Wyoming’s Greatest Lawyer: Gerry Spence
Gerry Spence is one of the greatest courtroom lawyers in American legal history.
After graduating from the University of Wyoming Law School in 1952, the Laramie native never lost a criminal case and hasn't lost a civil trial since 1969.
His professional career began in Riverton, where he established a succesful practice defending the insurance industry.
In the '70s, Spence changed gears, becoming a civil rights activist and taking on the big corporations he once defended.
Among the many high profile cases he tried, Spence won a $10 million verdict for the family of Karen Silkwood, who died under mysterious circumstances after reporting safety hazards at a nuclear energy facitily.
The trial inspired the 1983 movie Silkwood, which starred Meryl Streep, Cher and Kurt Russell.
In 1993, Spence took on the case of Randy Weaver, who was charged with murder and conspiracy following the inafmous Ruby Ridge standoff in Idaho. Spence won an acquittal without calling a single defense witness.
He successfully represented former Rock Springs Public Safety Director Ed Cantrell, who was charged with killing an undercover police officer.
Former Filipino First Lady Immelda Marcos beat the rap on federal racketeering charges, thanks to Spence.
He also won a $52 million verdict against McDonald's representing a family-owned ice cream company.
Spence's final trial came in 2008, when Detroit attorney Jeffrey Fiegel was charged with making illegal campaign contributions. Once again, the jury delivered a not guilty verdict, keeping his undefeated streak alive.
One of Spence's only professional losses came at the ballot box, not in the courtroom.
In 2004, he campaigned across Wyoming in favor of an ammendment that would have limited civil medical malpractice claims in the state. The measure was narrowly voted down.
Over the years, Spence has always been a vocal public ambassador for Wyoming, often appearing on national talk shows from his home outside of Jackson, clad in his trademark western garb.
Now 87, the American Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame member still calls the Cowboy State home and continues to consult the Spence Law Firm based in Casper and Jackson.