'll never live this story down.
Parkman's job out of college was with a Dothan bank.
"I worked in the marketing department. They wouldn't let me near money. So, I couldn't do loans or anything because they were afraid to let me around the money. So, what I did was. I handled all the marketing, all the advertising - which I loved. It was fabulous. And as a matter of fact, I came up with an idea at Easter time to do this thing called the Great Easter Egg Hunt for all of Dothan. We were going to have a guy by the name of Super Bunny appear at the Easter Egg Hunt, and of course, I was Super Bunny and what we didn't understand at the time was how big it was going to be."
As Super Bunny, complete with cape, Parkman traveled to the schools for the bank to promote the Great Easter Egg Hunt. The day of the big event came, the Saturday before Easter Sunday, and Parkman says "we had over 10,000 people show up...and I was the Easter Egg Super Bunny, had a cape."
The gregarious Parkman believes a lot of people have forgotten about it, but he hasn't. "It really was a historical event that day 'cause we only had like 5,000 eggs. We never dreamed that 10,000 people would show up. So we were short on eggs, so then we had this big brawl out there with kids fighting for eggs that we didn't anticipate. So it turned out to be quite an event that Saturday."
Super Bunny says that event around 1974, 1975 "was probably my greatest banking, financial achievement in my life."
.Law School May Have Never HappenedLaw School and Back to Dothan
Parkman's goofing off in college prevented him from going to law school immediately following graduation from the University of Alabama in 1974. But he finally buckled down and set out to find a way to get into law school.
"I went to Atlanta to a night law school under the condition that if I made good grades they would reconsider my application at the end of the year and I was dead set at the time on finishing law school somewhere, and I really wanted to go to Cumberland, I really did. I loved the school and I loved what it offered, so I went to Atlanta and made A's and studied hard and came back and they admitted me, thank goodness."
The lawyer best known for his success in the HealthSouth trial in Birmingham says if today's law school admission's procedures were in place, he probably would have never gotten the chance to practice law. He hopes his old law school continues to look at more than GPAs and test scores, so that others have the same opportunity he did.
"I told Dean Carroll here at Cumberland not long ago, I said, 'You know it's a shame that law school's today are only looking at grade point average and LSAT scores and not considering the person, because if they had I'd have never gone to law school, ever. I think we're losing a lot of good lawyers probably along the way, because of looking only at grades and not looking at other things, that maybe ought to go (to law school)."
"But I think Cumberland does a better job than some other schools at trying to look at the person and identify the individual. So, I give my kudos to Cumberland. (They) try to get that kind of person that is going to make an impact in society and try to be something that is just above and beyond the rest of the group out there and so I give them credit for that and I hope they continue to look at that and maybe take a look at the individual instead of just a GPA."
Lessons from Law School
So just what did Jim Parkman learn at Cumberland?
"I don't think there's one thing. I think it teaches you discipline for one thing. You know, you learn a little bit about the law and then the old joke is once you leave law school you're supposed to forget everything you've learned and then learn how to repractice law and there's a lot of truth to that, but it does teach you how to find what your after and to try to identify the different issues involved in the case, so I think law school does that."
As mentioned earlier, Parkman believes Cumberland does a great job of "developing the person. It's like taking a raw piece of clay and trying to develop it into a doctor, or to a lawyer, or to something, or newscaster - you don't just walk in off the street and go do it and you have to have something to mold you in that way and get you in that mode of thinking and Cumberland did that for me. It was a good school."
There are probably a few prosecutors out there that wish Jim Parkman had gotten to realize his law school dream. Parkman says he knew he wanted to do trial work and "I really wanted to go into medical malpractice. It was my dream in law school. I can't tell you why. It just was fascinating to me at the time and so when I got out I knew I wanted to go in the courtroom. I knew that, but I didn't. I had my mind set on civil litigation and then it didn't work out that way."
Back to Dothan
Parkman is proud of the fact that he got his act together in law school. "Law school is a different entity than high school or college, so I did real well, whereas in college and high school I just played around a lot. But I really applied myself and I graduated Cum Laude out of law school so I was real proud of that."
After graduation from Cumberland in 1979, Parkman says because of his law school record he had some good interviews with some good firms and offers from Birmingham and Chattanooga. He says he was pleased with the offers but someone asked him a question.
