MTACDL - Lawyers of the Year
2021 MTACDL Timer Moses Award: Ed Moriarity
Written by Ed's partner, Shandor Badaruddin, on March 15, 2021:
Edward Patrick Moriarity (1941-2021)
On January 4, 2021, the defense bar lost a fierce advocate and proud son of Butte, Montana, Ed Moriarity. Ed was born in Butte in 1941. He was the oldest of four children. They grew up in Dublin Gulch. In this community he learned the importance of strong family ties, hard work, and the sad truth that people had to fight for what mattered. Ed was a fighter.
Ed’s father was a hard rock miner for the Anaconda Copper Mining Company for 35 years before he died of miner’s lung disease at the age of 46. For his lifetime of devotion and service, the Anaconda Mining Company gave Ed’s mother just enough money to bury Ed’s father in the most modest of circumstances and otherwise left her to support and raise her four children on her own. It was this experience that motivated Ed to attend law school and pursue a career in which he could seek justice for families like his own. He was a fighter, but he wanted to fight for others and he sought the tools he would need to do so.
Ed graduated from Carroll College in 1963 and later graduated from law school from the University of Wyoming in 1970. In 1974, he became partners with his good friend, Gerry Spence. They gained considerable recognition as talented attorneys. Ed and Gerry represented Ed Cantrell in 1979. Cantrell was accused of murdering a man who had been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury regarding Cantrell’s alleged participation in public corruption. The case demonstrated how irresponsible media, coupled with prosecutorial misconduct, could result in the conviction of an innocent man. Instead, Cantrell was acquitted of the charges against him. Unfortunately, and as is usually the case, no prosecutors or cooperating government witnesses suffered any penalty for the misconduct that was publicly exposed. The evidence the newspapers found most interesting was the courtroom demonstration of Cantrell’s “quick-draw” ability. Ed and Gerry demonstrated just how quickly Cantrell could draw and fire his gun to combat the allegation that the decedent had not attempted to draw his own pistol at the time of the shooting. Cantrell was known as the fastest draw in the West both before and forever after this trial.
From left to right: Edward Moriarity, Ed Cantrell, and Gerry Spence, taken in 1979
Also, in 1979, Ed and Gerry were hired as special prosecutors in the difficult case of State of Wyoming v. Mark Hopkinson. Ed and Gerry were unfortunately successfully in convincing a jury to impose the penalty of death against Mr. Hopkinson. After the verdict, Ed worked unsuccessfully for clemency for Mr. Hopkinson and eventually, Hopkinson was executed. Ed always regretted his complicity in this state sanctioned murder and spent the rest of his career, 40 years, to redeem himself for what he considered to be a most grievous sin.
After 1979, Ed would search for criminal defendants who either could not afford counsel, or whose cases cried out for justice. Oftentimes, the cases cried out less for justice and simply involved persons who could not afford counsel or who just wanted help. Ed could not represent everyone who asked him to, but he represented many who did.
In 1985, Sandy Jones and her juvenile son, Mike, had been accused of murdering a real estate developer on their farm. There was an eyewitness to the crime who took a photo of Sandy holding the smoking rifle. Sandy, who was poor, different, and a woman, could not find anyone to help her against the establishment in Lincoln County, Oregon, who, like the Government in the Cantrell case, held all the power. Ed and Gerry went a thousand miles away from their homes all the way to Oregon to defend this difficult case free of charge. Sandy was found not guilty.
In 1995, Ed volunteered to assist in the defense of State of Georgia v. Frederick Tokars. Mr. Tokars was serving six consecutive life sentences in federal prison but the State of Georgia nevertheless wanted to impose the death penalty against him. Ed volunteered his services to the Tokars defense team and he moved across the country for a lengthy trial that resulted in a sentence of life.
While not pro bono, Ed also defended Imelda Marcos in New York City in 1990 against accusations of racketeering. While Mrs. Marcos was anything but indigent, Ed and Gerry believed it hypocritical of our Government to support the Marcos regime for 20 years, provide a refuge for them after their fall from power, and they suddenly change its mind after her husband passed away. The most famous lesson from this trial was the observation that, at least in this case, a single juror has more power than the United States Government. Mrs. Marcos was found not guilty on all counts.
Ed and Gerry were invited by the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) to go to London to defend Lee Harvey Oswald in a mock trial prosecuted by Vincent Bugliosi, who conducted a very real prosecution against Charles Manson years earlier. In the mock trial, both sides were allowed to use the actual exhibits from the Kennedy assassination, and the witnesses who testified were the actual witnesses to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Ed used to say one of his most vivid memories of his career was the moment he held the gun that took the life of President Kennedy and his recognition of how his life had changed so dramatically as a result of its use on November 22, 1963.
Gerry Spence, left, and Edward Moriarity.
We believe this was taken at the mock trial of Lee Harvey Oswald, prosecuted by Vincent Bugliosi.
Ed moved his practice back to Montana in 2004 and the remainder of his criminal cases were far less famous than were those he defended with his former partner. The vast majority of Ed’s criminal clients were simple cases in which the Defendant simply needed a good lawyer. Ed worked for 40 years to make up for the mistake he made with Hopkinson, and he did so one client at a time.
Ed did not see the faults or shortcomings in his clients, he only saw the best in them. And once he accepted a client, he would do anything for them and would not rest until he had achieved the best possible result for them. Like all of us, he sometimes met with failure in a case, and on those occasions he would continue to fight for his clients on appeal and post conviction proceedings and clemency/parole petitions. He never knew when he was beat and this is because he never was.
Gerry had this to say about his dear friend and departed colleague:
To be a great lawyer, you must be an equally great person. That means one must love his or her client to understand the humanness of our clients. Neither I nor Ed nor anyone has had a client charged with a crime whose wrong was not something that we also have thought for ourselves. Ed was a great human being. His greatest ability was his capacity to love.
He took on the burdens of everyone near or close to him including his clients. He stood like a tall tree in a small forest, on behalf of every member of his family, as well as all of his clients. He was a man capable of huge love, huge forgiveness, and possessed the ability to lay it all down for just causes. In my mind, he was the personification of what a great human being should be.
I probably knew him better than anyone. One of his greatest characteristics was his ability to love even the most humble and unforgiveable. And he loved me. And I him.