"Not Guilty" Forum Raises Thousands of Dollars for Cloverdale Playhouse

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By Morgan Hightower

It's been a few weeks since the jury handed down all not-guilty verdicts in the state house corruption trial and Friday night, the lawyers who won those verdicts for the defense held a forum explaining just how they did it.

“This is not a drama, or play - its real lawyers talking about how they used their skills to win a difficult case,” said Morris Dees, President, Cloverdale Playhouse.

It may not be a drama, but this case certainly created it.

Over the past two years, the state of Alabama has been watching Montgomery as the federal government prosecuted 11 people including four state senators and Victoryland owner, Milton McGregor.

“If the government was confident enough to try the case but twice, and lost, totally both times, where was the huge discrepancy, where was the huge discrepancy with what they thought and what the jury thought?”

Its questions like that that brought out community members like Sandra Nickel.

“This is a trial that has held the attention of Alabama captive for what, two, three years,” said Nickel, Montgomery resident.

At the forum, lawyers were charged with summarizing these past few years in just a few hours.

For Joe Espy, he says it was a challenge.

“Each lawyer has a certain area. Bill Baxley is going to talk about the missing witnesses, Susan James is going to talk about the jailhouse tapes, I think Jimmy Judkins is going to talk about how you work together as a team and not through off for others, Lewis Gillis is going to talk about politics involved in the case..”

And Jim Parkman, Senator Harri Anne Smith's attorney is going to talk about chicken salad sandwiches.

“We're going to talk about that, and how that developed and what happened and we're going to give a little history about it and have some fun with it so yah, we're going to do it with the chicken salad,” explained Parkman.

It’s all to benefit the Cloverdale Playhouse. The event was originally going to be held there, but before the event was even publicly announced, they sold enough tickets to fill the theater's capacity.

“I think Morris saw the interest and thought immediately, you know with this much interest, I think I can raise some money for the playhouse,” said Espy.

And raise money they did.

At one hundred dollars a ticket, more than 300 were sold.
Lawyers, defendants, public officials and more all packed the room to learn how they were found "not guilty."

The crowd was largely due to interest in the case but attorneys who attended also received a CLE credit. That's for continued legal education and it's necessary for lawyers to stay in good standing with the Alabama Bar Association.

In all, more than $30,000 was raised for the Cloverdale Playhouse.

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