Oral History of June Jeffries
Third Interview
February 11, 2019
This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of The Historical
Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Will Weaver, and the interviewee
is June Jeffries. The interview took place at the Alumni Relations Center in the Hotung Building
at Georgetown Law School on Monday, February 11, 2019. This is the third interview.
MR. WEAVER: During the previous session, we talked about where you’re from, your
parents, your family, your childhood, and we left off talking about how
you went to college at Wesleyan then picked up in our second session
talking about your experience at Wesleyan, the challenge of losing your
father, your experiences here at Georgetown Law School, among other
things. You were admitted to the bar in November 1978, which is just
forty years ago, or a little over forty years ago now. Today we’re going to
talk a little bit about the beginning of those forty years, the start of your
career as an attorney. According to your bio, you were named Senior
Litigation Counsel at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1992. Is that correct?
MS. JEFFRIES: Yes. It is correct.
MR. WEAVER: Okay, so I think that might be a good marker for us today. If I ask a
general question about stories or things that happen, if we could try to
focus on the time between 1978 and 1992.
MS. JEFFRIES: Okay. That’s good.
MR. WEAVER: Tell me about the first few years you spent in Detroit from 1978 to 1982,
after you passed the bar, so you’re a new lawyer. What kind of work were
you doing there when you found out you passed the bar?
MS. JEFFRIES: I have to say this because I had been here in Washington. I went home to
take the bar exam, and I didn’t have a job. I anticipated I would take the
bar exam and return to D.C. and look for a job, so I had kept my apartment
and was paying the rent there. But what happened with me was my
mother was a grocery store cashier, and at that time, she was working
downtown at the A&P in Lafayette Park, and lots of interesting people
lived down there. Wherever my mother worked, she always made friends
with the customers, so one day that June, I was at home, actually asleep,
and my mother called me from work and said one of her customers called
who worked at the court and he knew a job I could get, but I had to go see
him that day because he was about to go on vacation. Now this talks
about the way things work in Detroit. In any event, I went down there,
and that man was courtroom clerk. His name was Morgan Carroll. He has
subsequently died. He worked in Detroit Recorder’s Court, which was the
criminal court for the City of Detroit. They had there, the way they
handled misdemeanor defense work was, there was an office that had a
contract and it was called the Misdemeanor Defenders Office, and the man
with the contract was named was Robert Gold. So Morgan Carroll had me
go over there to the Misdemeanor Defenders Office. Bob Gold was on
vacation, and another guy was in charge, a young guy, Sam Churikian. So
I went over there and told him that Morgan told me to come over there,
and Sam said okay. Sam hired me in the absence of Bob. They would do
the misdemeanor defense work there. Bob came back from vacation, and
it was okay with him. After I’d been working there, Bob told me that if I
passed the bar exam, he could hire me as a staff attorney, so I was working
for Bob. I passed the bar exam, and I became a staff attorney. So all told,
I probably worked with the Misdemeanor Defenders Office for about nine
months, and that was my beginning of exposure to criminal law, aside
from Perry Mason, which got me there in the first place, got me to law
In the Misdemeanor Defenders Office, I think about that work
compared to the quality of work and the type of defense that misdemeanor
defendants and others get here through the Public Defender’s Office, and I
will say it comes up short. I hope that in Detroit things are done better
now with more resources and more training. I don’t know to what extent
it has hopefully improved. But it was a good situation for me. What I saw
was that I enjoyed being in court, and up to this point in time, if you had
ever said that I would be in court and be a litigator, that would have been a
surprise to everyone. It would have been a surprise to me. And I’m sure
if you’d ask my boyfriend at the time, who became my husband and is
now my ex-husband, if you had asked him if he saw me doing that, I’m
sure he tell you that was a surprise as well. But I liked being in court. I
liked the drama of it. I liked being able to represent and speak on my feet
and strategize some. That was good for me to be at the Misdemeanor
Defenders Office.
So then another thing that happened, and I tell people all the time,
any job I got as a lawyer, I got because I knew someone in some kind of
way, although it didn’t have to be I knew them well or anything, but it
always worked that way for me. When I was in 5th grade, our 5th grade
class was taught as an experiment because our principal had made inroads
with Olivetti Typewriter Company, and she got them to outfit our 5th grade
class with typewriters, and so our language arts and classes were taught
around the use of the typewriter, which really is like people using
computers now, except typewriters didn’t have that artificial intelligence.
So two teachers taught that together, Mrs. Thelma McQuarry and Mrs.
Cecil McFadden, and they taught us typing, and we were on TV and stuff
because we learned to type. I have been typing since I was nine years old.
So I remained connected to Mrs. McQuarry and Mrs. McFadden to some
extent after those years, and like I said, my mother worked at the A&P at
this point when I finished law school in Lafayette Park. Mrs. McQuarry
lived down around Lafayette Park on Thornhill Place, and my mother
would see her and other people, so in some kind of way, I knew that Mr.
McFadden’s son, Ulysses Boyken, was a lawyer, and I knew that because,
for instance, we used to get Jet magazine, and I remember we had Jet
magazine and we got married, he and his wife were in there with their
wedding, so I had known that. And I knew she had a son from when I was
her student. Anyway, he was a lawyer with a small Black firm in Detroit,
and I can’t remember right now what got me to talking to him, but I think
he shopped at my mom’s store, and that’s probably how. He probably told
her I should come talk to him. He was at a firm called Patman & Young,
and I went and saw him, and through him, I ultimately got hired by
Patman & Young, which was a firm I worked at for about two years and a
few months. Patman & Young was a small Black law firm in Detroit, and
they did interesting work. Patman & Young themselves had been IRS
agents and gone to law school at night. We did a variety of things. They
did tax work, so, for instance, we did do tax work for our clients. To my
memory, I’m a member. I was admitted to practice before the U.S. Tax
Court over there. I’m sure that hasn’t lapsed, but that’s because of Patman
& Young. They did entertainment work. So I was with them from 1979
to 1981. This is post-Motown. When I first went there, the big thing that
was going on was Patman & Young represented Eddie and Brian Holland,
who were of the songwriting team Holland Dozier Holland, who wrote all
these songs for Motown and the Temptations, Diana Ross, all those
people. So at that moment, Eddie and Brian were suing their former
partner, Lamont Dozier, in federal court. I don’t remember what they
were suing Lamont for or about, and it was about to go to trial. And then
Lamont had a counterclaim against Eddie and Brian. And of course,
Motown had moved to California, and Eddie and Brian had moved to
California. They were in LA and flying into Detroit and complaining
about the weather and they wanted to back in California. Anyway, when I
started, they were about to go to trial, but the trial settled. So we did some
entertainment for Eddie and Brian and some other performers. We had
some athletes who were our clients. So for instance, we represented Dave
Bing and that’s public knowledge so I’m not saying anything people
didn’t know. We represented Dave Bing. He wasn’t playing for the
Pistons then. He always wanted to go into business, and he was
developing I think and had started his steel company at the time, but I
know at one point during our representation, the Pistons were perhaps
interested in him coaching the Pistons. So we represented people like that.
We also represented many of the Black professionals in Detroit like
doctors, lawyers, dentists and businesspeople in their professional
corporations. We did that work for them. We did civil litigation, and
there was a woman at the firm, Mrs. King, an older woman, and she did
domestic stuff, so a lot of divorces and things, family law issues.
So I went there with that firm. It was an interesting and good
experience for me because I did a variety of things. I wrote a lot of wills
and some trust agreements for some people. I did some litigation. I did
some administrative work. We always signed off on things. I signed on
the tax things, but I never per se did any of the tax work. I got to meet a
lot of people working for Patman & Young. When I first started working
with them, we worked in a building on Cadillac Square and maybe it was
called the Cadillac Square Building. We were on the 26th floor. While I
was there, we moved to the Penobscot Building, which I think at that point
was called the City National Bank Building, but now it’s back to being
called the Penobscot Building. Until they built “RenCen” [the
Renaissance Center], it was the tallest building in Detroit. We moved into
offices on the 47th floor, and it’s a beautiful kind of art deco building, and
a huge building. There was so much stuff in there that you wouldn’t have
known if you had never gone inside. To get to our offices, you had to take
two separate elevators because there was one set of elevators that went to
floor 1 to 30 and you’d have to change and go over. Our office had a
balcony, and you could go out on the balcony, and this is in downtown
Detroit. I could go out on the balcony and look out on the river, across the
river and into Canada and see my fellow Canadians, my fellow brothers
and sisters as I call them. It was beautiful. They had decorated very
nicely. We had a suite of offices. In Detroit, they do the fireworks before
the 4th of July, so we’d be up there for the fireworks and go out on the
balcony. It was a beautiful experience.
Lots of businesses were in there. So, for instance, I don’t know
what news organization it was, but there was a news organization on our
floor, and there was a young Black woman who worked for them, and I
was friendly with her. She continues to write, and I think at some point
she was working for The New York Times, but she had a special in The
Washington Post Food Section last year. She wrote an article about
cooking for her father who had subsequently died, but they were Haitian,
and she had two recipes in there which I saved because she made these
Cornish hens and she made something else. I intend to make that. But I
remember her from being in Detroit. One woman was working there, and
she was a receptionist, and we became friends, so at one point, she wanted
to leave Detroit, and she came out here and stayed with me a few months
and looked for a job. She ultimately went back home. So this summer she
and her husband and children, and she even had grandchildren, they came
out to D.C. and I got to see them and we talked about the old days at
Patman & Young. It was a good experience for me. We did work in the
federal courts. I did work in courts outside of Detroit. I’d go up to
Pontiac, Oakland County Circuit Court. We had a client who owned a bar
and they had female dancers in the bar. They got a violation, the liquor
commission wrote up a violation because let’s say parts of her body he
said were exposed that were against the liquor violations. I went and did
the hearing, and then there was some argument about this particular
exposed piece, and everybody in there, all the people on the panel, were
men and I said it seemed to me that perhaps I was under a misconception
having the same body parts myself, maybe they knew something I didn’t
know. Anyway, I won that case.
MR. WEAVER: You did the argument?
MS. JEFFRIES: Yes. I was representing the bar guy, and I won the case. Let’s see. We
had one client, Dr. Charles Wright. He was an obstetrician. Dr. Wright
and Mrs. Wright. Their daughter, Stephanie, was a year ahead of me in
high school, and they had a younger daughter. I would call Dr. Wright a
patrician person, and his wife, Mrs. Wright, was very formal. Dr. Wright
had a very strong, deep and abiding interest in I’ll call it Black history.
Although this month they call it Black History Month, I call it Black
History as American History month. He had a deep interest in that and
started collecting things and opened up a Black history museum. My
recollection is it began in his house, and then he got a building
somewhere, and then subsequently, they built a museum, and now the
museum, I think they’re on their third formal building, the Charles Wright
Museum of African American History. It’s a very beautiful building. One
of my high school reunions, we had our dinner there in the atrium area.
Dr. Wright was one of our clients. He’s had a lasting impact on the City
of Detroit and our history.
MR. WEAVER: You may have already answered this, but what was the most interesting
case that you worked on over those years at Patman & Young?
MS. JEFFRIES: I will say this, an experience I had working with them. We did litigation
for the Detroit Public Schools. We were their lawyers. So we had a case
there where a woman teacher, a Black woman teacher, was suing the
school system for racial discrimination. We were in trial in the federal
court in Detroit. The trial was before Judge Julian Abele Cook. He may
be Julian Abele Cook, Jr. I don’t recall if at that time he was the chief
judge. He wasn’t because Judge Cohen was the chief judge. He
subsequently became chief judge of the Eastern District of Detroit.
Importantly, Judge Cook is also a graduate of this law school,
Georgetown. I also knew him because I did some Georgetown things
while I was there. We were in trial one day with Judge Cook, and we
were all sitting there one morning before things really got rolling, and
Judge Cook remarked that in his legal career, that that trial marked the
first occasion in his life where he’d been in a courtroom where the judge
was Black, the court reporter was Black, the clerk was Black, the lawyers
were Black, and the parties were Black. Essentially the Detroit Public
Schools were Black. I remember him saying that.
Another thing that happened, because I said we had cases in
federal court, I was in court and walking down the hall one day and an
older Black woman was there, and she stopped me and she asked me if I
worked there, and I told her in a way, that I was a lawyer and I had a
matter there. She told me that she was so happy to see me and so proud,
because she was older, probably 60 or 70, that she’d have to live that long
in life for that kind of experience.
