THE CHAMPION NOVEMBER 1994
“The reality is that control of government takes place in the courtroom - or it doesn’t take place at all.”
Robert Reinhart was born in Columbus, Ohio, the oldest of five siblings.
His father is a medical doctor specializing in family practice in
Columbus, and his mother will be retiring this year after 30 years as a
schoolteacher in the Columbus public school system. “I was raised
in Columbus, actually the suburb of Upper Arlington.” Reinhart
attended Upper Arlington High School where he played on two state championship
Reinhart began undergraduate school at the Ohio State University, but transferred to Ohio University following the riots at Ohio State in 1970. He says, “The school lost its charm after I was gassed going to English class. I graduated from Ohio University summa cum laude with a major in philosophy, and worked for approximately a year and a half in the Ohio Department of Administrative Services as part of the Civil Service Classification Study Commission. One and a half years as a bureaucrat was sufficient to convince me to go back to school and earn a professional degree.”
He then entered Capital University School of Law in Columbus where he obtained his Juris Doctor degree in 1978. During law school Reinhart worked in both the U. S. Attorney’s office and the Columbus Night Prosecutor Program, which he describes as “the national model for alternative dispute resolution programs in criminal justice.” Following graduation from law school, Rein-hart was hired by the State Public Defender where he worked for nine years before entering private practice in 1988. During that time he worked as house counsel and as the first chief appellate counsel, trying capital and major felony cases statewide. “Working in the State Public Defender’s office allowed me to develop both trial and appellate skills. It also allowed me to develop a statewide practice. However, the explosion of death penalty litigation forced the choice to enter private practice or do death penalty litigation exclusively. I chose private practice. “I entered private practice as a solo criminal defense lawyer. My first day in private practice had me before the Ohio Supreme Court arguing a child rape case. The defendant was not allowed in the courtroom when the child testified and observed the testimony over closed circuit TV. The Ohio Supreme Court unanimously reversed Mr. Eastham’s conviction as violative of his right under the Ohio Constitution to confront his accuser.”
Reinhart says the riots at Ohio State University which occurred during his sophomore year had a lasting impact on his Outlook. “According to official dogma, the riots at Ohio State started when several groups of students closed the gates on Neil Avenue disrupting traffic. Police responded and when they attempted to reopen the gates they were met with a hail of stones and bricks. The riot lasted for four days and four nights. What was revealed in the aftermath, however, through photographs introduced by William Kunstler who was representing several students at expulsion hearings, was that the so-called students who were shutting the gates and thereby stopping traffic were in fact undercover Columbus police officers. I was also present within 20 minutes of the time that the gates were closed and I observed the arrival of a busload of State Highway Patrol troopers who proceeded to assault faculty members using bull horns to calm the situation. Indeed, it is fair to say that the riots started when the first police baton met the head of a professor urging peace. I have always questioned authority. After the riots at Ohio State, I developed a substantial and lasting distrust of authority. Not a single police officer, State Highway Patrol Trooper, National Guardsman, nor any person in a position of power was ever prosecuted or faced any sort of disciplinary action as a result of what happened on the campus of the Ohio State University during the spring of 1970.”
Reinhart says, “Having discovered how desperately evil unbridled power can become, this experience helped forge my belief that the citizens of this country must exercise control over their government. Although in theory that control is exercised in the voting booth, the reality is that control of government takes place in the room — or it doesn’t take place at all. My generation, perhaps more so than any other of this century, has recognized and experienced lawlessness and outright evil in government. We have rejected the dogma of ‘my government, right or wrong.’ Unlike the World War II generation, we recognize that the tyrant does not always live in a far away land and speak a foreign tongue.
“It has been said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. The duty of criminal defense lawyers — the first group silenced by Hitler even before the Jews — is to recognize that against which we must be vigilant. Our duty is to enforce limits set by the Constitution and to remind the sovereign that it rules at the sufferance of the people.”
Reinhart says that one of his more interesting cases “involved Bradley Cox, a marine AWOL from Camp Lejune, NC, who was charged in two Ohio counties with a series of rapes, robberies and burglaries. Cox was sentenced to terms of imprisonment well in excess of his natural life. However, after his conviction we discovered evidence that led us to suspect and, indeed, ultimately we were able to prove, that these crimes were committed by another individual by the name of John Berry Simonis. Simonis had been arrested and was being detained in Baton Rouge, LA. Simonis’ near photographic recollection convinced the victims in the Cox case that they were wrong. Both victims had (incorrectly) positively identified Cox as the perpetrator. Cox looked nothing like Simonis.”
