Ed ReBrook was a relatively famous defense lawyer in West Virginia over the last 40 years. He recently passed away (from COVID as I understand it). Ed was a highly skilled trial lawyer with a keen courtroom sense and intuition. He had no fear in the courtroom and won many trials. He and I battled it out multiple times in the courtroom with hearings and trials. Looking back I think we pretty much evenly split our win/loss ratios on trials together.
Ed was from the Clarksburg area, had bright blue eyes and Irish red hair. He was very quick with a joke or comment. He always dressed well and usually had cufflinks on.
Big trials will definitely bring out the true character in lawyers. In some trials I had, I would arrive to the office the morning of a trial only to find 20 pages of faxed motions on the machine. The other side had worked furiously all night on various motions to dismiss, including unnecessary personal attacks against me. Quite the nice surprise to find just as I was headed over to the courthouse. Ed was not like that. Ed would simply say “put them in the box” (the jury) and we would go toe-to-toe for several days. He relied upon natural ability and experience more so than late-night faxes. Even though we would battle in the courtroom, we would still remain cordial to each other during breaks, while awaiting a verdict, or after the trial.
I remember one trial, in particular, we had together. These particular defendants had robbed other criminals. These were my least favorite types of cases because I would scratch my head trying to figure out how to make the “victim(s)” seem palatable to the jury. One co-defendant pled guilty and received 15 years in prison. The next co-defendant was Ed’s client. Ed said “put them in the box.” My star witness was a young, troubled lady with a long criminal history and drug problem. Heck, I was lucky to even get her to appear in court. Let’s just say she was not super credible during the trial but the case was still provable by other means such as the cooperating co-defendant who previously pled guilty and corroborating evidence.
During closing arguments, Ed pulled out a tin Altoids can. He kind of fumbled with it and got it to open right in front of the jury. He then dumped a series of prescription pills out onto to the railing in front of the jury. Some of the pills even bounced and dropped onto the courtroom floor. I sat there wondering what in the world he was up to. He said: “Look at all of these pills I take, but I come by them legally with prescriptions! The State’s star witness pops more pills than I do but she does it illegally! She’s nothing but a drug addict and you can’t believe a word she says.” When he made that point I pretty much knew my case was toast. Sure enough, the jury came back not guilty on all counts.
The day before he died, I had the urge to call Ed. I did not know he was deathly ill. I wish I would have followed up on that urge. I hope he is now without pain and with his beloved wife who died a year ago or so.