The other thing I felt when I did trials, and this is true into
especially my early years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, I felt that the
jurors were happy to see me in my position as an Assistant U.S. Attorney
because they knew how it had been that we had not been represented in
those jobs and positions in the justice system, which didn’t mean they
were just going to rule in my favor, but they appreciated the fact that I
could even be there. So that’s what I would say.
I’ll also mention I had another case at Patman & Young where we
had a white client who came to us on a custody issue involving his
daughter who was in early elementary school. He and the mother were no
longer together, and the mother was now with another man who was a
Black man, and she had recently had a child who was obviously the
mother was white so the child was mixed, as people would call it. Some
people would just call the child Black, but anyway, this was going on. So
the mother had the little girl living with her and going to school, but the
little girl was being taunted by other kids in school who would call her the
“Blackey whitey” and say things because of the mother’s relationship with
the Black man, so the white father wanted custody of the child so she did
not have to experience that, and I represented the father. I will say my
mother personally found that reprehensible with me that I would represent
that man. I told her he was entitled to advance his child’s interests as he
saw them. So that was interesting. I actually don’t remember what
happened with that, but I know we represented him. I don’t think it was a
bad result, because if it were, I’m sure I would have remembered that.
I learned some things. For instance, this is an aside, I said
Mrs. King did the divorces and things. One of the things Mrs. King said
was that people were often too quick to divorce and that it may not be that
you need to be divorced, but maybe you need to be separated and apart
and not rush to divorce because when you divorce and start breaking up
things, especially when you’ve been together for years and you have
property, like a lot of our clients had businesses and things, you have
property and investments, when you start breaking it up, you lose. I
always remembered that, and I applied that to my own situation when my
first husband and I separated, and I did not apply for divorce for several
years strategically because of what Mrs. King had said.
I learned things, certainly writing wills and trusts for people and
thinking ahead in life and about your children. So I learned a lot there
with Patman & Young, but I ultimately left really because my boyfriend
was here doing his internship, and after the years we had been involved
together, I said we had to decide what we were going to do. Either we
were going to get married or not, so I left Patman & Young to come back
here for a few months to see what we would do and make a decision. So I
came here. If that was April, in July he had to do a year of ship duty.
When he graduated from Yale and subsequently applied to medical
school, they did not have the medical school. The Navy did not have the
medical school that’s out there in Bethesda now. There was the Navy
scholarship because they needed doctors, and they would pay for you to
go to the medical school of your choice. He got a Navy scholarship, and it
paid all of his medical school expenses, whatever Georgetown Medical
School charged, bought his books, his equipment. He got a monthly
stipend for his living expenses, and in the summers, if he didn’t have other
things to do for the medical school, then he did summers in the Navy. So I
know his first summer after med school, he was up in Newport, Rhode
Island. Then what his commitment was, he owed the Navy four years
after his training. He was not required to do his internship or residency in
the Navy, and if he did, that didn’t count toward his commitment, but he
did his training in the Navy because it paid better than civilian residencies,
and you got all those military benefits. So after a year of internship, he
had to do a year of ship duty on the U.S.S. Nassau out of Norfolk. The
U.S.S. Nassau LH4 was an amphibious assault ship, which carried
thousands of Marines and then the Navy people. It was their ship. He did
that. So we decided before he went on the ship that we would get married
after that year and I would move to D.C. So I went back home to Detroit
while he was on his ship. I needed to work, so what I did initially, and my
mother plays into this as well, what I did initially was I was going down to
court and picking up cases. So I got cases at Recorder’s Court. As I said,
my mother knew people. Well, another one of her customers was Judge
Willis Ward who was on the Wayne County Probate Court. Judge Ward,
he was old then, he could have been in his 70s, he had gone to the
University of Michigan as an undergrad, and he played football at the
University of Michigan on the same team as Gerald Ford, and they had
been friends. I forget where Judge Ward went to law school, but anyway,
my mother talked to him. The probate judges would give assignments,
and he told my mother for me to go down and see him. So I went down
and saw Judge Ward, and he started giving me probate assignments. Then
once I started doing the probate assignments, other judges would give me
cases too. Judge Shmansky, Judge Kaufman. You’d get cases. So in the
probate court, they would give you cases where, for instance, I might be
appointed guardian ad litem if someone was petitioning to become
guardian or conservator over another person, I’d be guardian ad litem. I’d
investigate, talk to them about why they were doing it, talk to other
professionals maybe involved. If the person was hospitalized, I’d go visit
the respondent to see what their situation was, what their viewpoint was,
make an assessment, and then I’d do a written report to the judge, and I’d
go to court for the hearing. I’m sure I would make recommendations. So
that was a type of case you did. They also did the mental commitments.
People get those three-day holds, and then you have to commit. I’d get
appointed to those. Those were very interesting too. My guardian ad
litem cases were very interesting. And, of course, it involved people not
just in Detroit, but in the rest of the county as well. So I was representing
lots of different people in different places. Some of the places I went to
were kind of dicey, and my mother felt very concerned about me going.
She wanted me to have my uncle go with me and sit in the car and stuff,
but I never did that.
So I got those appointments, and I got some appointments in
Detroit Recorder’s Court. So here’s what happened to me. During this
time, I knew I was going to get married and go back to D.C., but I needed
a job. I was interested in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and I had met a guy
through someone else who was an assistant, but he was probably a
supervisor. I submitted an application. The U.S. Attorney at that time
was a man named Lenny Gilman. I ultimately did have an interview with
Lenny Gilman. So I said I’m doing cases in Detroit Recorder’s Court. I
had a felony case in front of a judge named Henry Hadding, a man I did
not know. I just got a case in front of Judge Hadding, an older Black man.
I think it was a burglary case involving a young guy in his early 20s who
had broken into a woman’s home through the window. What it really was,
the woman’s daughter was his girlfriend. He and the daughter had had a
baby together, and I think the mother had put the daughter out or
something, but the baby’s things and the girlfriend’s things were in the
house, and he went in the woman’s house to get those things. So that’s
what it was. We had a status hearing, a very simple matter, and I go to
Recorder’s Court, and I’m talking to the young man. I told him what I
thought would happen, and Judge Hadding gave me a really hard time, a
really difficult time, and I did not understand that. I didn’t understand.
Anyway, I worked out of my home. Subsequently, I get a phone call one
afternoon, and it’s Judge Hadding. He said that he had done that on
purpose to see how I would handle myself, and he was impressed by the
way I handled myself, so he was calling me to see what I was doing with
my career. I told him I had just applied to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and
I had interviewed with Lenny Gilman maybe that week before. Judge
Hadding said to me that when he, Judge Hadding, had been the chief of
the trial division at the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, he had hired
Lenny to work under him, so he asked me if I would like it if he gave
Lenny a call. So of course I’d like that. Of course I did. And I said that.
We got off the phone. Judge Hadding called me back later than afternoon
to say he had talked to Lenny. Wow. He had done it that day. So I’m like
The other thing Judge Hadding told me I should apply to the
Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office because he knew that they were
looking for women and minorities. You had to take a test. I guess you
had to take a test. That makes me think, because I always tell people the
last test I took was the bar exam, and when I put my pencil down, I never
took another test, but I had to take a test to do that. I don’t know what
they asked me. I don’t think it was two plus two, but they asked you
something. I took the test, and I applied. Now right after I talked with
Judge Hadding, Reagan was President. It was then in the paper, like
Reagan had a hiring freeze, so I did not get on with the U.S. Attorney’s
Office, but I took the prosecutor’s test, and I got hired. In Michigan,
paternity is quasi-criminal, and the law is such that any woman seeking to
establish paternity could hire her own private attorney, but she could go to
her local prosecutor’s office and have that pressed through the
prosecutor’s office. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office had a
paternity division. In reality, 98% or 99% of our cases did not come
because women were just voluntarily saying to their local prosecutor I
want to establish my child’s paternity. They came became women on
welfare, as part of the process, had to cooperate with establishing paternity
because then, once paternity was established, we would then seek a
support order against the father, which would go toward the welfare,
however that worked. So that’s what our cases really were, women who
were on welfare, and young women who were on welfare.
So I did that for a few months in Wayne County Circuit Court, and
I talked to these young women. Things were very consistent. Almost
none of them personally cared about establishing paternity or about getting
child support because they always said he doesn’t have anything or he
doesn’t have a job. My response would be but you may be poor in life,
but rich in death because the guy could be walking down the street and
Sikorsky helicopter’s rotor could fall off and kill him, and the state could
get like $10 million, and your child would be entitled to something. Or I’d
say even if he doesn’t have a job now, don’t you hope that over the next
twenty years he would have a job. I learned from this a lot of people don’t
think in those ways and the way their lives are, really the prospect that the
guy would improve in any kind of way and go on and have a job and a real
kind of productive life in that matter, that wasn’t in their radar. If I asked
the young women what has he done for you or for the baby, the answer I
heard more than anything else if I heard anything else well was “he bought
some milk and bought some Pampers.” That’s what I heard consistently.
When I came over here to the office and I would have young women as
witnesses and they had these kids, if I asked them what does he do, it was
the same thing. He bought some milk or maybe some Pampers.
I had done that a few months and that was my entrée, then moving
over to the main part of the office criminal. So then I found myself back
in Detroit Recorder’s Court. By then, I knew I wanted to do murders and
MR. WEAVER: How did you know at that point? Was it that you worked on stuff like
MS. JEFFRIES: Not at the firm, but I’d been in Detroit Recorder’s Court with the
Misdemeanor Defenders Office, so that’s what the whole courthouse was
criminal stuff, and I must say, Detroit was not a crime-free city, and there
was stuff going on. So while I was in Misdemeanor Defenders, I’d go in
another courtroom. Plus a lot of the lawyers who were coming through
and I saw other prosecutors and people. I would say that at that point in
time, I viewed myself as someone more on the prosecutorial side than the
defense side. I knew I wanted the courtroom experience and everything,
so being a prosecutor was what I wanted.
So I was over there. I think in the time that I was there, before I
left, I may have done one homicide kind of case. I know I did some
sexual assault, rape, cases. The prosecutor at that time was William
Cahalan. He had had that job four years. It was an elected position. He
had the job for many years afterward. Detroit, Wayne County, is
interesting kind of place. If you have the right name and get on the ballot,
you can get elected. So if your name, especially back then, was
Shamansky or Wojohowitz or one of the Polish names or if you were a
Kauffman, you’d get elected. Murphy, you’d get elected. There was a
guy, a Black guy, who ran for judge. I don’t know what his name was, but
he legally changed his name to John Murphy. He got elected. If your
name was Cahalan, yeah, you’d get elected. This is true. I haven’t looked
at the bench in Detroit lately, but there are probably still some people
those names there. That’s the way it rolls in Detroit. Cahalan was
prosecutor four years. My immediate supervisor was a good guy, and I
learned a lot from him. His name was Rich Krisciunas. There was
another prosecutor there, Tim Kenny, he went on to become a judge. I
think he’s still a judge now. They did major cases, and I learned things
from them. I was doing my work, but I knew I was going to get married,
and I was getting married September 11 of 1982. There came a point in
time when I had to tell them I was leaving, and that was an interesting
discussion. The man’s name escapes me now, but he was probably chief
of the trial division. We were having a conversation, and really, it was
like they kind of like wanted me to stay. They said I could have some
time off and maybe work. I said I really wanted to go and be with my
husband and I didn’t want to commute. So I left there on a good note.
But here’s what happens.
I am a child of Motown. Like I told you, I didn’t like that Motown
tribute. I grew up in the heyday of Motown. Motown is the soundtrack of
my life. Is the Temptations is doing my girl in 1964, I’m 10 years old, and
all of this, there were TV shows in Detroit on Channel 9, which is the
Canadian broadcasting corporation. Robin Seymour had Swinging Time.
