Mason with client Casey
Anthony at her murder trial.
“The highest calling any lawyer can have,”
Mason thunders, “is to be willing to fight the
government to save someone’s life.”
That’s an actual person the state
is trying to kill, he maintains, not an
abstraction. “Premeditated murder of
that person in the name of the state is the
ultimate outrage,” he says.
Just three years into his law career,
he defended a client accused of first-degree murder and got a conviction for
manslaughter. In the late 1970s, he tried
to stop the execution of John Spenkelink,
a convicted murderer who became the
first person executed in Florida after
capital punishment was reinstated. Mason
submitted an appeal and called the clerk
of the state Supreme Court, resulting in a
short stay of execution while the issues in
his brief were considered. Ultimately, the
execution was carried out.
In the Anthony case, it was already a
three-ring circus when Baez, a relatively
inexperienced attorney, started calling and
dropping by, asking Mason for advice. Baez
eventually admitted his goal: to get Mason
on the case.
Mason knew he’d have to take it pro
bono and needed to talk to his wife first.
“Remember John Spenkelink?” he asked
her, referring to the time and effort he put
into trying to get the stay of execution.
His fellow attorneys, he maintains, have
“I question whether they [the detractors]
a duty to educate the public and “should
know what the hell they’re talking about
before they talk.”
He also has no patience for people who
disrespect the American justice system, or
impugn the integrity of the jurors.
wish to remain Americans,” he says.
The jurors in the Anthony case showed
incredible courage, Mason says. They
spent nine hours a day in court, plus
Saturdays, and were away from their
families. They faced down protestors and
sat in the courtroom while people made
faces at them. They endured financial
hardships because they were away from
They could have convicted Casey
Anthony and walked out as heroes, Mason
says. Instead, they listened to the evidence
and reached a different verdict.
It’s a matter of constitutional rights
for Mason. After the Anthony verdict, he
made his standard toast after winning a
case: “My friends, to the Constitution of the
United States. We just proved it worked.”