First Person Singular

Corinne Magee, defense attorney, McLean

Sunday, June 4, 2006

I couldn't act my way out of a paper bag, but I've discovered when you're dealing with a jury, you don't have to look out over the footlights -- you've got 'em right there in front of you. You can look each and every one of them in the eye and just talk to them personally. I'm a chameleon. On some days I'm a young, brash lawyer; on other days I'm somebody's grandmother. Some days I wear a bright magenta suit because I want to emphasize how big and overweight I am compared to my small, diminutive client. Yes, I'm telling a story and being a bit of an actor, a bit of a ham. But, unless you communicate your story in a way they can understand, you're not going to achieve anything.

In the '80s, there was a judge who called me "honey" and "dearie" in the courtroom. And I was the first commonwealth's attorney who was [visibly] pregnant in court. I used to get comments like, "Counsel, you can approach the bench, or as close as you can get to it." But I've weathered all that. I tend to be a very brash person. Too brusque, too cocky. Too loud. I've made quite a few blunders. I was a prosecutor, and the witness had not included a full beard in a police sketch of the assailant who had come into her room naked and woken her up in the middle of the night. My closing argument was, "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, when a man is standing in front of you stark naked, the last thing you're going to notice is his face." I said it in all earnestness. [But] the courtroom totally cracked up, and I had to sit there and think, "Now, how did that just come out?"

-- Interview by Glen Finland


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