The Motown people would go on his show and sing their songs. They’d
be lip synching, but they’d be on and singing, and it was like a show like
American Bandstand. People go on and dance. We all looking at
Swinging Time, and we’re all listing to WCHB, Window Cox Haley Bell
and WJLB, those were the Black radio stations, and then you had CLKW,
the Big 8 from over in Windsor. That was a major radio station. When I
was in Connecticut at night, I could still listen to CLKW, the Motor City,
the Big 8. I loved me some CLKW, and so do a lot of people. NPR did a
thing on CLKW. One day I was driving home from work, and I pulled
over and sat and listened to it. Neil Gagne did it. It brought tears to my
eyes. So Motown is the soundtrack of my life. My boys, The
Temptations. Anybody who knows me, if any degree of knowing me
well, they know they’re playing that at my funeral because I want to hear
my boys one more time. David and Eddie and others. Okay. So you
would say what does that have to do with June being an assistant US
attorney. Here’s what it has to do. Law Day. I would participate in
things, so the Detroit Bar had Law Day. I have to come back and talk
about Window Cox Halley Bell, WCHB. Law Day, May 1, the Detroit
Bar, you could have a law student shadow you and then the Law Day
lunch, and Lenny Gilman was the speaker. So I had this law student
shadow me, and I paid for us to go to lunch, and we went to this lunch.
Lenny Gilman was the speaker. Now, here’s what was about to happen.
The big thrill for my life. The Temptations were doing a reunion tour. I
had actually never seen them perform live because I said I’m 10, 13 when
this is happening. They used to do something down at the Fox Theatre,
the Motor Town Review, and all the acts would perform, but I was young
and my parents didn’t have me going. I never seen them perform. And
then they have staff changes and breakups. The Temptations were doing a
reunion tour, and they had Eddie and David were going to be singing with
them, and I had bought tickets to go see this. Well shortly before the Law
Day luncheon there’s an article in the paper, Eddie Kendricks had some
kind of tax matter. They had indicted him or something in Detroit, and
I’m like oh my God, Eddie, maybe he won’t come to Detroit because
maybe they’re going to arrest him or something. So I went up to Lenny
Gilman, and I said to him a couple of things. I said the Temptations are
coming and I want to see them, would you have this case. He said he
thought something would work out and it wouldn’t be a problem. That
was a major relief to my life. The other thing I said to him was that I was
going to get married in September and move to D.C. and I really wanted to
work at the U.S. Attorney’s Office since that’s who did homicides and
that’s what I wanted to do, so I asked him if he knew anybody. Lenny
said to me that he knew a woman. A woman had worked for him and she
had married a guy in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and he wrote the man’s
name on a piece of paper and told me when I was ready to apply to let him
know. So I put that little piece of paper, folded it up and put it in my
wallet, and carried it around with me. I will say I did go to the Fisher
Theater, and I did see The Temptations. I saw The Temptations, and the
person I went with was my friend who was the receptionist at Patman &
Young. She and I went together. She’s somewhat younger than I am, a
few years younger. We went to this together, and it was fabulous. When
she and I left the show, I said to her I could die right now and I would be
happy even if I never married Jeffries. I could die right now. Let me
point out that my maiden name and my married name is Jeffries. His
name is Jeffries too, but my family is the real Jeffries.
So anyway, I see the Temptations, I continue working at the
prosecutor’s office until I was going to get married and I moved to D.C.
We were living in Bethesda, right near the hospital. Of course we were
living in an all-white neighborhood except for us. A nice little
neighborhood, North Chelsea Lane off of Wisconsin. Jeffries could walk
to work, and so I’m there being a housewife because I didn’t have a job.
MR. WEAVER: You had not applied at this point?
MS. JEFFRIES: No. I’m living on wedding money people gave me, which I put in my
bank account, not his. I’m a housewife, cooking meals. I waxed the floor,
bought things. Okay, I have to say cooking meals and waxing the floor
isn’t that exciting so I did that for a few months. In October I said to
myself, you need to start looking for a job. So I contact Gilman, and I said
okay, I’m sending in or I just sent in the application. Well here’s the deal
with this. In 1980, the Republicans had had their convention in Detroit.
The woman who worked for Lenny Gilman who had by this time left
because she had married and moved to D.C., she was a woman named
Victoria Toensing. Vicky married a man named Joe diGenova. When I
applied to the Office, Joe was the number two person in the Office. None
of this meant anything to me. Stanley Harris was U.S. Attorney, and
Stanley Harris had been a Superior Court judge. He was U.S. Attorney,
and what was really happening was it was well known in the legal
community, but I wasn’t a part of it, that he was just waiting for a
judgeship over in U.S. District Court to open up. He was waiting for that,
and then Joe was going to be and did become U.S. Attorney himself. So
this is when I applied, and I sent my letter to Joe. I sent that in, and for
some reason, October 17 rings a bell. So I don’t know if that’s the day I
sent it in or if that’s the day I heard from them.
So between October 17 and January 1 of 1983, this is the time
period of me applying to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, on January 1, 1983,
at 3:10 in the afternoon, my phone rang and it was Judge Stanley Harris,
and he says to me, “We’d like you to come join us.” He said something to
that effect. This was Near Year’s Day, and we had a few people over to
my house, maybe watching football. I personally wasn’t looking, but
that’s what was going on. Anyway, I was kind of perplexed when he said
that to me. I said you mean right now? I thought he was inviting me to a
party. So no, he wanted me to come work for them. He had said to me
when I interviewed with him, he asked me what was my timetable for
working, and I told him that I really was in no rush and that if I felt that I
had a good shot at getting that job, I could wait, that I wasn’t just taking
the job to be taking a job.
Anyway, he called me on January 1. I said October 17, so that
would be about two-and-a-half months. I remember the first day I was
supposed to interview with him in December, they called me and put it off
because a man had driven his tractor or something onto the grounds of the
Washington Monument. Maybe they were having a standoff, so they were
kind of busy, so I got rescheduled.
Here’s a point I would want to make about that happening. At that
time, my understanding is the U.S. Attorney’s Office would get 600 to 700
applications a year for maybe 15 openings. So that’s a lot of applications,
and then a small number of people being hired. That happened for me
between October 17 and January 1. Maybe a year or so later, a guy I
worked with in Detroit in the Office and I knew who he was, he was a
good friend of my supervisor, Rich Krisciunas, he applied to the Office
and was coming to town for an interview. He must have called me, and
that must be how I knew that. Anyway, I had never worked directly with
him, and I’d never seen him in court or anything. I called Rich to ask him
because I felt that they might, the people at work, might ask me about him,
and Rich was a good friend of his, but Rich did not recommend him. He
said something to me that I’ve always remembered and tried to employ.
He said if you want your recommendations to be valued, you have to be
careful about who you recommend. So I kept that in mind. But with that
guy, whenever he sent his application in, it had taken him fifteen months
to get an interview, compared to the timeframe of mine. As far as I know,
Lenny Gilman talked to Joe. So all of this stuff is like I said comes from
Judge Hadding giving me a hard time. He called Lenny. So that worked
for me that Lenny — and I got on with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Which brings me to the topic of serendipity. I consider all of that
to be serendipitous. I went over to the museum last week for a showing of
the movie Black Klansman, followed by a discussion between Van Jones,
Spike Lee, April Ryan, and Congresswoman Karen Bass, the Chair of the
Congressional Black Caucus. Spike Lee talked about serendipity, and
here’s what he said. He said the summer after his sophomore year at
Morehouse he came home to New York, he needed a job so he could get
some clothes and stuff for school, but New York School in 1977, they
probably headed toward bankruptcy, things were dark back then, and he
couldn’t find a job. He had a female friend, I guess he’d gone to school
with her in the neighborhood, whatever, who was going to Princeton. He
went by to see this girl, and he said they’re sitting there talking with two
boxes on the floor. She wanted to be a doctor. He gave her a name, I
don’t remember who, and he said she’s a doctor and a professor in
California now. She had two boxes on the floor. One was a Super 8
camera, and the other was a box of film cassettes. Somebody had given
this to her. She told him she didn’t want it, she wasn’t interested because
she was going to be a doctor so had other things to do. So she told him to
take it, and he took the camera and the film. So then he said he’s not
working so he starts going around filming all this stuff. When he gets
back to Morehouse, and maybe he was a communications major, he took
some class, and he told the professor about this and all this film. The
professor told him he had to do something with it, and this is how Spike
Lee got into being the Spike Lee that we know. His point was what if no
one had given her that camera. What if he had gone to her house the week
before, before she got the camera. What if he’d gone a couple days later
and the camera wasn’t on the floor and he’d never gotten the cameras. So
it’s that serendipity which is the same thing I say about what if my
grandfather hadn’t died and we hadn’t gone to Montreal and I hadn’t gone
to Vermont which got me to Connecticut. So serendipity. All of us, I see
that in so much. I consider that serendipitous.
That’s how I got to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. And not long after
I started, Stanley Harris became a U.S. District Court judge, and Joe
became the U.S. Attorney, and after he became the U.S. Attorney, he and
Vicky went into practice together and people know about that. I will say
this about Joe diGenova. When he was U.S. Attorney, the day he became
U.S. Attorney, we were still in our offices in Superior Court on the fifth
floor, he gathered us in the reception area and made remarks the day he
became U.S. Attorney, and Joe said to us collectively that if any of us
were interested in becoming a judge and going through the process, if any
of our names got sent over as one of three to the White House, Joe said he
would do everything he could to help us get chosen by the White House as
a judge because he said there would probably never be another president
as amendable to appointing Assistant U.S. Attorneys to the bench as that
current president. And I will say this, while Joe was U.S. Attorney, a
number of my colleagues became judges on the D.C. Superior Court, and I
believe Joe did exactly what he said he would do. I believe Joe did that.
When Joe was U.S. Attorney, if you had a case and got a good result, if
you had a particular case that was in the news, Joe sent you personal notes
about that, and I have notes from Joe diGenova that I have kept. I wanted
to say that about Joe because I have a story about another person who was
U.S. Attorney who was absolutely opposite in that person’s approach, but
that’s a later story.
I said I wanted to go back to WCHB. That was, I think, the first
Black radio station in Detroit, and I think they started in the 1950s.
Dr. Wendell Cox and Doctor Bell both, I believe, were dentists, and
Dr. Bell was Dr. Cox’s father-in-law. Wendell Cox was married to Iris
Bell. Father-in-law and son-in-law started this radio station. When I was
at Patman & Young, of course Dr. Bell was dead, but Mrs. Bell, his wife,
was one of our clients. She probably was in her 80s then, but they still had
WCHB. I’m growing up in Detroit, and we listened to WCHB and WJLB.
The difference was WJLB early on when I was a kid they did two-phased
broadcasting, so depending on the time of day, if you put on WJLB, they
were either doing Polish hour in Polish or they were playing Black music.
So you had to know what time to listen. Eventually, they dropped the
Polish hour and they just became all-Black music.
MR. WEAVER: I have a couple quick questions. Do you have more on the radio station?
MS. JEFFRIES: When I said we had a lot of businesspeople, representing them was
important, and years later when I was in Civil, so this would be around
1996, I was coming off the beltway on Georgia Avenue, and you can say I
ran into a car, but that really was his fault. Other people might not view it
that way, but it was his fault. The guy I ran into was Wendell Cox, Jr. or
Wendell Cox III. I was like you’re Wendell Cox from Detroit? He was
Mrs. Bell’s grandson, and he was a psychologist. He just died maybe last
year or something because I read his death notice in The Post. So here in
D.C. I ran into one of those radio people.
Another thing I should say is the first Black-owned TV station
opened in Detroit, WGPR, and they were one of our clients. I would work
on their FCC licensing applications and stuff. They subsequently sold the
station, but they’ve opened up a museum in their studio about the station.
The brother of one of my friends had been a news person for the station,
and so now they operate this museum, and they’re open on Fridays. When
a group of friends and I were in Detroit in October, we went over there
and did the tour, and that was so meaningful to me because, like I said, I
had been involved with them back when they were getting started. So that
was an important thing for me working at Patman & Young.
MR. WEAVER: Before we dive into the U.S. Attorney’s Office, I want to ask just a couple
questions about your time in Detroit. You talked about the serendipity of
delivering your argument and handling the judge coming down on your
harshly, and that getting related to D.C. where you ended up getting an
interview and landing at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, so there’s that kind of
high point where you’re a young lawyer and you’re handling yourself well
in the courtroom. I was wondering, did you make any mistakes a young
lawyer that you remember that stand out?
MS. JEFFRIES: Oh yes. Here’s my mistake. When I was in the Wayne County
Prosecutor’s Office, my first trial was a bench trial before Judge Donald
Hobson, and it was a gun case. I did this trial in front of him, and you rest,
you do your arguments, okay. Judge Hobson acquitted the guy because I
failed to move the gun into evidence, and he did this to teach me a lesson.
