Birmingham (WTVY)-- From a sometimes mischievous child, James W. Parkman III has become one of the nation's most successful defense attorneys.
“I thank the Lord for the talent he gave me, but he left a lot of the talent out,” Parkman claims. He points to his singing skills—or lack of them.
What he does well, though, is strike a chord with juries. Take 2005. That's when he represented Richard Scrushy, founder of HealthSouth.
Scrushy built that public traded corporation into the nation's largest chain of for-profit rehabilitation centers but, two years prior to his arrest, was fired amid allegations that he inflated company earnings reports.
U.S. prosecutors claimed Scrushy bilked the company he founded out of millions. As trial approached, Jim Parkman joined his defense team.
He was chosen not for so much for his legal knowledge but, instead, for his folksy, good ole boy persona and southern drawl, sure to resonate well with jurors in Birmingham.
Despite that aw shucks demeanor, he faced a monumental challenge. The government's case appeared to be ironclad. Thousands of documents implicated Scrushy and top officers of the company testified against their former boss.
Once the trial began Parkman chipped away. Not only did he discredit prosecution witnesses he, perhaps more importantly, connected with the jury.
They bought Parkman's boy next door persona hook, line, and sinker, and, after hearing 55 days of testimony, found Richard Scrushy not guilty of all 36 charges.
“We had a great group (of lawyers) who worked on this. It wasn't just one person, it was several people,” Parkman modestly told WTVY.
Parkman's best efforts, though, may have come outside the courtroom where he has the uncanny ability of swaying the court of public opinion.
Unlike other attorneys, he doesn't run from television cameras—he runs to them-- and the words “no comment”, aren't in his vocabulary. “I love the media. I think, too often, people don't realize they have a job to do. If you don't understand that job, you're going to miss out,” he said.
On Monday, the documentary, “Trial By Media,” made its debut on Netflix. It focuses on Parkman and his calculated plan that turned the tables on federal prosecutors in Scrushy's case.
“(Netflix) came down on two different occasions and we filmed for 10 to 12 hours each time,” Parkman recalls.
The son of an ice cream maker Parkman, now 70, grew up in Dothan Only after Schrushy's acquittal did he relocate to Birmingham while still maintaining an office in Dothan.
He has also represented other high profile defendants. Bo Stefan Eriksson, charged in California with stealing exotic foreign automobiles, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in his federal corruption prosecution, and Alabama State Senator Harri Anne Smith, acquitted of charges she bribed fellow lawmakers in an attempt to secure their pro-gambling votes.
(Richard Schrushy was later convicted on charges he bribed former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Parkman did not represent Scrushy at that trial. Scrushy and Siegelman both went to prison but have been released.)