After starting my own law practice in 1983, the first lawyer who hired me to help him with some of his client files was Raymond (Ray) Rose, a well-known Peoria injury and malpractice trial attorney. In addition to paying me to work on his files, Ray taught me the fundamentals of how to handle clients, question witnesses, conduct depositions, and prepare cases for trial.
Among insurance defense attorneys, Ray was known as the “gentle interrogator.” He was never aggressive or belligerent when he questioned a witness. He always behaved like a gentleman and used his friendly and laid-back style of questioning to catch a witness off guard, which allowed him to later maneuver himself into a position where he could discredit the witness.
Shortly after I started doing work for Ray, he gave me a book that he thought I would benefit from reading. The book, Gunning for Justice, was written by Gerry Spence, who at that time was one of the most famous trial lawyers in America. In his book, Spence described, in detail, the facts surrounding five separate landmark cases that he had won for his clients.
If I were to name the handful of books that have had the greatest influence on me, Gunning for Justice would be one of them. Because of its R-rated content and language, it’s not a book I would recommend for children or teenagers, but it is a book that should be read by every new trial attorney.
The most significant lesson I learned from Gunning for Justice was that I had an obligation to be a warrior for my clients, without any fear of what other attorneys, judges, reporters, or anyone else might say or think about me or my clients. Spence gave me permission to be myself when I tried a case in front of a jury. He drove home a point that my mom always preached while I was growing up: Regardless of what a person might think or say about me, I have an obligation to boldly tell the truth and speak out for what is right.
I was later able to meet Spence in person at a seminar for trial lawyers. He was a master storyteller and larger-than-life character who had a way of making you want to listen to every word that came out of his mouth.
After Gunning for Justice, Spence wrote several other books, one of which was Trial by Fire, a book that described in minute detail a lawsuit that he had filed against Penthouse magazine and its publisher, Bob Guccione. Penthouse was a monthly men’s magazine that was in the “soft pornography” business. It was available for sale at local grocery and bookstores and competed head-to-head with Playboy magazine. Penthouse had a reputation of being more trashy, hard-core, and graphic than Playboy, in both its content and the way it portrayed women.
The lawsuit that Spence wrote about arose out of a story that was published by Penthouse in 1980 about Kim Pring, a young college student who had won the title of Miss Wyoming. The story was completely made up and portrayed Pring as a promiscuous sex goddess who had a special talent for satisfying the sexual desires of men. After the story appeared in the magazine, it circulated around the college campus where Pring was attending school. She had to eventually drop out because of the crude and relentless harassment she received from the male students at the college.
In Trial by Fire, Spence outlined in lurid detail how Bob Guccione had built an empire by exploiting women and appealing to the carnal desires of the young men who read his magazine.
When a lawsuit is filed, lawyers in the case have the right to (1) request and subpoena documents and records that are relevant to the case, (2) request information and records concerning individuals who may have knowledge of the facts of the case, and (3) schedule depositions of individuals during which the lawyers are allowed to question them, under oath, in the presence of a court reporter. The gathering of documents and the questioning of individuals is referred to as the “discovery” phase of a case.
During the discovery phase of the Pring case, Spence learned that Guccione had an army of creative writers who competed with each other by submitting stories for publication in the magazine. Guccione and members of his team reviewed and selected the best stories for publication. The writers of the stories that were selected for publication were paid very well for their stories.
The most popular section of Penthouse was the letters to the editor section, which was called the “Penthouse Forum.” What Spence learned during the discovery phase of the case was that while the readers of the magazine were led to believe that the forum letters were from other readers, none of the letters actually came from any of the readers. Every letter that was published in the forum was written by one of Guccione’s creative writers.
Every month, the letters described different situations in which a boy or a man would come into contact with an unknown attractive girl or woman and engage in a fantasy-type sexual encounter. The different situations always ended up with the couple engaging in wild sex. Each encounter was as varied as the imagination: a male college student connecting with an unknown girl in the stairwell of a dorm, a male jogger connecting with an unknown female in the park, a teenage boy carrying groceries to a car for an unknown young woman and engaging in sex with her in the back seat of the car, a man sitting next to an unknown woman in an airplane and ending up in the restroom with her.
If you’re a woman, you may find this hard to believe, but the readers of Penthouse believed that every encounter they read about in the “Penthouse Forum” was true. Over time, they grew to believe that the women they encountered were as open to them as the women they read about in the magazine. Their view of women became perverted and they started viewing all women as sexual objects who would be eager to succumb to their desires.
I thought about Trial by Fire and Gerry Spence last week when I saw a news report on the Internet about a man who had fondled a woman who was sitting next to him on a plane. He did not know the woman and assaulted her after she fell asleep. The man was detained by air marshals and was arrested when the plane landed.
There was another news story last month that reported that a man on a plane did the exact same thing to a woman who was sitting next to him. When he was arrested, he protested that what he had done wasn’t that big of a deal.
If I were a betting man, I would wager that both of the men who were arrested are avid readers of the type of “letters to the editor” that were once featured in the “Penthouse Forum.”
The one thing I am most paranoid about when my daughters go out on a date with a new guy is the perverted beliefs the guy may have developed by immersing himself in pornographic material. It’s not just the pictures and videos I’m concerned about. It’s also the creatively deceptive storytelling that leads them to believe that certain behaviors are acceptable and normal.
The availability of pornographic images, videos, and content has increased exponentially since the invention of the computer, Internet, and iPhone. It used to be that boys and men had to go to a store to buy a magazine to access unseemly images and content. Now all they have to do is pick up their iPhone or iPad and they have instant access to all the pornography they want, any time of the day or night.
If you have sisters, daughters, or granddaughters who are dating, you should do your best to convince them to pray a daily rosary and to always wear a brown scapular. The only way they can be assured that they will receive the highest level of protection — from the boys and men who have been poisoned by pornography — is by calling on the mother of God to assist them.