A lesson was learned that day for the rest of my career and when I go up
to Harvard and I teach in the Trial Advocacy Program, I tell them about
this. I always track my evidence, and I have an evidence chart that I do,
my evidence list and everything, and I check off who used it and if I
moved it in or not, so I track my evidence, and before I rest, I always ask
can we conform and go over the evidence to make sure that I have
admitted everything I needed. So yeah, that’s a lesson. That’s my mistake
that day.
Here’s something that I wouldn’t call a mistake, but it happened.
My very first client was a shoplifting case of some jewelry from
Hudson’s. Hudson’s was the big department store downtown like
Woody’s. It was a big thing. Everybody shopped at Hudson’s. The
person was locked up, and in the cell block – and you have a female cell
block and a male cell block – and my client had a man’s name, so I go
back there and I ask for him. The officer brings out this person, and the
person who comes out is a woman. This is my first case ever in life, and
I’m recently graduated from this law school, so this woman comes out.
The charge is shoplifting of some jewelry, and she’s crying. She kept
crying and we’re talking and everything, and the way they worked it and
this is another thing about the way things were, PDS would have a fit
about this, the police officer stayed in the room with you, so he really
could hear what was being said. I had a question from my colleagues, and
I got up to leave, and the officer came over to me and he said I’m going to
tell you something you don’t know. I said okay. He said that’s a man
you’re talking to. I thought it was a woman because it looked like a
woman and the jewelry and she’s crying, but it did have a man’s name
coming out of the men’s lockup. I thought maybe they were overcrowded.
So then I went out and I said to my colleagues I don’t understand. I’ve
just been talking to my client, but the officer says that it’s a man, but I
thought it was a woman. I said I don’t know what to do. Should I ask? I
went back and I asked him are you a man or a woman. People won’t like
this. He said he was a man. Anyway, I told him he needed to stop doing
all that crying because I couldn’t take all that crying. He was very nice
and stylish. But this is true. When I was subsequently working at the
prosecutor’s office, like on my last day because I’m going to get married,
who do I run into but him on the elevator. Once again, very stylishly
appointed, had some really nice suede boots on. So that was my first case,
a shoplifting case, with the Misdemeanor Defenders Office.
That thing about the gun, that would be my mistake.
MR. WEAVER: Based on your record, I think it was well-learned from.
MS. JEFFRIES: I learned that lesson.
MR. WEAVER: One other thing you said earlier, you mentioned a story about a woman
who approached you in Recorder’s Court.
MS. JEFFRIES: U.S. District Court.
MR. WEAVER: She expressed her appreciation and happiness that you were in this role.
You’re a young lawyer, you’re trying to figure out what your job is going
to be, and sometimes it’s hard to step back and see the big picture and kind
of where you fit into things, but as you talked about that earlier, it was
very clearly impactful as you think about it now. Thinking about it
through the eyes of your younger self in that moment and in your early
years, what kind of impact did that have? Was it inspiring? Was it
weighty? Some combination of those or something else?
MS. JEFFRIES: It was very meaningful to me because like I said she’s this older woman
and she just walked up to me and said that. This is the 1970s. As I said,
not only was Motown the soundtrack of my life, but the Civil Rights
Movement was all my life, the 1950s and 1960s, and I was going to
Mississippi. I was fully cognizant. When I came here to Georgetown and
I came here sight-unseen, which I guess people would be shocked by that
today since they visit 500 schools now, but you got the Internet and can
find out more than I ever knew, but when I came here for Georgetown and
walked into my class at Section 3 that first day, there were way more
Black people in my class than I expected to see. I charge all of that to
Dave Wilmot, and in fact, I had dinner with my law school classmate and
others last night, and I brought that up and we discussed that. In these
professions, minorities, not just Black people, and women were
institutionally kept out of opportunities, schools, positions, jobs by the
system of this country, and so by the time I came along, I view me as the
beginning of really a great wave of women entering into law and even
other professions in big numbers because I think that my class here at
Georgetown probably was around 50/50 with the women to men. If it
wasn’t, it was close to that. There’s a lot of meaning to people to know
that they were shut out. There was an obit of a Black woman who died,
and it was in The New York Times yesterday, Dr. Doris Weber, 91 years
old. She was one of the first Black women to graduate from Yale Medical
School I think. It may have said she was the third Black woman to
graduate from Yale Medical School. It’s not because she was the first one
smart enough to go to Yale Medical School, graduate and be a doctor. It
was because the system in America was designed to keep us out, just as
Barack Obama was not the first person smart enough or accomplished
enough Black person to be President, but the system in American was
designed to keep us out, people like him, and designed to keep women out.
So yes, that was impactful, and even certainly situations I’ve found myself
in in my career would remind you that you were a minority or a woman.
When I was at Patman & Young we had some lawsuit going on and there
were different parties, so the lawyers had a meeting and I went for my
firm to this meeting. I’m the only woman with these old white men, and
I’m the only Black person. So then they wanted someone to take notes of
the meeting, and they wanted me to take notes. I think I told them I would
but only for the purpose of that meeting. Why are you asking me to take
When I was in Detroit, a young Georgetown alum, I would go to
alumni events and different things. In Detroit there is Mary Grove
College, which was a women’s school, and it’s a Catholic school, and
there was also Mercy, which also was a women’s Catholic school. I can’t
remember which one, but I think it’s Mary Grove they installed a new
president, and they invited the presidents of other Catholic universities and
colleges to the convocation, so Georgetown’s president at the time did not
come, but I was asked to participate as Georgetown’s representative of the
president, and I agreed. So they sent me the full academic regalia, the
robe and all. We had this academic parade of the presidents that marched
in this program and everything. I took my mother with me and then they
had a reception. I will say I was very honored to be asked to represent the
university at that, and I was honored that my mother could go with me and
to see that because, of course, as I’ve probably said, with my father dying
sophomore year of college, my mother got me through college and law
school, and I liked to be able to share the fruits of the experience with her.
And that’s something I did as a Georgetown alum when I was in Detroit.
To go back to what I was saying, women and minorities being kept
out. We can talk in the future about when I was in appellate in 1996. I
had my first appellate argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals, and I
took my son with me. So you can write that down, and we can talk about
that later on.
MR. WEAVER: When you got hired at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, did you not do details to
different divisions?
MS. JEFFRIES: We had a rotation, and when I started, I want to say it was a four-year
commitment, which was not a problem. Actually, when we started,
because my husband was doing his residency, we were going to be
transferred away, but I think we had a four-year commitment.
That’s the other thing about how I got hired. When I said usually
they would hire fifteen people or so, well they had gotten authorization,
because the work was expanding, for new positions, and I think they got
fifteen new attorney positions, so they were also doing that hiring. So it
was more than you would have in a usual year.
The rotation, you either began in Misdemeanor or Appellate, but
you do misdemeanors, appellate, grand jury, and then felony II, and by the
time you did all of that, that would probably take you through your four
years. Felony II did murder II. They didn’t first-degree murders or sex.
Those were in Felony I. Rape and first-degree were in Felony I. I don’t
think we did the child sex cases. So that takes you through your rotation.
What happened with me was I did my Misdemeanor rotation, and then I
went to Grand Jury, and it was about time for me to leave Grand Jury.
The Office needed people doing trials and felony trials, and so they
accelerated some of us, so rather than go to appellate, I skipped appellate
and I went to Felony II from Grand Jury, and there were a few of us that
skipped and went to Felony II. So I was doing my trials there, and in fact
it was the first day of felony trials was the day used to compute when my
baby was going to be born, so I was pregnant in felony trials. I did a lot of
trials in Felony II while pregnant. One week I did three drug trials. And
as I said a moment ago, I tried the last bank robbery that was done in
Superior Court. Ever since then, they’ve all been done in U.S. District
Court. My due date was May 21. That trial seems like that trial took me
more than a week, maybe up to two weeks, and it was in front of Judge
Eugast, who I’m sure was then the chief judge over in Superior Court, and
I’m eight months pregnant, and I was having some swelling. One day I
had forgotten my shoes, and I had on sneakers, so I told Judge Eugast I
didn’t have my shoes and did he mind if I wore my sneakers. Judge
Eugast said he would see these women around town and they’d be walking
around in their suits and stuff and they’d have on sneakers, and he asked
his wife what was up with that, and she told him it was none of his
business. So he told me to wear them. Then when I did the closing
argument, I asked him if I could have a chair, could I sit in the chair in
front of the jury and do the argument if I needed to sit, and I did much of it
from the chair. He told me he didn’t care. He said I could do anything
except stand on the table. So I did my closing argument in that trial,
Mr. Roots and Marshall, those were the defendants. They were convicted
of bank robbery. But when I finished that trial, it was very late April, and
the baby was due May 21. I said to myself I would not do another trial
while I was pregnant, and I didn’t care how I got out of it. Whatever the
case was, if it was called for trial, I was getting out of it and not trying
another case, and I was successful. I didn’t have to do anything nefarious
to get out of it. So I know those defendants, one of them at least got
eighteen years to whatever. In subsequent years whenever I would see
one of those defense attorneys, his name was Harold, and I’d say hello to
Harold and that my son is like five now, or my son is ten, how’s your guy
doing. That was an interesting bank robbery to me. Women face issues,
okay. This was a bank robbery. There used to be an American Security
Bank, which I think got caught up in that BCCI stuff that brought down
Clark Clifford, Bank of Commerce and Credit International, I think maybe
they bought American Security Bank. Anyway, the bank was right there
at Georgia and around Park Road, and the bank was being robbed by two
guys with guns, both of them had guns. A male customer ran out the front
door, and there was a policewoman on a motorcycle, and he told her that
those guys running down the street had just robbed the bank. Her name
was Regina, and she was short, shorter than me and I’m 5’3”, she goes
after them. Well she encounters one of them, and maybe there were row
houses and there were steps down to like a basement in the front of the
house. One of the guys was down there, and maybe he had his back to
her, and she stopped him and had him come out. Well she said he had his
hands in his jacket pocket, and she had her gun drawn. She said she kept
telling him to take his hands out of his pocket, and he wouldn’t do it. She
said she told him that two or three times, and she was getting mad because
she felt he didn’t respect her because she’s just a short little thing. She
said if he hadn’t taken his hands out of his pocket, she might have shot
him because she was concerned about that. What happened was a
sergeant came up behind her. He was a big guy, over 6’ tall. He came up
behind her and had his gun and told the guy to take his hands out of his
pocket, and the defendant did. Well what was in his pocket. His gun was
in the pocket, and his hand was on the gun. Regina said she was so mad
because she did not think the guy respected her. She thought she was
going to have to shoot him to get him to do what she wanted. That’s not a
good thing, people. I’m just saying. She didn’t shoot him. Other things
happened. I’m not saying she would have shot him, but that’s the kind of
thing that can irritate you as a professional, for someone not to take you
seriously because you perceive of your status.
MR. WEAVER: Did you feel that when you came into the Office, did you have the
impression sometimes that you weren’t taken seriously in a similar way?
MS. JEFFRIES: I don’t think that I would say that. When I came in the Office, there
certainly were some women ahead of me, and a few women who were in
some supervisory positions I think around that time. The now-late Noel
Kramer was an incredibly brilliant woman, she was chief of grand jury,
and a few other people. So women were starting to do things. I don’t
think I felt that way, although it still was a situation where the bulk of the
supervisors were men. I will make this observation. At that point in time
in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the bulk of the supervisors were men, and
not only were they men, but they were men who had stay-at-home wives.
I come into the office at a time where you’re beginning to have women as
a presence, and some of the women had had children before me, and
certainly with me and my group of colleagues and everyone since, we
really started having babies, but we had supervisors who were men who
had wives who were stay-at-home mothers. I’m not saying this to knock
them, but we may have some issues like the whole maternity thing and
how much leave you’re going to take and everything, which for them, they
didn’t deal with the issues because their wives were back home taking care
of kids and different things, so it was a different kind of attitude, more that
you had to educate them and deal with issues we might have, whereas
now, because probably half the people over there, one, are women, and the
men over there, if they are married and have children, they are doing
duties with the kids. So they have to leave because you have to get to
soccer practice or the child is sick and somebody needs to go home, and
not only is that true of the men as supervisors but those male judges over
there, a lot of them have parenting responsibilities, and they have wives
who also are fellow lawyers or judges or engineers or whatever they’re
doing. So it’s a different attitude. Once you have women in critical
numbers, things just shift anyway in attitudes.
So, no. I’m trying to think. I wouldn’t say that I had any problems
with any, what I’ll refer to as older judges who grew up in different times.
