This morning's paper brought the sad news that Susan Jordan, one of our most courageous and resourceful attorneys, was killed last Friday in a private plane crash in Utah. Aside from Susan's successes in individual cases, her forty year legal career empowered both women attorneys and women crime victims.
Susan made an indelible impression on me when I first saw her in court in 1973. She was one of a group of lawyers representing a group accused of robbing the Bank of America at Adeline and Ashby in Berkeley. The attorneys for the defense were five men in dark suits and Susan, resplendent in a vivid blue western style pantsuit with red piping that, I was told, she had made herself. The issue was bail and Susan dominated the courtroom as if there had been a spotlight on her.
Susan was probably most famous for her representation in the 1970s of Inez Garcia, a Latina who, under circumstances that appeared to fall short of classic self defense, shot and killed a man who had previously raped her. Garcia became a feminist symbol of resistance to male domination, but at her homicide trial, Garcia's attorney Charles Garry unsuccessfully advanced a politically weak diminished capacity argument. Garcia was convicted of second degree murder. After a reversal on appeal, Susan took over for the retrial, ditched diminished capacity and went for broke, successfully arguing self-defense.
Personally, I worked on a case with Susan in the early 1990s and had two memorable flights in her airplane. The first was a trip to Chico to visit an expert on an impossibly spectacular day. I felt like I was living one of those PBS Over California programs.
The second flight, from Santa Rosa to Oakland, was somewhat more nervous, at least for me. After we were about halfway, the radio went out. Eventually we discovered that if I reached under the dashboard and pinched two wires together, the radio went back on, sort of. In truth, Susan was the most careful of pilots, going over a checklist before each flight that other pilots disdained, and I did not feel unsafe at any time. Apparently, she was not flying the plane on Friday.
I last saw Susan at a Saturday morning spinning class a couple of months ago. She left a bit early and I did not get to say hello, which, of course, I now regret.