'Jim, what would you rather be? A big fish in a little pond or a little fish in a big pond.' Well, it made sense at that time, because I never dreamed that I could be a big fish in a big pond, so I took the big fish in the little pond role and I went back to Dothan."
Taking What He Could Get
Upon his return to Dothan, the new attorney did a little bit of everything in the beginning. "My first case was 30 days after I got admitted to the bar on October 1st. It was a murder case and that was my very first trial and so from there it went mainly, I was doing more criminal work than anything else - a little civil work, a little divorce stuff. "
The Dothan lawyer was married at the time, "plaintiff number one," says the man whose record in the marriage department is well known.
"You know, if it paid, I'd go, no matter what it was. You know because you're trying to make a living for your family at that point. So if they wanted me to go stand on the courthouse steps and announce sales of real estate, I'd go do it as long as it gave me 10 bucks, so I'd be happy at it. So I did a little bit of everything."
Parkman says like most lawyers he has some great stories. "Things happen to me that just don't happen to anybody else." But the man who is seldom at a loss for words says he "can't remember half of what I've ever dealt with, really. So it's not, it's just my brain is so overloaded with things I just can't remember, you know, and when I did 'em - that's my major problem."
I asked him if he suffered from old timer's disease and he responded, "I must have something because people ask me, 'Well, don't you remember doing my case back in '94?' and I go, 'I don't even remember '94, how was it? Was it good?'"
The natural story teller finally says, "I had good cases, you know just different kind of things, just unusual little events take place." With a little more prodding, I get him to tell me one of his stories.
The Witness Eats the EvidenceStories, The Witness Who Ate the Evidence, and Puddles in the Courtroom
"I was cross examining a guy one day and he ate my evidence. It was a criminal case and the long story short was he had written a note to my client that was an exculpatory note, it really helped my client tremendously with what it said. And this guy was the victim in the crime and he got on the stand and so I had this little piece of paper that was about half of a sheet of notebook paper and he had handwritten on there and it had evidence on there that helped us and I went up and showed it to him, and he recognized it and said, 'Yeah that's my handwriting.'"
"The prosecutor objected and the judge said, 'Let's go outside and take this up outside,' and he told the jurors to stay where they are, told the witness to stay where he is and we went outside and we talked about the note and I told them what it said and everything. The judge said, 'It's coming in.'"
"So, we came back in the courtroom and I went back up to the witness to get the note and I couldn't find it. And I couldn't remember if I took it outside or if I left it with him; it's just one of those, you know, blanks that you have and I'm kinda looking and about that time a lady on the front row goes, 'He ate it.' And I went, 'What?' I mean you're not even supposed to talk to the jury, but it was just out. I said, 'What?' And she said, 'He ate it. I saw him eat it. He put it in his mouth and chewed it up.' And the one next to her goes, 'Yeah, I saw him swallow it. It went down his throat.' And then the deputy's standing over in the courtroom, he's going, 'Judge, I'll take him outside to the bathroom. I'll get it out of him. We can get that note back.'"
"And so he (the witness) is sitting there smiling. There's chaos, all the jurors are going, 'I saw him too judge. He ate it. He put the paper in his mouth and chewed.' So it was just total bedlam. So finally the judge stopped everything and then granted a mistrial...and then they dismissed the charges later on that case."
"Had a lady one time. I was cross examining and the bailiff stopped the courtroom and said, 'Judge we need to take a recess.' And he (the judge) said, 'Why?' And the bailiff said, 'Because Mr. Parkman made her pee in her pants and there's a puddle of pee in the chair and we need to get it cleaned up.' This stuff happens all the time to me," says the affable lawyer with a smile.
The man now known for defending alleged drug dealers, got inventive in one of his more well known early cases. In March 1983 a private plane made an emergency landing at the Dothan Airport.
Jim Parkman tells the story:Cocaine Plane, Getting Tagged,
"They caught him. He was there at the plane. He should have run, but he didn't. Bad weather forced him to come into the Dothan Airport. He was supposed to land over in Georgia and he was supposed to throw these duffle bags that had these little sticks that you break and they glow in the dark, glow sticks. Throw them out of the airplane and somebody's going to pick 'em up, I don't know who it was but bad weather forced him to land and he ran out of fuel going to Dothan and he landed the wrong way and he ran off the end of the runway. They called that a crash, so all the police, fire teams all that came out and they look inside the aircraft and there's a homemade fuel tank welded together inside and all these bags, duffle bags.