I didn’t personally have any issues. I will want to say something about
Judge Norma Holloway Johnson and her portrait unveiling and use her as
an example of things that happen to people. But no.
I had a witness one time he said to me you don’t look like a
lawyer. I said lawyers look like me, so you need to adjust your eyes
because this is what lawyers look like.
MR. WEAVER: More generally, what were your first impressions of the Office?
MS. JEFFRIES: We had a good number of women, and there were other Black lawyers
there, which was important to me. Black back then, it was more either
you could talk about people in terms of male/female or maybe
Black/white. Now it’s even much more mixed because there are more
Asian lawyers, gay lawyers, Hispanic people. It’s even more mixed than
it was when I started. I thought to be in a prosecutorial office that could
both do local or federal charging decisions and bring it in either place, I
actually thought that was a pretty unique, well it is, and useful situation to
be in as prosecutors. We also had the resources of the federal government
behind us, which states can’t match, I will say. And I was very impressed
with the quality of the defense bar and particularly of the Public Defender
Service and of their mission and how they go about it and the quality of
the work that they do and the representations. My viewpoint is – well, I
will say this, because, of course, the Office was traditionally a bastion of
white people and many of them people who did not live in D.C., maybe
lived in Maryland or Virginia and many who had life experiences different
from the people that they prosecuted. Now while on the one hand you can
say I had life experiences different from the people that I prosecuted
because I certainly grew up in an intact family in a single family and
parents who were working. We weren’t rich, but we weren’t poor people,
and I had excellent experiences. I had ended up going to Connecticut for
college and coming here to Georgetown. I certainly had not been a
teenage mother. I was not a drop-out. I didn’t have people in my world
who were caught up in the criminal justice system, either amongst my
friends or really amongst relatives, so I had a different kind of experience
from many of the people that we prosecuted. But I think that when you
are like the Office was, and then prosecuting people of a different
character, many times I think there was a failure of people I worked with
to understand that this set of facts can be looked at differently by other
people, and they also felt that their viewpoint about an issue was the
correct one and that people who saw it differently, like people on the other
side, were wrong, the values are different. One of the things that was
common people would say and refer to, they’d talk about D.C. juries and
certainly back then, our jury compositions were mostly predominantly
Black. I found that to be very offensive or think that D.C. juries were
stupid. The people weren’t stupid because they didn’t agree with the U.S.
Attorney’s Office, and I found that to be offensive. But if you’re on the
other side, you just may see things differently, and your interpretation of
these facts don’t necessarily rule. Another thing is many of my colleagues
when they would lose a case, they would come back and blame other
people like the D.C. jury or the judge had done something or the defense
lawyers. Whenever I lost a case, my question was what had I done wrong
or badly? What could I do differently? That was my analysis on things.
When I would see my defendants, and this was so true as Rudy grew and
we were living our lives the way we lived our lives in Montgomery
County, and I’d have my defendants, who were primarily young, Black
males, and they’d be sitting across at the other table, I felt many of them
toward them in ways like I did my son, but they were people who were
raised in different circumstances, beginning with the foods their mothers
ate while they were pregnant or the prenatal care that they did or did not
get, their medical care, their early home education, their religious or moral
training, the quality of the schools that they went to, and, of course, you
can see disparities in things that happened maybe in some of the D.C.
schools as compared to schools in Montgomery County, yet when these
kids come out and they graduate the same year, they’re competing against
each other. The kids could be at a marked disadvantage. So I felt badly
that their lives were such that maybe they had not had the advantages that
children like my son had or that I would have and that really it’s no
surprise that they were sitting there on the other side, the other table, in a
courtroom. I could have a young woman come in as a witness in my
homicides and she could be 23 and have four or five kids, and she dropped
out at 8th grade. You could say very often she would live with a lot of
stressors, and you could see in her behavior and the way she treated her
children those stressors manifest and come out and see the environments
that her children were being raised in and the people that they saw every
day. So really it was no surprise that maybe fifteen, twenty years later,
children of that young woman were being prosecuted by the U.S.
Attorney’s Office, and I think as a societal failure that any of us can sit
there and know that these kids are not going to have a good outcome and
what are we as a society doing about that, and that is a great failure of the
United States of America.
My prosecutorial philosophy, people may find this to be funny, I
kind of live by the Golden Rule, and I try to treat my defendants in a way
that I would want to be treated, and that was my philosophy toward
discovery as well and certainly, especially, when I started, prosecutorial
attitudes toward discovery were certainly different from what the current
attitudes are now, and a lot of things have evolved as the law has. I
believe, and I think if you ask defense attorneys about this, maybe they
saw me differently, but I don’t recall ever having a discovery dispute with
defense counsel, and I certainly don’t recall any motions to compel to get
me to disclose something. Now certainly primarily you may have a
situation where you had security concerns about a witness and their
identity, but I was not a hard liner on discovery stuff.
Prosecutors have gotten into a lot of trouble over Brady, and I
think Brady has also resolved, and I know the philosophy of the U.S.
Attorney’s Office certainly had evolved over the time that I was there. So
I know I’ve been gone for ten years, but I would be on the one hand
surprised if they have regressed, and if they have regressed, it’s because of
instructions from Main Justice. Brady, I think, is on the one hand because
is subjective in ways that can be difficult for a prosecutor because maybe I
might have something in my file which I look at and for a variety of
reasons, I don’t think it’s of any moment, but on the other hand, I don’t
know what the defense has developed and what they have, and if they
knew that, that might play into something. So you may have issues like
that, but I know I didn’t ever have any Brady complaints against me, and
that was never an issue in anything that I prosecuted that went up on
appeal. I would be sometimes when I’d enter my appearance, June M.
Jeffries for the United States of America, I would think about that, that the
United States of America back then I think had 330 million people, and I
would think about the fact that I was representing them in that moment in
that courtroom, but also that as their representative, I had the resources of
the U.S. Department of Justice, which the defendant at that other table
didn’t have the things to match what I had in my arsenal. I think I was
mindful of that. I do think that because of our Public Defender Service
here, for which I have a lot of respect, they were not my enemy, and
hopefully, I think, there are those of them who would say I was not an
enemy toward them, I think they do a really phenomenal job individually
with cases, but also attacking things institutionally. I think there were
problems with the way the U.S. Attorney’s Office was doing grand jury
things and use of subpoenas and PDS tracked that, and they filed a motion
to correct that institutionally, and that’s important, and I salute them for
this. I’m not mad at them. I feel this way. They didn’t write the
Constitution or the laws and neither did O.J. Simpson. They employed
them, and I’m not mad at them. I also feel like Johnny Cochran. He said
you may be able to control whether or not you commit a crime, but you
can’t control whether or not you get arrested, and I agree with that.
MR. WEAVER: One thing this makes me think about it seems like one of the keys to your
success was doing your job with a lot of empathy both for victims, for
witnesses, for the defendants, for the people who perpetrated some of the
crimes. It seems like a core reason that you were able to connect with
juries and be able to do your job very well. Was that taxing? Did that also
come with a price of a certain weightiness in sort of thinking about,
particularly for the defendant, understanding their circumstances and
where they’re at?
MS. JEFFRIES: If you pre-sentence reports, which Lord knows I’ve read a lot of presentence
reports in my life, you see many common themes, lack of
education. I believe that drugs or alcohol have something to do with most
of the cases, whether or not it’s a drug case, the defendant himself may use
drugs or alcohol in ways that don’t help him, or the parent was a drug
addict or alcoholic and the child led a fractured life or the boyfriend is
selling drugs and the woman gets caught up. I think most of the women,
especially when I was prosecuting, if you see a women involved in the
criminal justice system, most of them were there because of a guy in some
way. You see that, and yes, I feel that for people. Or they didn’t good
educations or they didn’t have good opportunities. Here’s an example. I
told you how I spent thousands of dollars in the pursuit of hockey for my
kid and all the ice time and you’re going and the rinks and all of that. So
many of my defendants were idle people because they didn’t even have
hobbies or interests that they pursued and put their time in, and it’s like
they say, idle hands are the devil’s workshop. So a lot of my defendants
and the way they worked, not in a job, but the way they were living. They
stayed up until like 4:00 in the morning playing video games and sleep
until 2:00 in the afternoon because they don’t have structure and then
they’re hanging out with people on the corner because they don’t have
those outlets. So if it’s important in Montgomery County for people to
have ice rinks and swimming pools and tennis and all of that, it’s
important to the children of the District of Columbia, so to the Mayor, I
say keep Fort Dupont ice rink. I think you can heat the schools and do the
ice rink. But just as important as that, if it’s important for the schools in
Montgomery County to have computers and schools in every classroom, it
should be important for these kids in the public schools here to have
books. When I taught Street Law, I found out that people didn’t have
books and that’s shocking and incomprehensible to me. So yes, empathy.
It wasn’t a thing of I get a conviction and I’m cheering and I’m happy
because somebody’s just been convicted or they’re going to be going to
prison for some substantial period of time. Now I may feel that they
deserved the time, but it’s not a point of happiness that somebody’s going
to be in a cage and live the way they live. I also feel that prisoners need to
be treated probably way better than most of them get treated because all
you do is make them angry, and then when they come out. I wanted for
any of my defendants who come out, I want them to come out and meet
success with life. If they don’t, then as a society, we pay a price for it, and
I would wish that for them, whether that gets accomplished or not. So,
yes, it wasn’t like I was doing this out of a sense of happiness or whatever,
but I also know being from Detroit that relatively crime-free, haha, city
that I am, and growing up in a place that you would call the inner-city and
seeing what happens and the crime and the things that happen, I know
there are people and good people besieged by the crimes in their
neighborhoods and that that’s a problem.
So, yes, it wasn’t that I did it from sense of big-time happiness,
although there are many aspects of my job that I enjoyed and were good
for me. What people commonly say to me because I would do those child
cases, my baby murders, my kid murders, they say I don’t see how you
can do that. Well somebody had to do it. I would say that I don’t even
feel that those weighed me down a lot. They were sad in very many
reasons, but I feel I went home to happiness, and I had to be happy for my
child and my life, so I didn’t feel weighted in that sense.
MR. WEAVER: From talking to some of the folks who worked with you in the Office and
from different press accounts, you have a reputation of being a dogged
prosecutor who would spare no effort seeking justice, and I’m quoting a
little bit there from some of the folks that I talked to. They describe you
as someone who had the respect of the judge, jury, your opponent, and
often, the defendant. How did you develop that as a young lawyer at the
U.S. Attorney’s Office? Were you nervous when you started? It seems
like from talking to people, your reputation just kind of precedes you as
this very confident, always on top of it, always on her game, usually
winning all of your cases. So I’m wondering what that looked like as a
younger Assistant at the Office and how you developed that.
MS. JEFFRIES: Here’s the what I’m going to call the one time I was nervous, although
there maybe were some other aspects, but the one time I was nervous, my
very first court matter in life in the Misdemeanor Defenders Office in
Detroit, the very first thing I did was a misdemeanor arraignment. I’m
here to say my late dog, Wizard, could do a misdemeanor arraignment. I
used to tell my secretary when I didn’t feel like going to court, I’d say why
don’t you go over and I’ll write down what you need to say. Why don’t
you go and just come back? So I had to do a misdemeanor arraignment,
and I was so nervous. I wrote down everything I had to say, and then Sam
Churikian, he’s the one who hired me there, he said do you want me to do
it for you, and I looked at him, and I said no because to me, if I had
answered yes to that, then what was the point of the $42,000 I had just
spent going to law school. So yes, I was nervous for that, but otherwise,
no. Now let me counter by saying as I would tell people if I’m doing trial
and I tell the students up at Howard, when I was doing trials, when the
judge would turn to me after we picked the jury and call on me to do my
opening, before I opened my mouth and said the first word, that was the
most nervous I ever was, that two seconds. But that’s different from what
I was saying about doing the first court thing. That, I was terrified.
I felt this way, I felt that any judge or lawyer that I was involved
with in the courtroom, I felt that they had the same thing I had, a bar card,
and with regard to the judges, they were getting the same thing I got,
direct deposit of a paycheck. So I wasn’t scared of them in that sense.
