Thursday, July 22, 1999

Blame Kevin if you are laughing less

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Kevin Brewer
        Kevin Brewer sure takes all the fun out of lawyer jokes.

        A lawyer driving his big BMW crashes into a tree, totaling the car. “My BMW,” he screams in anguish. When the ambulance arrives, one of the medics gasped, “His left arm is gone.” The attorney sobbed, “Oh, no. My Rolex.”

        A lawyer for less than two years who drives a 5-year-old Nissan, Kevin is the guy responsible for freeing a man last week who served 10 years in prison on a rape charge. The victim has said since 1992 that the wrong man was in jail. Nobody paid any attention. Except Kevin.

        A West Side boy who naturally names his parish (Our Lady of Victory) when asked where he grew up, he is a product of St. Xavier High School and UC law school. He is also, not incidentally, the product of his mother, Elaine McGuire, a vice president with TriHealth. Widowed when Kevin was 4, Elaine “tried to do the best I could as a single parent.” She later married Frank McGuire, who is pleased to claim Kevin as his son. And vice versa.

        An attorney presents himself to St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. “I'm only 49 years old. I'm too young to be dead.” St. Peter consults his records and says, “That's odd. According to the hours you've billed, you're 119.”

        Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman assigned a routine case to a young attorney, “who always does a good job.” Johnny Reeves had been convicted in 1989 of the rape of his 8-year-old cousin, and the court was considering his status as a sexual predator. Just housekeeping, really. Mr. Reeves had 40 more years to serve and was not scheduled for a probation hearing.

        Kevin Brewer was provided with the case number and a court date, less than three weeks away. He would be paid $30 an hour and allowed to spend up to three hours. He pawed through the file, then went to microfilm for more information, unearthing an affidavit from the victim recanting her original statement.

        Many hours later, he found evidence that the victim's father was being investigated for the crime when he hanged himself.

        Q: Why have scientists begun to use lawyers instead of lab rats for research?

        A: They are more plentiful and researchers don't get attached to them.

        The first question Johnny Reeves asked his new court-appointed attorney was, “Do you know anything about my case?” Kevin did. By the time he finally met face to face with his client, he had traced the victim and gotten her to agree to come to court. The next day, after hearing her testimony, Judge Ruehlman released Mr. Reeves.

        Q: How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb?

        A: None. They'd rather keep their clients in the dark.

        The young attorney will represent Mr. Reeves at his new trial Aug. 26. “We want to get his record expunged,” Kevin said.

        He says this case “kinda reminds you of the importance of being thorough.” Naturally, I'm trying to get him to be as giddy as I would be under the same circumstances. He will say only, “I'm glad I could help him out. I look at him and think, "Just a few days ago he was living in a box. What if I'd just blown it off, not followed up?'”

        The next time I hear one of those lawyer jokes, I will think of Kevin Brewer, who could have put in his three hours, collected his $90 and allowed an innocent man to spend another 40 years in jail. I will imagine his wide blue eyes, trying to focus on hazy microfilm and his hand, which could have been wrapped around a 9 iron, wrapped instead around a telephone receiver. Calling strangers, refusing to give up, refusing to accept a runaround. I will remember his earnest young face, his cowlick and what he told his mother when he had his very first court case.

        “He is counting on me, Mom.”

        And so are we all, Kevin.


        E-mail Laura Pulfer at Author of I Beg to Differ, she appears on WVXU radio, NPR's Morning Edition and InterMedia's Northern Kentucky Magazine.