So the police get a search warrant on the basis they smell marijuana and then we find out it was pure cocaine inside. There was 700, at the time it came out in Time magazine, there was like 761 pounds of pure cocaine in the bags they found inside.
And so, we went from there on a motion to suppress on the idea that you couldn't smell marijuana or you certainly couldn't smell the cocaine because they had a homemade fuel tank that was leaking and it had airplane fuel all inside. I get a witness from Auburn University, a professor, that came in and talked about that you couldn't smell. I don't care if you'd been smoking joint, after joint, after joint. The fumes from the aviation fuel would have overridden whatever and I almost pulled it off.
But the judge, I kinda, you know he was a great judge, a federal judge. We ended up with a plea, worked it out kinda even though he denied my motion to suppress, we kinda worked it out. He (the client) got a pretty good deal in the long run, considering what they get now, about 10 or 15 percent of what they do to you now. It was a pretty good deal for him.
I think it helped him with the motion to suppress and the way it went. I'd like to have won it. We appealed that and they ruled, the 11th Circuit ruled, I had to prove that the cops intentionally lied about it, which is almost an impossibility. But I thought I had done that with the evidence but they didn't see it that way. But we ended up with a pretty good deal."
Getting Tagged and Clients
After the cocaine plane case Parkman says, "I got tagged, yeah, criminal cases. It was a tag and you know I wasn't headed that way and then from there on out you know you kind of get known as a criminal lawyer and so then all of a sudden you start getting criminal cases and that's what did it. And so, from then on, I practiced, I did mainly, I would say 80-85 percent criminal cases.
As to his clients who range from alleged drug kingpins to an alleged child molester and every other type of alleged criminal most people perceive as far from being model, upstanding citizens, Parkman responds,"To some people they may not be upstanding people. But you know, I always try to look for the good in everybody and you know we generally had pretty good outcomes with most of my cases luckily.. And, so most of the people I represented were pretty nice people. They were good people all-in-all. And there's not many I represented that I didn't really kind of enjoy being around and liking. Most of them I really did like as people, didn't like what they did or allegedly did, but certainly liked them."
The Big Show, Walking Away at FirstMoving to the Big Show, Richard Scrushy,
A lot of people thought Richard Scrushy had gone nuts when he got rid of his New York and Washington lawyers and brought in the small town guy from Dothan. But Scrushy didn't get his man the first time round.
"I met Richard Scrushy about four weeks after the search on March 17, 2003. I got a call from him. He wanted me to meet him at Orange Beach. He was down there and wanted to talk to me about representing him. He had heard something about me as a lawyer and so I went to Orange Beach, met with him for the day and that was my first meeting with him."
"We saw eye-to-eye on everything. He and I sitting down together very much saw eye-to-eye. I really liked him. I hear a lot of people, today, will come up to me and go 'oh, he's this, he's that.' Well, you know he may have been that to them but to me he was very pleasant to talk to He was very nice. And a good sense of humor, a great, dry sense of humor and I like that in him and yes, he is a go getter and he'll drive you hard, but I found him to be just a great guy, really and truly."
"So from there, I came to Birmingham the next week to meet with him and some Washington lawyers and I got up here and they started telling me what they were going to do and I just didn't agree with it. It was just terrible advice, terrible."
"But he(Richard Scrushy) liked the idea of Washington and New York and all those kind of guys like guys from Dothan are idiots you know. But I didn't like what they were saying and by the way it turned out, I'm not bragging, but it turned out what I told them turned out to be the truth. They didn't believe me, but it did turn out to be the truth and so I walked away from him at that time. I told him I didn't want any part of it 'cause I didn't think it was the right way to go and I thought it would be more damaging to me to go forward with it. So I turned around and walked away from him, told him I appreciated it, told him it wasn't him, just the other lawyers, didn't want to get involved and walked away."
Coming Back to Scrushy
The problems with the Scrushy defense team didn't go away and once again, more than a year later, Parkman received another call about the case.
