55 | Swatting Wasps

In January 2007, Duane was rearrested for Betty’s murder. His daughter Jan posted his $100,000 bond. Though notified the previous September that he was the target of a grand jury investigation, he didn’t cancel a trip with Barb to South America. But he did hire a lawyer.

Brooklyn had Court Street lawyers. Named for an area blocks from where I grew up, close to bail bondsmen and the courts, Court Street lawyers were streetwise. They were flashy dressers. Smooth talkers, hard-working and smart. Hustlers—if you were in trouble, the kind of lawyer you wanted with you in court. Gary Lozow was from Gary, Indiana, but he was a Court Street lawyer.

Tall and heavily built, Lozow wore mod glasses and Italian suits and slicked his grey hair back. He liked junk food and snacks, was quick with a self-deprecating joke, and was an even worse driver than me. He was charmingly disarming, quick to forgive my blunders. I knew these things about him, and more, because I knew Lozow. In 1992 he’d hired me to work at his criminal defense firm. We had the Jewish thing going, and we’d been more than colleagues. We’d been friends.

If four decades of practice had taught Lozow anything, it was to come out swinging. If Plan A was to defend on the basis of innocence, and Plan B to attack the prosecution, he chose B. Cops were never just negligent or made mistakes; it was either a conspiracy or bad faith. He settled on his narrative early and dug in his heels. If he couldn’t bully or bluff a DA into dropping an indictment, he wore him or her down. When he lost a motion, he filed it again. When all else failed, he ran the clock.

Lozow operated by a few inviolate rules. He didn’t take a case until the money, Mr. Green, hit the table, Mr. Wood. He never asked a client for his story until after he showed him what the DA had. Like most defense lawyers, he didn’t like putting clients on the stand. If they did testify, they were told not to overreach and to keep a cool head if confronted with statements they’d supposedly made. Statements were seldom recorded; instead, they were memorialized in investigatory reports or FBI 302s. How was the client to know if the cop got what he said wrong?

Lozow said he liked defense work because it was easier to counterpunch than punch. But for him, it was more than that, and I’d gotten a glimpse of the “more” more than once. That first spring, we’d interviewed sorority girls in a date rape case in Boulder. We met with them at the old law school one sultry afternoon. Tall windows were open to catch the breeze, and in flew a wasp. High above us, it lazily circled the table. Lozow pretended to ignore it. Suddenly he clambered onto the table and frantically began swatting at the wasp with his legal pad until he killed it. Then he calmly resumed his questioning.

At first, criminal defense work felt natural. My relatives had fled pogroms and distrusted the police. I’d written law review articles on waiver of Miranda rights and the duty not to turn over incriminating evidence. And the courtroom was unexpectedly exhilarating. There was no time to second-guess or browbeat myself; it was light years from structuring loans and advising banks on the Glass-Steagall Act at the Seventeenth Street firm where I’d gone to pay the mortgage after Doug walked out. Ultimately, however, I wasn’t cut out for the work. My problem was basic: I wanted to know the whole story. I wanted to catch witnesses in truths, not lies—to identify the common threads in their accounts. The novelist in me wanted to know why. And though I liked most of our clients, I didn’t identify with them. Not the way Lozow did.  

After we stopped working together, we stayed friends. When John and I married in 1993, Lozow was one of our huppah holders. When Quiet Time was published in 2001, he came to its launch. One Sunday in late 2006, he called us at home and asked to come over.

Duane had been referred to him by a business associate in Florida. It’s always fun to handle a matter where you know the people involved, Lozow said, and would you mind if I take the case? We said Duane had the right to choose his lawyer, and Lozow had the right to choose his clients.

Lozow didn’t say he’d been following the grand jury proceedings and had asked DA Tomsic not to call me as a witness. Tomsic had refused and told him if our friendship posed a conflict, he shouldn’t take the case. Nor did we know he’d offered to plead Duane guilty in exchange for no jail time. Tomsic rejected that offer, too, because she didn’t believe Duane would even admit Betty was dead. In January 2007, I voluntarily sat down with Lozow’s partner and paralegal and told them all I knew about the case.

A Brooklyn Jew was about to become Lozow’s WASP.

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