Charles Garry, longtime trial attorney for the leftist and famous, is working as hard as ever at age 76--and has experienced nothing to change his mind about his causes.
"I still believe the system is all fouled up," he says. "I still believe socialism is the only answer, but socialism Yankee Doodle style."
Garry wishes for an American version in which competition would be preserved but power over production would somehow be in the hands of the people rather than concentrated, as he sees it, in directors of about 75 large and interlocking companies that control the economy.
Now we have overproduction "while 50 or 60 million are below the poverty line and people starve to death," he says.
Garry, son of an Armenian immigrant, grew up in California's Central Valley. He worked in canneries and cleaning establishments and put himself through night law school in the 1930s while working as a union organizer. Except for law classes, he never went to college.
As a young man his views were influenced by the Sacco and Vanzetti executions, by ethnic discrimination and by his father.
In the beginning he worked with labor law, and in the 1950s he represented targets of McCarthyism. He defended students accused in connection with a spectacular 1960 clash with police in San Francisco City Hall outside a House Un-American Activities Committee hearing.
Defended Oakland Seven
Later he presented the defense for a group of young draft resisters called the Oakland Seven, for Black Panthers Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton, and for the San Quentin Six accused of murder in connection with a 1971 prison riot in which George Jackson was killed.
He still maintains a full trial schedule and intends to keep working "as long as I can." His good health he credits to his morning yoga, a practice he has followed for 30 years. On occasions, while hanging around waiting for a jury verdict, Garry has been known to pass some time standing on his head.
Eventually, Garry believes this country should develop a system in which unemployment is abolished, a time when there is no need for the welfare state.
"Our welfare state destroys human dignity. It should be replaced by a standard of living in which everyone has the opportunity to work."
"In industrial areas, half the black population is unemployed. Can you imagine what that does to a person?"
Garry helped develop in California the legal defense of diminished capacity that got the late Dan White off with only five years prison time for his murders. The verdict so angered the public the Legislature largely abolished the doctrine.
While Garry's political friends were among the most angry, he says the White jury was "psychologically right on the ball." He believed White was "a very sick man."
Garry has long held that justice is not easily obtainable in the U.S. legal system because defendants lack resources equal to those of their prosecutors.
His view is that justice in the courts is not possible until decent housing, food and medical care are available to everyone and racism is unknown.
For Garry, nothing has changed since the message of Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables," a classic Garry's father taught him was the most important book after the Bible. The novel depicts Jean Valjean, convicted of stealing a loaf of bread and hounded for life, as a victim of circumstances.
As a defense lawyer, Garry has always argued society doesn't have the right to condemn many people, because so many criminals are by-products of the system. Given this view, he says he makes "all my cases political, all my cases have political overtones."
Garry warns against current pressures which he says threaten the independence of the judiciary.
Ninety-nine percent of judges, he says, are scared of losing their jobs to a local district attorney who can scarcely wait for an excuse to run against the judge.