"The end of August of 2004, I got a call from Donald Watkins with Richard on the phone also. Watkins says, 'I heard about you, I understand you talked to Richard a long time ago.' I said, 'That's right' And he said, 'Are you interested in coming back?' and I said, 'That depends.' and he said, 'What does it depend on?' and I said, 'Conditions.'
Parkman says the next day a plane arrived to fly him up to Birmingham to meet with Watkins and Scrushy. Parkman says he met mostly with Watkins that day. "He and I sat down and just had a great talk and it was just absolutely love at first sight. Fell in love with him. His theory of trying the case, his theory of where to go and what to down was identical to mine. I could not believe it. It was like a mirror. It was just unbelievable."
The lawyer that would eventually play a major role in the acquittal of Richard Scrushy in the multi-billion dollar HealthSouth fraud case says he outlined his conditions.
"Number one. I run the show. I tell everybody what to do, who to do, how to do it, my theory. Number two, Donald, you stay on the case; you gotta sit in the courtroom with me. So I left and they called me the next day and said, You got your conditions.' I said, 'Okay.' So within a matter of days we moved to Birmingham.
Winning and Losing
The rest is history as Richard Scrushy walked out of the federal courthouse in Birmingham with a not guilty verdict. The outcome surprised a lot of people, but Parkman says he knew what he could do.
"Maybe it was me, but to me I wasn't still little Jim Parkman at that time. You know when I came to the Richard Scrushy case, I knew what my capabilities were and if I didn't think I could play ball, I wouldn't have done it. I mean that would have been a disaster. So I mean, I had put in my time. I'd put in 27 years of doing this and cross examining people, you know, all kinds. And if you learn right, you can do it right. And so I knew what I could do...As to I think the press, yeah, it was still, 'Who is this guy?' But inside me I knew who I was and I knew what I was capable of doing and I knew what it was going to be like in the courtroom. It wasn't a shock to me and I think to a lot of people it was, but not to me, nah, it wasn't a shock."
Parkman says he doesn't go into a case looking to make "anybody eat any crow."
Showing the World What Small Town Lawyers Can DoHe says the HealthSouth case wasn't about him. He says it may sound a little corny but to him it was "about showing the rest of the world what lawyers from small towns are capable of doing. And the idea that you come from Dothan, Alabama or from a Timbuktu, Texas or wherever, you know, there are great lawyers out there and all they need is that chance, that opportunity to get to the big show and so what it was for me was not about me winning or losing. I'm going to get up the next morning and put my britches on and go back to another trial."
"But I wanted to be able to show that there are great lawyers everywhere in small towns. I wanted Dothan to be proud of me, the Wiregrass to be proud of me, Alabama to be proud of what we accomplished because they (the government) brought in the best they could against us. And I wanted to show them that we could do it not just in Birmingham, Alabama, not just in Dothan, but anywhere in the world. And so that drove me more than anything else. I never really looked at it abut me winning and losing, that never came about, even today."
Why Not Montgomery?Why Not Montgomery? The Corruption Verdict, the Prosecution, the Race Card
One of the big questions around the federal courthouse in Montgomery at the beginning of the government corruption trial was "Where is Jim Parkman?" After all, he had made an appearance with Art Leach in front of the federal courthouse the end of October 2005. So, what happened? Parkman told me he made that Montgomery appearance per a special request from Scrushy. According to Parkman, taking on the Montgomery case wasn't something he wanted to do following directly on the heels of the HealthSouth case.
"When I finished Richard's case, we had a discussion about the case coming up. I knew that if I took it, I would have to move back up here in an apartment again..."
"People don't realize what sacrifices that my group made. I left a 3-year-old at home with a wife and moved to an apartment. My partner left a baby born in January in the middle of the trial and a young son and his father passing away during all this, and leaving his mother at home; and my other guy who worked with us on this case left his son and family and moved into an apartment and none of us had lived with a bunch of guys in years."
"You know, this was like an all-time unbelievable experience. So at this point in time I really didn't want to get back up here into another apartment situation. And I knew that was what it was going to take because he, Richard, is demanding like that, and I don't blame him, it's your life on the line. And you know you've got to be here; you just can't go back to Dothan and live.