They had what I had. And I didn’t go to court with the idea that my role
was to make a job happy. I wasn’t there to antagonize them, but I did
have a client that I represented. As I said, to stand there and enter my
appearance to represent the United States of America, I found that to be a
heady thing, and I wanted to do it well, and I’ve always been mindful of
people coming behind me and wanting opportunities for them. I felt that
the defendants were entitled to fairness, and if I were to do otherwise, that
I would not be the person that I wanted to be or that the person that the
various people who had influenced my life had expected me to be, so I try
to do things in that way. I would have cases where I might have the
defendant’s family, parents, as witnesses. I always felt that my
defendants, this is the way I operated, I presumed that they loved their
child with the same depth and intensity that I loved my child, and I was
not there trying to disrespect them or trying to hurt them. I had a job that I
was doing, but I tried to be mindful of that.
I did a murder case, and one of my defendants took the stand and
the people involved, they were all friends and stuff and other things, he
took the stand, and I think I thought he told a more credible version than
what my folks were saying, and he was acquitted. His parents, I had dealt
with his parents and they came to the trial, and he had older parents
because he had been born later in their lives and he was their only child,
and when he was acquitted, I said to them, and he had previously been in
jail and had gotten out, and then this had happened. I said to them, “Todd
just got a big break,” because it was a murder case, and I said I hope that
he will use this in the right way. Almost a year to the day, I’m reading the
paper on my way into work, and I read that Todd had been shot seventeen
times. That killed Todd. I called his parents afterward, and I talked to
them, and I told them I was sorry, and I was. And that would be true now.
So like I said, I tried to do things fairly. Reading the pre-sentence reports,
people had bad lives, so since the bulk of murders, I didn’t really have a
lot of flexibility, so no, you’ve just murdered two people, no, I’m not
going to agree to probation. It was not like that, okay. It’s not like that.
The defense lawyers, particularly, would come in and make these heartfelt
pitches, and you could read the reports and see why yes, all of that is
true, I can agree, but at this point, if you’re 18, and I have 3 murder cases
that you’ve done, I’m not agreeing to probation, and yes I am asking for
time and consecutive for each life.
Now since I’ve retired, I heard this man say, and I don’t know
what I was listening to, NPR or some other thing that maybe I went to, he
was talking about sentences in the United States being too long. I’m not
going to say one way or another that that’s absolutely correct, but he said
something like you could probably give people a third of the time that they
get and have the same effect. I think about that a lot, and I think there’s
probably a great bit of truth to that because I always felt that if you sent
me to jail for one night, I’d probably learn that lesson that I shouldn’t have
done it. I’m sure for my defendants, after three or four years, they say
okay maybe I shouldn’t have done this, so maybe they’ve learned that
lesson. That’s not the only reason why they get convicted. Some of them
need to be away from folks so they won’t do it again or whatever, and then
with these crimes of the violence, people age out, and I do have people
who are doing sentences of life without parole, and I think they deserve it.
But anyway, that’s something I think about philosophically. Are there
ways and things could be done differently? Yes. I think all those people,
like when I was in Misdemeanors prosecuting people for marijuana, all
those people got those marijuana convictions, I think all those people
deserve expungements from their records because now what’s going on
people have marijuana businesses and they’re making millions in
marijuana farms, and one of the former deputy police chiefs who then
went to a career on the Hill, I read an article in the paper last year or the
year before, he’s now the chief security officer for some marijuana farm in
western Maryland. I’m like really? And people were being locked up and
everything. I think they all deserve expungements. Yes, I do.
MR. WEAVER: What were some other notable early trials? You mentioned the bank
robbery prosecution when you were eight months pregnant. After you
came back, what were some other trials you did before you started
prosecuting murders?
MS. JEFFRIES: I’ll think of something, but I do want to say this. I tell people about bank
robbery. By the time I left work, the average bank robbery was only
netting around $3,000, so if you want to make money in a robbery, I tell
everybody, don’t do a bank robbery. The way to go is do an armored
truck. Whenever I see an armored truck at a shopping center or
something, I go the other way because I think of them as rolling armed
robberies and shoot-outs and everything, and I don’t want to go down in
the hail of bullets. I stay away from armored cars. Don’t do bank
robberies. That’s so ineffective. If you’re going down federal time, go
down for big. When I was in Detroit, we used to have all these shoplifting
cases. People going to K-Mart and shoplifting shoes and stuff, but you
would very rarely see Saks 5th Avenue in there’re, because I think at Saks
if they caught you and you acted kind of decent, they let you go. So why
go down for a $2 pair of shoes. Go down for a $200 pair. You might get
a better pair.
So anyway, in Felony before I was doing the murders, it was a lot
of armed robberies. I actually enjoyed armed robbery prosecutions,
especially if you got the weapon. The very first one I had when I went to
federal trials, I had an armed robbery in front of Judge Truman Morrison,
and it involved a .357 magnum that we had recovered. You hardly see
those anymore because everyone’s gone automatic. I haven’t heard
anything about that in a long time. When I first went to Felony trials, the
chief of the section was Steve Gordon, and Steve himself was going to
prosecute two murder cases. One involved a case where no body had been
found, and the other involved these old people where they’d gotten
together, and the wife had the husband murdered for the insurance policy.
Steve was busy preparing for trial when I went to Felony trials, so in
essence, my first two or three months there, the only conversation with
him was “Hello,” or there was a conversation about the office I moved
into and the caseload I took over. When I moved in that office, my
colleague, whose office it had been, went on vacation, and people around
me kept telling me that she said she wasn’t going to move out of the
office. I didn’t care, and I didn’t want to fight about it, but everybody’s
coming to me, my fellow lawyers and secretaries, that she made it clear
that she wasn’t moving out of the office. So I went to him and said I’m
sitting here, and I didn’t want to unpack my stuff needlessly, so I said if
you have another office I can use, I don’t mind, I can do it. He told me
she would be moving. So she did. That’s the only conversations I had
with the chief of the section. I’m getting ready for this felony trial and it
had suppression motions, and I’m doing the motion in front of Judge
Morrison, and unlike TV, there were no people in the courtroom. It was
just us. None of my colleagues were there. I made this argument, I was
feeling stupid too, I made this argument, and then he said to me something
like well that takes care of the Fourth Amendment claims, but what about
the Sixth Amendment, and I’m standing there in my head going the Sixth
Amendment. Sixth Amendment. And then I started thinking of phrases
and stuff, and then I started throwing things out, so I gather I was saying
the right things because I’m looking around and there’s nobody in here,
right? I’m like okay, June, let’s get this together. I remember that trial,
doing that motions hearing, which means, people, be prepared. I was a
Girl Scout. Be prepared.
Armed robbery has some drama, and in that particular case, the
defendant took the gun and pointed it right at the man’s head. We did a
demo in the courtroom. I like demos. I think that was effective with the
jury. If you’ve ever had a 357 pointed at your forehead, it will get your
attention. So I remember that. The armed robberies were probably, you
get a lot of UUV’s [unauthorized use of a motor vehicle]. I have some
things I could say about that, but I’ll let that go.
I don’t think we did the child sex cases there. UUV’s, armed
robberies. I had a case that was memorable. I had a young woman who
was shoplifting or writing bad checks. I think writing bad checks. We’re
in front of the judge, and she pleads guilty. She’d write these bad checks
buying all this stuff. So she comes for sentencing, and she’s wearing a
leather dress. I’m like, Judge, this is the problem here. Look at this dress.
This cost a lot of money, and she’s writing these checks.
Here’s one I had. I had another young woman, 28 years old, a
secretary at Blue Cross with a 3-year-old son, but she’s smoking the crack,
not a good move. So what she did was either she bought 39 pieces of ID
and credit cards for $40, or she bought 40 for $39, so then she goes
shopping. She went to Woody’s and bought a few things, she went to
Garfinkel’s and bought a few things. This was a long time ago. These
places don’t exist. Then she goes to Neiman Marcus, and this is a 28-
year-old Black woman. She goes to Neiman Marcus, to the fur
department, picks out a $15,000 fur coat and goes to buy it with a credit
card. So they say to her that a transaction of that amount has to go
through the credit department so come back tomorrow, and we will have
this processed. So she leaves. Now, at that moment when they say to you
this is going to be run through the credit department and you, the 28-yearold
Black woman have just handed them the credit card of Stella
Kowalski,. I think you should then try to calmly walk out the store and
not go back. Those shoes we had gotten at Garfinkel’s and those pants
and everything, just don’t go back. But what do you think happened?
Home girl goes back to Neimann Marcus the next day, they give her the
slip to sign the name, Bingo, MPD was there watching all of this, so we
got her on that, and I’m prosecuting that case. So she takes a plea, and
she’s out on bond, and she’s supposed to work with the police department
to try to get more, looking into this. Well what do you think happens?
She goes shopping over in Virginia with more credit cards that were not
hers. That was very sad to me, because she had this little boy and she
went to jail. She was there crying in court. That was sad. But I’m like
really? A $15,000 coat and they say they’re going to run it and you go
back? I took that to mean that crack is very powerful.
MR. WEAVER: Who were your closest colleagues during the early years?
MS. JEFFRIES: If you ask people, people would tell you Deborah Long-Doyle, Blanche
Bruce. Blanche was a year ahead of me in law school. I didn’t know her,
but she’s also from Detroit, so when I was working in Detroit and meeting
people and stuff, and I met a lot of Howard people, people would say to
me do you know Blanche, but I didn’t. What happened was she had been
working for Justice here. She transferred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in
Detroit, so then people would mention her. Subsequently, I met her
because one of her good friends started working at my law firm, and then
when I got married and moved here, I think the first day I started in the
Office and I was up in Claire Whittaker’s office, I saw a list she had of
new hires, and Blanche’s name was on there. I asked if she was from
Detroit, and she said yes, so three months after I started in the Office,
Blanche started in the Office, and we were close friends for many years.
I’ve been friends with other people—Judge Broderick, Patti Broderick, we
are good friends. She officiated at my son’s wedding, and he clerked for
her for two years. You talked to some of my friends. Sherri Harris Evans.
She’s also from Detroit, went to Cass Tech, but Sherri is younger so I
didn’t know her until she moved here. And Judge Ricki Roberts. Several
people, Natalia Combs Green. We were good friends and worked
together, and others. I run this group, I really kind of created this, of
women, AUSAs, current and former, and we have these dinners twice a
year, so a lot of them I’m friends with. Last week, there are four of us
who get together periodically and have lunch, discuss court people,
politics, and now we’re all retired, and one of our group, Joan, has moved
back home to Utah. She was here, so last week we had lunch as we
always would do over at Charlie Palmer’s and talked about stuff.
MR. WEAVER: You mentioned the gun case, one of your earlier cases in Detroit where
you learned the lesson you have to get the gun into evidence. Was there
another, did you have a loss in a case at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the
first few years that kind of sticks out in your mind that you remember?
MS. JEFFRIES: In those first few years, no. Not really, I don’t think. Those cases,
misdemeanors or felony II’s, not that I can think of in that regard. I will
say I did have a case in Misdemeanors where the lawyer came in on some
discovery thing, and he wanted me to dismiss the case or something.
Well, I wasn’t doing that, so then he said to me if I didn’t dismiss the case,
then it would go to trial, and “the judge would try the case,” because the
lawyer he worked with was a former Superior Court judge. So I think he
said that to me because I was supposed to be afraid of the judge going to
trial against the judge, but I want to say clearly that meant nothing to me,
and I was not afraid. No, I don’t remember any losses from that.
MR. WEAVER: Was there a case that was particularly tough that you were proud of at the
time that you thought you weren’t going to win but you pulled it out
through a good closing or a good cross or anything like that?
MS. JEFFRIES: I think of that in regard to one of my murder cases, which was quite a
while ago. I tried a case where the defendant was accused of killing his
boyfriend, the defendant was Ralph, the boyfriend was David.
MR. WEAVER: Do you remember the name of the case?
MS. JEFFRIES: The defendant? His name was Ralph Smith, and his boyfriend David.
Ralph was a female impersonator. Ralph took the stand. He was
represented by Doug Wood, so he had a good defense attorney, and he
took the stand, and in essence said that that night they had come home
from – it was New Year’s Eve, so January 1, that morning, they had come
home to the apartment. Things had been going badly with David because
the two of them were together, and David had some kind of car accident
and couldn’t work and Ralph had supported David and done all of this.
