As you might have guessed, Yery Marrero is my law partner. I highlight her not for self serving reasons, but because she is one of my first and most important mentors and is someone that we all can learn from. Yery Marrero has been a dedicated criminal defense attorney since 1989, as both an Assistant Public Defender and in private practice. Yery has represented countless clients from investigation through trial and has been recognized by Martindale-Hubbell as an AV® Preeminent™ Attorney, the highest rating available for an individual lawyer. With over 100 jury trials to her credit, Yery Marrero is a skilled litigator. Yery is highly active in the wider legal community, both as a member of various professional boards and as a legal analyst and commentator on a number of Spanish-language news television shows.
How long have you been a criminal defense attorney and what have you seen change for women in this field?
I have been a criminal defense attorney since I graduated from law school and that was in 1988. I initially interned at the public defender’s office and then was hired as an attorney right out of law school. I was at the public defender’s office for ten years and I have been out on my own ever since. I do think that the greatest difference I have seen is simply that there are more women in this field. There are more women in private practice than when I was an Assistant Public Defender. And I think there are more women specializing in criminal defense than ever. Today it is not uncommon to see a woman representing a client in a high profile case. That would have been rare when I started.
What inspired you to become a criminal defense attorney right out of law school?
In the home that I grew up in, women really didn’t have a voice and in criminal defense I had the opportunity to be a voice for people that others didn’t want to listen to, that society didn’t want to hear.
What part of defending a client most fuels you and what part of defending a client most drains you?
I think that all aspects of being in trial fuel me. The whole stage of a trial fuels me because by the time you try a case you believe so deeply in the facts of your case and defense and in the individual sitting next to you. I could never do what my clients do in sitting silently through a trial. It must be agonizing. I think what fuels me is being the voice of justice. Because I feel as a criminal defense attorney that I am often the only one standing between a client and abusive police officers, overzealous prosecutors, and the only person that can stop the wheels of injustice from spinning out of control. And that really is what fuels me throughout the trial. What most drains me is the process itself because I think as a woman you tend to take in feelings around you. You feel what your client is feeling, what witnesses are feeling and I think that drains me more in a trial than anything else.
What is the biggest fear that you had to overcome to become the criminal defense attorney that you are today?
The biggest hurdle I had to overcome was simply learning to believe in myself. Especially at the time I went to law school and entered the working world there weren’t many women to emulate. I often tell the story that when I would stand side by side with my male contemporaries, as a woman I was seeing things in a completely different light. I would argue something and if I lost I would immediately start asking myself what could I have done better, what had I screwed up, what could I have done to have the ruling come out differently. At the same time a male colleague looking at the same event would say that the judge really screwed up and was blind to the fact that I may have affected the result at all.
If you could go back and give one piece of trial advice to your 30 year old self what would it be?
To listen! The one thing that I see young lawyers doing, something I did in the beginning of my career, is to not listen during a trial. I would have all the paper in front of me and be so focused on the research and preparation that I wouldn’t be listening to the witnesses or listening to what the jury was hearing. This is probably the biggest mistake that all young lawyers make. I think that would be the best advice I could give a young lawyer today. I would tell them that when they sit in the trial, trust that you are prepared because I know you have spent weeks and sometimes months preparing so just sit there and listen and trust you will know what to do and say.
If you could go back and give one piece of career advice to your 30 year old self what would it be?
Jump! Don’t be afraid to jump. Don’t be afraid to go into private practice. Don’t be afraid to handle that monster big case. Don’t be afraid to take on that high profile case.
What representation of a client has most stayed with you through the years?
I represented a serial killer who killed four women and attempted to kill a fifth and it was an interesting and intriguing case. The client’s psychological makeup was bizarre. And just the fact that I was a woman and he was charged with raping and killing women was an interesting dynamic throughout my representation of him. One time I got stuck in the cell in the courtroom with him and nobody heard me knocking to get out. We stayed in that room together and he stared at me for thirty minutes without talking and it was the longest thirty minutes of my life. Thankfully I was able to save him from the death penalty and ultimately save his life. It was a draining case for me and actually one of the most intriguing and interesting clients I have ever represented.
Is there any unique aspect of being a woman that either helps you or hinders you when representing a client?
I have always believed being a woman in the field of criminal defense is an advantage. I can be soft, kind, and gentle when I need to and I can also be tough and aggressive when the situation demands. I can be both and having the ability to turn this switch on and off is probably my secret weapon.