“The most substantial evidence against Bradley Cox was a confession elicited from him after 7 hours strapped in a chair allegedly undergoing a series of polygraph tests. Cox’s original attorney agreed to allow this procedure in his absence. I was never able to obtain any of the polygraph charts and I have always suspected that the polygraph machine was never plugged in and that the entire procedure was used merely as an interrogation device. Cox, who was subsequently diagnosed as schizophrenic, ultimately signed a confession that had been hand written by the examiner himself.
“Following Cox’s release from prison, we filed a wrongful imprisonment action against the State of Ohio and secured a six-figure award for him.”
Reinhart says he has spent “some time in every prison in Ohio, including the Ohio Reformatory for Women. One complaint persistent over the years has been that of sexual abuse of female inmates by staff and correction officers at the Ohio Reformatory for Women. After a particular series of such complaints, I filed suit against the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections on behalf of 16 female inmates. The litigation lasted several years, but the department finally agreed to settlement with approximately half of the women. In a number of other cases, the Ohio Court of Claims held that the department would not be liable for the acts of its employees sexually abusing female inmates because the acts were outside the scope of employment. The particular employee at issue in these cases was the staff counselor, who used his position to get sexual favors from the inmates he was counseling. In other cases we were able to establish that the department of corrections had employed convicted sex offenders to work on the staff. In two of these cases, the employees were caught quite literally with their pants down.
“Although this litigation did not result in a huge monetary award, it was effective in changing some of the more reprehensible practices, such as using inmates as the bait in traps to catch and convict the offenders. These traps were rarely successful and put the inmates in harm’s way. The guards always retaliated and the institution would turn a blind eye to the fate of the inmate.”
Reinhart has been involved in several high publicity cases, including the Kirtland, OH cult murders, in which he represented the witness who told the authorities where the bodies were buried. “My client was the key mitigation witness that kept two of the three capitally charged defendants off death row. In another case NACDL Life Member K. Ronald Bailey and I represented Steven Yee, reputed to be the only full-blooded Chinese member of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle club in a death penalty case in Sandusky, OH. I have represented Dr. Edward F. Jackson, a Columbus, OH doctor accused of a series of rapes over a seven-year period; and Vincent Salvatore Simone, alleged to have been a CIA operative and Mafia hit man. Simone led an interesting life. At one point he was imprisoned in a Cuban jail. His release was secured by his mother and a sitting member of Congress who met and dealt directly with Castro. No death sentences have been returned against any client I have represented at trial. Most recently F. Lee Bailey, Ken Fishman and I represented Carrie Wong, a doctor’s wife accused and convicted of five counts of felonious assault. The issue — whether the jury should have been instructed on her insanity defense —is pending on appeal.”
Reinhart says that approximately 50 percent of his practice is in federal court, either defending drug cases or prosecuting habeas corpus petitions on behalf of death row inmates. “I practice both trial and appellate law and have authored five amicus curiae briefs in the United States Supreme Court. Of the five, three were victories against one defeat with one pending case (O’Neil v. McAnich, argued in October).
His first involvement with NACDL was at a “Strength in Numbers” conference held in Chicago. “A number of us met there for the purpose of forming a state criminal defense lawyers association. The Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (OACDL) is the direct result of that conference and has since grown into one of the largest, strongest and most active state criminal defense bar associations. I am a founding member of OACDL and have served as Vice-President of the Amicus/Strike Force Committee, and currently serve as Vice-President of Publications.
“The OACDL magazine, The Vindicator, is published four times a year and carries articles of both professional and social interest. The OACDL has numerous interesting programs including an essay competition that awards scholarships, a strike force that has on several occasions represented attorneys who are members of the association free of charge, a very active amicus committee, a mentoring program to assist new attorneys in handling their first criminal cases, and an active lobbying program designed to influence the course of legislation on both the state and federal level.” Reinhart also serves as NACDL Legislative Coordinator for the state of Ohio, and as Vice-Chair of the NACDL Legislative Committee.
He is also a member of the Columbus Bar Association, the Ohio State Bar Association, the ABA, the Central Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Franklin County Trial Lawyers Association. “I am actively involved in Amnesty International and the Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, as well as the Ohio Death Penalty Task Force, and the ad hoc committee formed by OACDL, the Ohio State Bar Association, and the State Public Defender’s Office to assist volunteer attorneys representing inmates involved in the Lucasville uprising last Easter.”
|Reprinted with permission from the November, 1994 Edition of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyer's Monthly Magazine, The Champion|