David had recently gotten his financial settlement, and then had not been
acting right and things were not going well. So they argued, and in the
course of the argument, David gets shot one time. In the autopsy, it was
two things that killed him. The gunshot wound and then he had a broken
hyoid cartilage in the throat, so suffocation. Ralph said that it was David’s
gun and David pulled it out of the drawer and that the shot came in the
course of a struggle. He said all this stuff. Well, as I said, Ralph was a
female impersonator, and one of the things he did was there was some
group with some kind of childhood disease or disorder, and the parents
had a group and every year they would have an annual fundraiser, and
somehow Ralph was connected to these people, and they would have this
fundraiser, and he would perform. He went as Keisha. He would
perform, and those family members, they were so supportive of Ralph and
talked about what a good person he was. I’m not saying Ralph was a bad
person. This was a situational thing. David got killed. So he had that
going on and all of this, but I will say this. When he took the stand, and
everybody knew in the case that he was a female impersonator, because he
worked that night as Keisha, so he told the jury that he was 6’1” or 6’2.”
When the shooting happened, he weighed 205, although he had been in
jail so he weighed 195, and he said that night as Keisha, he had on a silver
lame’ cocktail dress, a bouffant wig, and 3” nails and heels. When he said
3” nails, women in the jury busted out laughing, but I’ll say this, he had a
picture of himself made up. He looked really good. He did. He looked
good as Keisha. If Ralph had been acquitted, I was going to go to one of
his shows because I wanted to see. I didn’t have animosity toward Ralph
or Doug or anything. Anyway, he took the stand. When he took the
stand, I thought I was going to lose that because I thought he had
presented well and his self -defense claim. He was convicted. The sad
thing was it was a gun charge and you get mandatory minimum of at least
five years. The case was before Judge Eilperin, and it was Judge Eilperin,
and me. Oh, I know a case I really have to talk about. Judge Eilperin, and
me. I believe that there was tacit agreement amongst the three of us that
had it not been for that mandatory minimum, he would have gotten
probation. I would not have opposed that. I believe that. But he did get
the five years. That was too bad for Ralph.
I should talk about this case in front of Judge Weisberg. This is a
Felony II case. This was a fun case in a sense. I had a case where a man
in his apartment in Dupont Circle had been brutally beaten by my
defendant, as well as I know the defendant’s name. I have to think about
that. Anyway, my victim was gay, a Black guy, and the defendant was a
white guy. I didn’t have too many white defendants. John Allen Windsor,
I think that’s my defendant’s name. They meet up on the street, as people
will do, and John went home with my victim, and they did what people do.
They told me they were popping amyl nitrate, inhaling that, and then
looking at porno magazines, so stuff happened. When it was time for the
defendant to leave, he wanted stuff from my victim, like money or things,
and my victim didn’t give him money or things. Unbeknownst to my
victim, John lifted his keys. John came back later on when my victim was
sleeping, and my victim had a small statuette, and John beat him up. This
guy was in the hospital, he’s unconscious, he’s got fractures here, his teeth
knocked out, he was a mess, and he was unconscious for a while. John
ends up getting picked up however they locate him. I forget how they
were able to close it, and I prosecute it. So I’m on Felony II’s. The grand
jury assistant had indicted the case, then when you get indicted, it comes
before what the Felony II judge and you have the arraignment on the
indictment, so I wasn’t there for the arraignment. My team member was
there, a man. After that, then we probably had a status hearing two
months later. Well between the arraignment and the status hearing, John
Allen Windsor starts writing me letters, but he’s never seen me, but he
starts writing me letters, talking about all this stuff. He’d talk about how
he said he didn’t kill anyone, but could he have a plea, and his lawyer says
whatever, and he’s telling me this stuff. But then he’s telling me all this
other stuff. Now, I will say this. Based upon what John would say to me
in these letters, John Allen Windsor was the most highly sexed man in
America. He’s writing me all these letters from the D.C. jail, and I’m
reading these to my colleagues. I’m like don’t these people have stuff to
do at the jail. How do you have time to be writing me all these letters. So
we have the status hearing, and I go to court. Once again, it’s Judge
Eilperin, and I have a motion, because I wanted handwriting because he’s
writing me all these letters and he’d mention stuff about the case, so that
we can have handwriting comparisons.
MR. WEAVER: Is his writing primarily about the case, or is it the case and also whatever
MS. JEFFRIES: He might say stuff about the case, but it’s also the sex and stuff. So I
write this motion, so John comes to court. People listening to this can’t
see what I’m doing, but the way the courtroom was, the judge is up there,
my table is here, the defense table is here, the clerk is over there, and in
the courtroom, you’re around, the defendant is there, I’m moving around,
I’m not feeling anything, but I’ve got this motion and I’m asking the judge
to sign the motion. Well John is standing over there. I’m going to go
stand over here. And if I’m over there arguing, John is standing over there
looking at me like this, and so I’m looking at the motion, and I’m looking
at him, and I’m looking down, and I’m looking at him. So the judge says
he’ll sign the order, and I have the order. So what would I normally do.
I’d normally just walk over there and give it to the clerk, but he’s been
looking at me, so I said to Vince Caputy, my colleague, I don’t think that I
can walk over there, and Vince says I’ll take it. But then the marshal says
he’ll take it. So he takes it and gets signed. Then when John is gone, the
marshal says to me when this guy is in the courtroom, you should stand as
far away from him as possible because he’s always asking me about you,
are you wearing dungarees. He says you should stay away from him, as
far as possible.
Well now John has seen me in court. He writes me a letter. He
says Ms. Jeffries, forgive me for writing you all that sex, blah blah blah.
I’m writing you all this stuff, but that was before I saw you, and now I see
you’re the most beautiful colored woman in America, and I’m sorry for
writing all this blank stuff. He was graphic. So he’s not going to write me
anymore. Okay. A few days go by, and I get eight letters from John.
He’s writing me these letters; he’s drawing little stick figure pictures. He
tells me details about his stuff and things and everything. I’m like oh my
god, he’s writing me these letters. In all, I got 72 letters from John. He
told me stuff that he could do and that he learned from his father. He told
me I could call his father. I didn’t know what his father’s going to vouch
for his abilities, or his father is going to want to do it. I don’t know. Why
would I call his father? But I did call his mother one time. John had been
in the Navy and something had happened and he’d gotten a head injury,
and she thought from that head injury he had changed, but she told me he
had been home with her one time, and she was afraid of him because
something had happened and she said he had knocked her onto the bed
and gotten all on top of her and done stuff, so she was weary of John. And
he’s writing me these letters.
He took a plea, and he was sentenced. There’s a part I won’t put in
that people should know, but I’ll tell you afterward. He gets sentenced. I
filed a motion, all the letters. I let the judge see all the letters John had
been writing me. Once he saw me then he wanted me to write him back.
This is in the public record. if you pull the file, you can read the letters, so
I’m not telling you people stuff that’s not out there. He wanted me to use
the name Rosie Woods to write him back because she was someone he’d
once been with. And then he’s telling me about when he was five years
old stuff he did with a three-year-old girl. He’s writing me these letters
and drawing pictures. So one time he wrote me, he’s there at the jail, and
he’s talking about he’s sitting there and it’s such and such a time, and he’s
doing this but that didn’t work and then time went by and he did some
more and then something happened. He was using terminology that I did
not even know. I’m reading to my colleague, and I said what is he talking
about? What does this mean? So then it was explained to me what John
was talking about. I have learned a lot of stuff having been a prosecutor.
So anyway, John wrote me. And then he wrote me this letter how one day
I’d look up and he’d be standing in my office doorway. He went through
this elaborate thing that would happen. We locked John up. I don’t know
what happened with him. That stands out in my mind.
I should talk about this. I was assigned to Judge Weisberg for a
while, and very early on in my career, I had a homicide where he gave the
person probation over my objection, and it may be that I inherited the
case, and I only did the sentencing. Whatever it was, he gave probation,
and I objected. Back then, and I’ve talked to him about this subsequently,
so Fred [Weisberg] knows this, he participated in some project Yale Law
School was doing about sentencing. I guess they were tracking sentencing
that he gave, and then he wanted to talk to people who had been in front of
him. So I talk to whoever it was, and I talked about that case and said I
just couldn’t understand how you would give somebody probation, and
that person had killed someone else. I felt anyone who killed anybody
needed to go to jail, and I said this. Well, of course, if he read the
remarks, he would have known it was me. So that wouldn’t have been a
secret. Anyway, I said this. As I told him many years later, I wanted him
to know that I was no longer of the viewpoint that every single person who
took another person’s life should absolutely go to jail, and that there were
some people who should get probation. Like I prosecuted a woman
named Blanche subsequently who was an alcoholic, her boyfriend Jackie
was an alcoholic. They lived together and they’d drink and as some
people do relate to each other, they would get violent with each other. But
one weekend comes and she was going to go to her cousin’s for the
weekend and go to some cabaret or something, so she was there packing a
bag and she and Jackie were arguing, and he threw something or whatever,
and so she picked up a knife and she said she swung it at him and then she
leaves and she said when she left, Jackie threw her leather coat at her out
the door. Okay, he did that. So she goes away, but I guess she came back
on Sunday or something to pick up something, and when she came back,
Jackie was in front of the TV set. The TV was on, he’s in the chair, and
he’s slumped over. He’s dead. Well it turned out she had hit an artery,
and he had died. Now, he had a very high blood alcohol content, and
externally, there were just a few drops of blood on his shirt. So I think
that Jackie is under the influence and is sitting there looking at the TV and
as he’s bleeding out, he was too weak to do anything and didn’t realize
what was going on. So she gets charged with second degree murder, and
we had sentencing. She was representing by PDS, and you know, PDS
has a supply of people working, and they have social workers, one being a
woman named Betsy Bieben, and Betsy worked on the case. While
Blanche was out, she had gotten and gotten into AA, she had a job, she
was working and doing all these different things. She got probation, and
one of the things I have always remembered at sentencing, when Blanche
spoke, she said to the judge, she said I loved Jackie, and she said if I had
known that I had actually hurt him, I never would have left Jackie. And I
believed her, and I think this was the quality of their relationship. They
fought with each other and they stayed together. Through the years, I
would see Betsy and ask her about Blanche, and to my knowledge,
Blanche never had any violations, and she continued to do well. It’s
unfortunate as I’ve seen demonstrated, sometimes it has taken the death of
a loved one for another person to totally change their lives. But I’ve seen
that happen.
So, yes, that happened to me in Felony II’s. I said that about Judge
Weisberg, that everyone should go to jail, but I evolved.
I should also say over the course of my time, especially doing all
those homicides, I was dealing with victims, family members, and
survivors, and I have developed close and good relationships with some of
those people, and we can talk about that when we talk about later in my
Here’s a murder case I tried from the late 1980s, a well-publicized
case, Ricky Brogsdale. He was called the Peeping Tom Murderer. Ricky
did three different types of cases. He did these peeping tom cases where
he would spy you through a window, masturbate, ejaculate, and then shoot
you with a .22. People didn’t know he was out there. Several of those
people got shot, but they didn’t die. They got shot in the arm or whatever
happened, they didn’t die. His very last case, by the time he did the last of
the peeping toms, this had gotten publicized and in the news, and the
community was in an uproar, why hadn’t they been told this was going on.
His very last peeping tom shooting resulted in the woman dying, and he
got arrested shortly after from what was going on then. But he also did
some flat-out revenge first-degree murders. So three different types of
cases. In my peeping tom cases, I probably had six or seven victims, then
I had three flat-out first-degree murders, and I had the peeping tom
murder. So Ricky does the shooting, and it’s been publicized. It was an
apartment, a first-floor window. The woman he shot, Yvonne Ford, it was
her parent’s apartment. She and her kids were living there, but they were
getting their own apartment or something and she was packing. So she’s
in the bedroom packing, everyone else was out in the living room.
Ricky’s out at the window doing his thing, and she evidently heard the
noise, and she walked up to the window, and Ricky shot her one time in
the neck, and she falls. Yvonne dies from that. Her 16-year-old daughter
hears this, runs in the room, sees her mother on the floor, people go as
people would go, she runs outside, and at this point in time, the 7th District
Police Station I think was in the 1900 block of Mississippi Avenue before
they built the new station. She runs outside, and as she’s running outside,
they lived two blocks up the street from 7D, a police car is going by. She
tells them her mother’s been shot through the window. The police, the
calls go out, they look, so they’re thinking this is the peeping tom guy.
There was a police officer, a sergeant, I’ll call his name Joe Thomas, he
was working that night in 7D. He knew all of the ins and outs. Okay.
The police fan the area. There was a young kid, 14, taking the trash out
for his aunt. He was staying with his aunt because his mother was in the
hospital having a baby. As he’s taking the trash out, a guy comes walking
through the alley. It’s been in the news about the peeping tom guy. The
kid said to him, “Hey Peeping Tom man.” And it was my guy Ricky.