"And plus, I wanted to get home. I was ready at that time. You know I wanted to get back to Dothan. I wanted to get back to my family and then I had some other things I wanted to do. And it worked out that way, it has. We now travel around the country, so that would have been put on hold for this. I didn't really see a lot of benefit in doing this case at the time either, other than more headaches about moving up here and staying up here without a family. And so, all-in-all, I made the decision base on that, economics, and just decided to move on at that point."
The Montgomery Verdict
What did Jim Parkman think of the guilty verdict handed down by the jury in Montgomery to former Governor Don Siegelman on seven counts and Richard Scrushy on six counts?
"I was shocked, still am. You know I tried to keep up with it. People don't understand this but until you sit in a courtroom every day, you don't really know what's going to happen in a case. It's impossible to, because you're hearing only bits and pieces of the evidence and you're hearing what somebody else thinks is important. Remember, there are 12 people over there. Somebody else may have something more important than what a newscaster thought. On the other hand, you don't ever feel the vibes that are going on in a courtroom, and whether you are winning. You can tell. I mean it's just obvious. You can feel it in you, if you've had a good day or not. So, with that in mind, You know I went with what I read and I'd seen and what I'd heard and yeah, I was surprised."
"I was surprised from the beginning. I couldn't ever figure out how we were ever going to get there unless Siegelman took some of that money and bought a lake house, or a condo, or some big home or some big Cadillac or something with the money. I couldn't figure out how they (the government) was going to get there."
"Obviously, the prosecution did a good job and I applaud them. Any time that a prosecutor wins a case that I don't think they should win, I applaud them, because they've done a good job, and they obviously did. They communicated their message very well, obviously, to the jury. I just don't know enough about it to determine whether or not it could have been done differently for the defense or not. I don't even know what theory they used, what they went under. I have some of my ideas that I would have done different probably from things I've heard, that I think are damaging."
The Race Card
During both opening statements and closing arguments attorney Fred Gray, who had been added to the Scrushy defense team after jury selection, made reference to his past associations with Martin Luther King and tried, particularly in closing arguments, to tie Scrushy and King together. Parkman had some definite views on the propriety of the comments and their repercussions.
"When that happened, I knew right off the bat that was going to be very damaging to the defense. You know, I've learned in the practice of law that the race card - and that's any time you try to use race as a means of trying to exculpate your client or to get that verdict that you want for your client,no matter how you use it. But the race card is not something to be toyed with or tinkered with. It's a very serious item in our society today. It better involve a racial issue and it better be a good one if you're going to play that card, because if it's not, generally it's going to backfire on you. And I'm not talking about just with white jurors. I'm talking about with black jurors, because they don't want you playing that card either, in my opinion."
"So, for him to get up there and do it when there's no race involved in the case. There's no reason whatsoever that I was aware of involved in this matter so don't even bring it up. I mean, I don't see why you would want to do that and jeopardize that and so to get up and to compare anybody to anybody in a racial manner isn't going to work in my opinion. And obviously I was correct, 'cause it didn't work, nor would it."
"And then I think, they, somebody, told me they (the defense) went back and redid it in the closing, and that, good gracious alive, I mean, you know, and how are you going to compare. That's like comparing apples and oranges. I mean, I think a lot of Richard Scrushy, but he's not the same person that Martin Luther King is nor is Martin Luther King the same thing that Richard Scrushy is. So, you're comparing, when you're saying, I did this and this is the same here - you can't do it, it's impossible."
"This is a case involving Richard Scrushy and it's about whether or not there's a bribe involved and that's it and that's what you've got to communicate to the jury and why not, not race."
Jim Parkman has tried cases with the prosecutors involved in the government corruption trial. There were comments before, during, and after the trial from defense lawyers about what the outcome would be of the battle in the courtroom. One quote mentioned the "running of blood."
"I have never, nor will I, ever say anything to anybody along those lines. That is just ridiculous to make comments to somebody. Prosecutors, defense, no matter who they are, they're trying to win too and you can't hate somebody for doing a good job. You can't hate 'em for trying to prosecute."
