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June 04, 2012


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Jeffrey Harrison

Love your posts, Al. I lived in Greensboro from 1970-1978. Well, not exactly, the last three years I was living and going to Law School where you are and commuting to Greensboro to teach economics. In any case, I was there a lot. I remember this event. It happened right after I left to begin Law teaching and my wife and I were shocked because we did not think Greensboro had such potential for violence. I am surprised to learn there were no convictions. At the time I spoke to friends who were still in Greensboro and heard nothing about the demonstrators starting the violence. Nevertheless, there was a sense among some of the people I spoke to that the demonstrators hoped to provoke some type of reaction. Not, of course, of that magnitude. Greensboro, as you probably know was also were there were shots fired at N.C. A&T. Sometimes I would go over there from UNCG (a wonderful place to teach) and the bullet holes remained.

Alfred Brophy

Thanks for this, Jeff -- I didn't know you taught at UNC-Greensboro.

The story is really horrific. The video of the shootings is chilling and all the more disturbing that a jury thought that the executions -- I think that's probably the appropriate phrase in several cases -- were self-defense. And then for me the injustice done to the historical record continues the crime. I don't know as this would make much of a difference, but I didn't even see a marker at the place where the massacre occurred.

Jeffrey Harrison

Had not seen the film before. Very hard to watch and just plain depressing.

Brian Clarke

I grew up in Greensboro and, although I remember the Nazi-Klan Shootout as it was locally known, I was only 6 at the time. What I have much more vivid recollections of are the trials -- especially the federal civil trial, which concluded when I was 13. What I remember most about the civil trial was that many of my friends' fathers -- who worked for "large" (at the time) local firms and were generally corporate defense attorneys -- were effectively ordered by Judge Robert Merhige (from the EDVa and specially assigned to hear the case in the MDNC) to represent the Nazi and Klan defendants pro se (so, some early civil Gideon from Judge Merhige). As I recall, Merhige called in the heads of the biggest local firms and told them that they would either "volunteer" to staff the defense for the Nazis and Klansmen or he would order them to do so. Needless to say, they involuntarily volunteered for that odious duty and assigned generally young partners to be the lead counsel. One of those was Larry Moore, from my first firm -- Adams Kleemeier Hagan Hannah & Fouts. I vividly remember people going through the trash in front of my friends' houses in hopes of finding notes or documents that might help the plaintiffs' case.

There is an interesting essay in the Emory Law Journal (38 Emory L.J. 1145) by Prof. Ronald Bacigal (U. Richmond) -- a fellow W&L Law grad -- about the case.

The pro bono defense aspect of the civil litigation could really be a case study in Professional Responsibility and the obligation of attorneys to, at times, defend those that they find most offensive. Larry Moore was one of the most progressive guys at Adams Kleemeier (both in 1984/5 and in 2000 when he left) and loathed everything about his clients. But he zealously represented them to the very best of his ability. Larry and the others did what was right, not what was easy -- even if at the point of Judge Merhige's sword (or pen or gavel) -- and many of them paid a steep price. One of those involved said that it set his career back years because for a decade he was known as the defense lawyer for the Klan or the Nazis and many did not want to him to represent them as well.

Maybe I will add that one to my list To Do list.

Jeffrey Harrison

I wonder of Brian or Al know the nature of the defense. Was it self defense? The film pretty clearly shows people shooting others. Of course down here in Florida we have the Travis Bickel defense from DeNiro's performance in Taxi Driver. "Are you look'n at me?" If so, you can use deadly force.

Alfred Brophy

Brian--thanks for this. The Bacigals' article is really interesting.

I haven't focused at on the civil suit yet. On a related point, do I understand correctly that the city paid the entire judgement, including for the Klan defendants.

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