Ricky opens up his jacket, and the boy can see he’s got a gun in there.
Well around this time, you start hearing police sirens. Ricky takes off. So
at some point, the police come through. They ask the kid have you seen
anybody, and he says this guy went over there. Joe—Joe’s over on that
side, wherever that was, and there was another set of apartments which the
rear faced a wooded area, and he goes back there. Well Ricky was over
there. He often did more than one shooting in a night. There was a
woman in her apartment who was taking a shower in the bathroom, and
Ricky was back there in the window, but Joe comes around, and Ricky
gets arrested. This is a big deal. Ike Fulwood was chief then. The chief
comes in, and Ricky’s talkative. He agrees to give videotaped statement.
He’s giving statements. They’re asking him about all these cases. Ricky
had been in Lorton on a gun case and had been released. So after release,
he starts doing all this stuff. When he was in Lorton, he stayed longer
than you usually would because he was doing violations in there, so they
made him serve longer, the parole people. And Ricky’s a personable guy.
He’s talking and they’re asking him about cases, and he’s giving it up. He
even told them about a case that he had done that was unconnected and he
agreed to go out with the police and he took them to where it happened,
and that’s how we found that victim. So there was one shooting that
Ricky would not own up to. One of my victims was a police officer, a
woman, in her apartment, sitting on the bed talking on the phone to her
father, and Ricky had been outside her bedroom window doing his thing,
and he shoots her one time in the head while she’s talking to her father.
This has been publicized too. Ricky would not own up to shooting Kelly.
He wouldn’t own up to that. It was believed he wouldn’t own up to it
because she was a police officer, and he didn’t want to admit that to other
police officers. Ike Fulwood came down. He said to Ricky if you confess
to this shooting, these are my people, nothing will happen to you, and Ike
told him that. Ricky then gave it up on Kelly as well. I want to say
nothing did happen to Ricky, and I’d like to think nothing would have
happened, but I’m saying that there. Ike Fulwood said that to Ricky, so
Ricky gave that one up. I ended up being with Ricky longer than any of
his lawyers. He went through three sets of lawyers over the course of time
for various reasons. Some left to take other jobs or whatever. I did three
trials with Ricky. During that investigation at one time there was a
possibility of insanity defense and I talked to a lot of people. I talked to a
brother of his, I talked to his mother, which is a good example of the
issues his mother had and she was a substance abuser and everything,
having met his mother, I’m sure to have her as a mother was a very trying
thing. So anyway, we get to the last matter, and Ricky wanted to plead
guilty, so we were going to have a guilty plea, but then a cousin of mine
got killed in a car accident and I had to go to Detroit so we put it over for a
week. Well his lawyer told him why we put it over, that I had to do this.
Ricky’s artistic. He made a sympathy card and sent it to me. So then we
go to court. We have the plea and then Ricky gets sentenced. His lawyer,
who was from PDS said to me that Ricky wanted to talk to me. I’m like
why does he want to talk to me. He said Ricky wanted to know, he didn’t
want me to hate him. I said I don’t hate him, but this is intriguing. I’d
like to talk to Ricky. At that time, we actually brought prisoners up to our
office. It’s changed now, but the police would bring them up. I invited
the lead detectives, some of the mobile crime guys, because when Ricky
got processed and they’re taking pictures in his jumpsuit, well Ricky was a
boxer, and he had boxed when he was at Lorton, and I can’t remember
how this worked, but he got able to go someplace to some boxing
competition. I almost going to say he went to Las Vegas. Doesn’t that
sound weird that a guy in prison would do this? Something happened that
he was a boxer, Ricky “the Rock” Brogsdale. So when they’re taking his
pictures that night, he wanted to pose in these poses because he was
muscular. So he took his suit down so you could see his chest and arms,
and he posed in these pictures, and he had his sister’s name tattooed on his
arm, which was important to me because one of the guys he killed, that
was important. We had these pictures, and Ricky had asked for those
pictures, and I had given them to his lawyer, because, you know, they
were probably the last pictures he’d have taken in his life. But he wanted
these pictures. So anyway, I had some of the mobile crime unit, his
lawyer, and detectives. I made hors d’oeuvres, and we had stuff to drink.
Not alcohol. I made punch or something. Ricky came, and I served this.
I said this is interesting. We can all talk, and like I had known a lot of
things about Ricky, and I knew he had lived in Delaware at some point
and then they came to D.C. but I didn’t know what that was about. So
here’s what my defendant told me. He said they were living in Delaware
and he had stepfather. He said some men broke in and killed his
stepfather with a shotgun in front of him and whoever else was there. So
I’m thinking imagine being a child and you see your stepfather murdered
with a shotgun and then having his mother the way she was as his mother
I’m sure that was trying. I thought there had been let’s say some
inappropriate behavior between the mother with her children, which got
verified. Some of my cases Ricky’s thing is sexual in nature and things
that happened. So anyway, we had that discussion, and Ricky he wrote
very well. I told you he sent me a card. He wrote me a letter after that
meeting and thanked me for the meeting. He said that I had known this,
but it was Ramadan and he was fasting for Ramadan, but he told me he
had broken his fast because I had made the hors d’oeuvres, and he had
something to drink, but he wanted to keep up communication with me. I
don’t want to be communicating with a person who masturbates and
shoots people in the head through windows, so I told him my job wouldn’t
allow that, but you really should write a book, because he writes very well.
I told him he writes better than some of those police officers in their
reports, and he was artistic. He drew me the card, a picture of a woman in
a big sunhat and he used colored pencils. It was very nice. I kept that too.
When he’s talking to me, I told him I thought it was interesting that
someone like him would send other people sympathy notes. He says what
do you mean. I said you’ve killed like four people, Ricky. But here’s
what I said to him when we started talking. The movie Silence of the
Lambs had just come out and it was still out. I said I’m sure you’ve never
seen Silence of the Lambs, but there’s a scene where Hannibal Lecter, they
have all these police and people around, but he escapes and kills
somebody, and he escapes but all these police and people are there. When
they come up to my office, they could un-cuff them. I told Ricky I don’t
care, they can un-cuff you, and we’re sitting here, I’m at my desk, he’s
over there, but I said Ricky you haven’t seen this movie Silence of the
Lambs so you won’t know what I’m talking about, but I said if you make a
move or something, what’s going to happen is I’m dropping to the floor
and I don’t know what these people will do so we’re not having that.
Ricky thought that I was concerned that he would masturbate in front of
me. He told me this in the letter. Because that’s some of the reasons why
he got held up at Lorton because he would masturbate in front of female
staff members. So he thought I was referring to that. I knew he wasn’t
going to masturbate around me because he never did in court. I knew he
could control that. He wasn’t just whipping it out and doing it. So Ricky
wrote me that letter. I think I heard from him one other time. Down there
in Lorton he had gotten stabbed and it turned out that he got stabbed by
the son of Yvonne Ford, the last murder victim. I think when Edward,
when his mother got killed, Edward was maybe 14. Edward subsequently
ended up in Lorton, and he was in some area where Ricky was, and he
ended up stabbing Ricky. Ricky wrote me because he said people down at
Lorton were saying that I had set this up so that Edward could do this. But
Ricky said he didn’t think I would do that, but this is what people were
saying. He also said that if Edward ever saw him again, Edward would be
sorry that he had not killed him if he ever were to encounter Ricky again.
So then I’m like oh God people, now the guy who masturbates thinks I set
things up so he could stab people. I told the police if I ever heard Ricky
had escaped, number one, I’m turning off all the lights in my house, I’m
calling them, and they’d be getting me and my kid out because I wasn’t
going to walk around windows and be scared. But, you know, Ricky had
a lot of talent and a lot of smart, but I know that having his mother and all
those things, he could have had a different life. Like I said, he had talents
and smarts, and he is a boxer. But this is what happened with him.
MR. WEAVER: Is he still in jail?
MS. JEFFRIES: He should be. In fact, I went to a funeral a few weeks ago, a homicide
detective died, and Kelly, the police offer who got shot in the head, she
was there and I saw her then. When she came back to work, that was
difficult for her. People said they’d be with Kelly. If you heard a car
backfire or something, she’d become nuts, as you would. With her, it
didn’t penetrate the skull. I had another woman who Ricky shot. She’s
sitting on her sofa. He shot through the sliding glass door. This was sad
for her, as you can imagine. She was a nurse and worked at St. Eve’s for a
long time, but she quit and was taking another job and she was between
jobs because she was supposed to start and she was going to have a party
and she’s peeling potatoes into a pot sitting on her sofa and she gets shot.
She was a cancer survivor. She gets shot in the head, and she said she was
talking to her housemate but she was holding the knife and she starts
clutching the knife but she said she felt this intense pain, like a burning,
and she thought that she was either being electrocuted, because she had
the potatoes in a metal pot of water, and she thought a wire had maybe hit
the pot or she thought the cancer had come back and she had a tumor, but
she’d been shot in the head. A problem then happened for her was she
was between jobs and she didn’t have health insurance. She had big
financial consequences. I think her car got repossessed, problems with her
rent. She had friends who would give her money or whatever. There was
a victim’s compensation fund that you could get lost wages, but since she
didn’t have wages, she couldn’t get lost wages. Just a lot of things. So
then later on she goes back to work at St. Eve’s, and she’s there one day,
and Ricky, we sent him to St. Eve’s for an evaluation because he was
going to do an insanity defense, so she’s there at work one day and looks
up and who’s coming in but Ricky Brogsdale, her defendant in the case
that was still pending. I don’t think I knew she was back to work and no
one had given her notice that this guy was coming. I didn’t know. That
was hard for her. But here’s what did happen. When she’s saying how
these financial consequences, it occurred to me what if I get sick or hurt,
what’s going to happen to me and Rudy. I went out and bought disability
income insurance, which once I retired and I got that first retirement
check, I cancelled because now I have permanent income. You learned
that. She had a lot of bitterness. I’m not blaming her, but the way these
things had happened. That was hard for her.
I had another case where a 41-year-old woman and her 8-year-old
daughter were murdered in their home up near Walter Reed. That case
was interesting for a number of reasons. But her parents, 79 and 78, came
up from Richmond because they were unable to get in touch with her for
some days. They got into the house and immediately knew something was
wrong for any number of reasons. Mrs. Jones went upstairs, and when she
went in the bathroom, the guy had put the 8-year-old in a tub of water, so
she found her granddaughter. Then she ran screaming. They get out of
the house. So the police come. At that point, they don’t know where
Holly, the mother, is. She was 41, and her car was missing. The police
come in, they’re processing it, but the defendant had rolled her up in a
carpet and put her under the bed so they found her and then they found the
defendants in the car the next day.
As it happens, I was not a sorority member because I went to
Wesleyan which didn’t have sororities. It had just gone co-ed, and they
only had white fraternities, so I was not in a sorority. Holly’s sister was
then the supreme bacillus of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, which is like the
head person nationally. I became friends with Janet and her family
members, and through Janet, I was initiated into the sorority, so I joined
the sorority in 1992. Holly’s ex-husband, Jimmy, was an architect, and he
and Holly had adopted the two kids, a girl and a boy. They had divorced,
and Jimmy took the son with him, I guess to Memphis, and Holly had the
daughter. The boy was older then, maybe around 12. So anyway, as I say,
I maintain relationships with family members. So Jimmy lives in
Memphis. He’s remarried, and he’s an architect. My husband’s family
farm is an hour from Memphis, and a few years ago, Jimmy and his wife
and grandson came up to the family farm for our Labor Day event. I was
in Memphis in October and met Jimmy and his wife, Mary. We all had
dinner. We will talk.
When the snipers happened, and I live in Montgomery County, all
those Montgomery County killings happened up in my neighborhood or
where we frequent, or my son worked at the Hockey Stop, all around us.
The way I heard about the sniper shootings that day was because the exwife
of one of my murder victims knew that I lived in Silver Spring, and
she either called me or emailed me and told me they were having
shootings up there. It was a school day, and that’s how I found out about
that and subsequently called the school to ask what they were doing
because the kids were about to get out of school.
So I have relationships with people from those days, and those
were the significant cases before 1992.
MR. WEAVER: I think this is a good place to wrap for today, and then when we meet
again, we will cover more ground if there’s something else we think of,
and then start at that point in 1992 and some of the more notable cases.