"One of my best friends is a prosecutor in Dothan, Alabama - Doug Valeska, and when Doug, who was a prosecutor up here and came back to Dothan, as an assistant prosecutor, and they had a big article in the Sunday paper about Doug before he came back and the article said to all the defense lawyers in Dothan, Alabama 'you better get your trial britches on 'cause there ain't going to be any more pleas, everything's going to trial.'"
"Well, a lot of the lawyers in our area got mad about that, you know. 'How could he say something like that? How could he do that?' And my answer was simple - thank goodness! You know, thank goodness! Put everybody in jail, because when you start doing that, you start making money as a lawyer. If you start just telling people don't do this again and go away, they don't need a lawyer for that. So, I said all he's done is raised the business."
"And so for prosecutors that are, if there are any prosecutors out there listening, indict everybody! Except me. But indict everybody 'cause that's where our business comes from. And I don't ever, ever mind a prosecutor doing his job and everything."
"I told you on the phone and I'll stand by it -- if, and of course, I hate to say it because I don't think it would have happened to me, but if I'd been down there and had lost it, which I don't think would have happened to me. But if it had, I think Steve Feaga and all the others would agree, that I would have been the first one over there at the table to shake their hand and to tell them what a great job they did."
"Because my view of life is real simple - there's no grudges, there's no hatred, you're trying to win, they're trying to win. If they beat me, they deserve a handshake; they deserve the accolades, because if you beat me, you've done your day's work and I'm proud of you."
Association with the Cochran FirmAssociation with the Cochran Firm
Jim Parkman wants to be on the national stage and now through his relationship with the Cochran Firm, more cases from across the nation are finding their way to his new offices in Birmingham.
"When Johnnie Cochran died, passed away, he had a group of people around him that handled criminal stuff. Most people don't realize that Johnnie Cochran was not a criminal lawyer. Johnnie Cochran, unfortunately in America today, is thought of as a criminal lawyer because he won the O. J. Simpson case. But he was not a criminal lawyer. I think he handled two criminal cases his entire life. (Mr. Cochran was asst. DA for L.A. County and handled many criminal cases. However, we were not talking about Mr. Cochran's time in the D.A.'s office) One of which, never even went to trial. The other was O. J. What he did was civil rights stuff. He was very, very famous in the California, and the Western states areas for that and really was just a dynamite lawyer altogether."
"Now, what people don't also understand is that when you have a dynamite lawyer like that you can take him out of t the civil rights litigation, put him over here into defense work, and he's going to do just as well, because the principles are the same."
"So, he did the O. J. case and BAM, he got known for it so everybody started calling him for criminal work He really didn't want to do any more criminal work. But he had some lawyers with him, that worked with him, and you saw 'em on TV and they're still around, they're still there."
"Well, it got so many calls, they got a group of people to come in and try to handle the criminal work for them and it didn't work; the arrangement didn't work out at all."
"After Scrushy, they came to me and said, 'Look, would you be interested in joining the Cochran Firm and associating with the Cochran Firm nationally?' and the answer was, 'Let's talk about it.'"
"And I did. I met with Dale Cochran, Johnnie's wife and talked with her about his theories and his ideas and where he wanted to go and what she expected. We were again on the same wavelength and so with that I did join them in a national way to get national exposure."
"So when I go to California, L. A or whatever, I go as a Cochran lawyer and I am head of the Criminal Division and I do have say so. I'm on the board of directors of the Cochran Firm so I have all the say so that I need and I get done whatever I need to get done and we're trying to reestablish the importance of the Criminal Division."
"Dale Cochran believes that there are people out there that need to be represented in criminal cases and they want just as good a lawyer in the criminal area as they do in the civil area. So, that's where we're headed. We're trying to get that done."
National Exposure, L. A. Bound
Mr. Parkman is getting around with the "Mr. Ferrari" case in California and cases on the agenda in Arizona, Cincinnati, New York and Florida. "All over the country," says Parkman. "Yeah, it's interesting."
As for the case involving the Swedish millionaire who allegedly drove a Ferrari into a telephone pole in Malibu going very, very, very fast, we had to steer clear of talk about actual case details but Parkman says,"We've got motion hearings coming up next week, next Friday (on July 14th) and there's a variety of motions, motions to dismiss some of the counts, motions to suppress, bunch of these we've already filed and we're fixing to go ahead with that next Friday."
