[Marxism] Raymond A. Brown, Civil Rights Lawyer, Dies at 94
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Mon Oct 12 08:28:08 MDT 2009
NY Times, October 12, 2009
Raymond A. Brown, Civil Rights Lawyer, Dies at 94
By JOSEPH BERGER
Raymond A. Brown, a criminal and civil rights lawyer who deployed a
sometimes theatrical manner on behalf of controversial clients like the
Black Panthers, a Soviet spy, the boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, and
Dr. X, a New Jersey surgeon accused of murdering patients with an
overdose of a muscle relaxant, died Friday at St. Barnabas Medical
Center in Livingston, N.J. He was 94 and lived in Upper Montclair, N.J.
The cause was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, said Thulani Davis,
Mr. Brown, a tall, slender man blessed with the courtroom gifts of a
strong voice, sweeping arm gestures and a prowling gait, developed his
ardor for civil rights as an African-American soldier sent to Army bases
in the South and seeing firsthand how shabbily and humiliatingly blacks
were treated. He honed his reputation with Southern civil rights cases
in the 1960s and later defended some of the black students — including
his son — arrested for taking over a building at Columbia University in
But his talent for courtroom bravado, oratory and canny legal strategies
was such that clients like New Jersey politicians, organized crime
figures and union officials sought him out when issues far from civil
rights were involved. He defended the mayor of Camden, N.J., Angelo
Errichetti, in 1980 in one of the Abscam cases involving congressmen and
other politicians accused of taking bribes in what had been a sting
operation by federal authorities pretending to be wealthy Arab sheiks.
In the late 1970s, he defended Mario E. Jascalevich, an Argentine-born
physician identified as Dr. X in early newspaper reports, against
charges that he murdered five surgical patients at Riverdell Hospital in
Oradell, N.J., with overdoses of curare. Gesturing at the jury with his
gold-rimmed half glasses and quoting Shakespeare, Mr. Brown contended in
his opening statement that the surgeon was framed by colleagues trying
to cover up their own ineptness. Dr. Jascalevich was acquitted in 1978.
In an important sideshow, Mr. Brown accused M. A. Farber, the reporter
for The New York Times who revealed the mysterious deaths, of joining
with the Bergen County prosecutor to advance their careers, and
subpoenaed Mr. Farber and The Times for thousands of pages of
investigative notes. Mr. Farber spent 40 days in jail and The Times paid
$285,000 in fines in defending the right to protect news sources.
Mr. Brown helped Resorts International get one of New Jersey’s first
gambling casino licenses despite allegations of ties to organized crime
— allegations Mr. Brown characterized as going “to the third and fourth
degree of remoteness.” Earlier, in 1964, he defended John W. Butenko, a
39-year-old American electronics engineer accused of giving defense
secrets to the Soviet Union. Mr. Brown lost that one.
But it was his representation of a series of black radicals that brought
him wider fame. In 1967 he successfully defended the poet Amiri Baraka,
formerly known as LeRoi Jones, on charges of carrying a concealed
weapon. He defended Joanne Chesimard, a member of the Black Liberation
Army, who was convicted of shooting a state trooper to death on the New
Jersey Turnpike in 1973. She escaped prison in 1979 and made her way to
Cuba. Three Black Panthers accused in 1970 of attacking a Jersey City
police station with a machine gun and H. Rap Brown, the chairman of the
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and leader of the Black
Panther Party, were also clients.
Mr. Brown defended the boxer Rubin Carter in his first trial on charges
that he murdered three people in Paterson, N.J., in 1966. Mr. Carter and
another man were convicted but the convictions were thrown out in 1975.
With Mr. Brown participating as a witness, the men were found guilty a
second time but that too was overturned. After serving 19 years, Mr.
Carter was freed in 1985.
“He was a very dramatic figure in the courtroom,” said Ms. Davis. “He
had a flawless memory and could carry tremendous details of a case in
Mr. Brown was born in 1915 in Fernandina Beach, Fla., the son of a
railroad mechanic. When he was 2, his family moved to Jersey City. He
went to college at Florida A & M University, and, paying his way by
working as a longshoreman, he received his law degree from Fordham
At a time when few black lawyers served in large firms, he became a solo
practitioner focusing on casualties of prejudice and poverty.
He also was the president of the New Jersey chapter of the N.A.A.C.P.
for 12 years and worked to integrate its schools and faculty. During the
riots in Newark in 1967, he was serving with the National Guard and
walked the streets to quiet the disturbances. Afterward, Gov. Richard J.
Hughes appointed him vice chairman of the commission that investigated
Mr. Brown’s first wife was the late Elaine Camilla Williams Brown. He is
survived by his second wife, Jennie Davis Brown; two children from his
first marriage, Raymond M. Brown and Deborah Elaine Brown Bowles; two
stepchildren, Clifton O’Neill Howell and Denise Louise Howell Randall;
and seven grandchildren.
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