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Cathy Bennett

2006 Conference

Widely considered one of the key pioneers of modern jury selection strategy, Cathy “Cat” Bennett was the inaugural recipient of the ASTC Lifetime Achievement Award. Ms. Bennett was known for persuading attorneys to ask probing, open-ended questions in jury selection at a time when voir dire was typically cursory. She taught lawyers to connect with potential jury members, to listen to their answers, and to observe non-verbal indicators of attitudes and beliefs. In so doing, Ms. Bennett helped pave the road for the type of meaningful jury selection that ASTC members assist their clients with in most jurisdictions today. While Ms. Bennett received media attention from her work on high profile cases like the successful defense of William Kennedy Smith against rape charges, the dispute over Howard Hughes’ will and the 1984 John DeLorean cocaine trial, she was better known amongst her colleagues for her tireless dedication and service in political charged civil rights and capital cases. Her consulting work began with the case of the Oglala Sioux Indians who were charged in connection with a shootout with Federal agents at Wounded Knee, South Dakota in 1973. She also assisted in cases that won $20 million in judgments against the Ku Klux Klan, the White Aryan Resistance Group and skinheads. Tragically, Ms. Bennett was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 34, and passed away in 1992 at the young age of 41. Before her death, Ms. Bennett also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers – she remains the only woman and non-lawyer recipient of the award. Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Law Poverty Law Center introduced Ms. Bennett by saying, “If Rosa Parks was the mother of the civil rights movement, Cat Bennett is the mother of modern criminal law practice in America. She has taught lawyers to be feeling, loving human beings, and that comes across to the jury.

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