"I'll be flying to L. A. next week and then the trial on the 31st. We're going to try to meet that deadline and try to make the trial on the 31st. There was a hearing today (July 7th), well, I'm in Birmingham. There was a hearing today, I didn't need to go, we checked this out. One of my partners is out there."
Trial Update: Eriksson's defense team asked for a continuation on the 14th which was granted. Another motion hearing is now scheduled for August 18th. Trial date is to be rescheduled. One motion filed has to do with the possession of a firearm charge. The defense has argued that Eriksson should not be prosecuted in California for firearms possession on the basis of a foreign conviction. The defense argues the convictions occurred in a legal system that lacks the due process guarantees that are guaranteed by the U.S. and California constitutions.
"What happens in California is you have to, in any area that you go to, file what is known as a pro hac vice motion allowing the court to let you practice in their area and they check you out and make sure that you're not a fly-by-night guy, like some people think I am. And so we were able to, I guess, con the courts in California, or wherever, to believe that I am really a lawyer and so my understanding is that's already been granted without a hearing. That was granted today. I got a call, I believe, and they said they have granted that so, you know we're in. So we pick it up from there with the motions we filed and go from there."
Richard Scrushy: "I question whether or not he should have taken the case."
Scrushy: I Question Whether He Should Have Taken the (Ferrari) Case; Dog and Pony Show Goes to L. A.I told Mr. Parkman about a question I had posed to Richard Scrushy one morning at the federal courthouse at least a month before the verdict came down. I asked Mr. Scrushy how he thought the Jim Parkman show would play in Los Angeles.
Scrushy started with things you would expect saying Parkman was a "good lawyer" and that people would "like him" and be "intrigued by his South Alabama accent."
Then Scrushy says to me, "But, I question whether or not he should have taken the case. It's easy when you have an innocent client."
Scrushy of course was referring to himself in regards to the HealthSouth case in Birmingham and he was not so sure about Mr. Eriksson, the client in the Ferrari case. I asked Mr. Parkman for his thoughts.
"The real answer to this is it's more difficult to win a case when a client is not guilty, when they are innocent, than it is when they are guilty. Now I know that sounds backwards to everybody, but that is the truth."
"So, first of all, you know I was intrigued. I didn't take the case until I met Mr. Eriksson and when I met him he was very similar to Richard Scrushy in this sense - very charismatic, great businessman, good sense of humor, loves his family and these are all attributes that I found in Richard himself."
"So all-in-all whether I should have taken it or not, you know, I don't know about that. I think I should have and I like it. I like the case and I like the client and I certainly like L. A. to visit and so I'm looking forward to it."
"I've not met the judge, but everything I've heard is he's a great guy and so I'm looking forward to that."
"I do hope the jury's going to be intrigued. We certainly plan on taking the dog and pony show to L. A. and Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show to L. A and it's going to be a treat to see."
"I am looking forward to how they're going to respond to this, but I don't think they're going to respond any different than anybody else anywhere. I think that's a misgiving by a lot of people."
"I think people today, we're so around the world in 30 seconds, that I don't think where you're from (matters) as much as what the message is and how to get the message across. And I think that people in L. A. from what I've seen are just as good, nice people as we have in Alabama and I have been surprised by the fact that really and truly the people in L. A. don't think we're idiots out there. Well, one exception. But some people just have to learn I guess."
"The key to it being that everybody I've met has been so nice and I'm not talking about lawyers and judges. I'm talking about everybody has been very nice and very cordial. And the response I get about my accent is what you can probably imagine. No, the ladies, 'I love that accent, can you keep talking?'
For a lawyer, that's just like a great thing, that's money in the bank. So, I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do and how we'll handle it out there with the jury."
"But I've got a feeling I already know. I really do. They're people, just like the rest of us and I think we'll convey some things to them about the accent and maybe we can get a laugh or two in the courtroom out of it."
So, will grandma make an appearance in an L. A. courtroom? "L. A. deserves a grandmother story. Surprisingly enough to the rest of the world, there are grandmothers that live in L. A and they're very nice people. So I imagine they too have an understanding about what grandmothers teach people and what role they really play in lives. So, yeah we'll probably use that in L. A., they haven't heard that one yet out there."
Reported by: Helen Hammons