2 Lawyers To Offer A Study In Contrasts

Mcveigh's Attorney, Prosecutor Employ Widely Different Styles

April 23, 1997|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

DENVER -- Expect the prosecution to begin with a straightforward, easy-to-follow outline of the evidence. Expect the defense to counter with an aggressive, dramatic denunciation of the government's case.

Expect the opening statements in the trial of Timothy J. McVeigh to be as different as the case's two lead lawyers: Joseph Hartzler, head of the government team, and Stephen Jones, who is in charge of the defense.

After nearly a month of jury selection, the Oklahoma City bombing trial moves ahead in a Denver federal courtroom, with opening statements set for tomorrow. The lawyers' presentations to the jury will be the public's first good look at them in action -- and at how each side will approach the case.

So far, court spectators have heard little from Hartzler. An assistant U.S. attorney from Springfield, Ill., he has been sitting quietly in the courtroom, a pleasant half-smile on his face, letting his associates handle the jury questioning. The other lawyers, under his direction, have approached the prospective jurors cordially.

"There's something to this common-sense, friendly approach," says Andrew Cohen, a Denver lawyer who has been following the case.

Meanwhile, Jones, an Enid, Okla., attorney with the formal demeanor of a university don, has been questioning jury candidates himself -- often at great length, in an Oklahoma drawl.

"Perry Mason meets Li'l Abner" is how Cohen describes Jones. "He's very entertaining and very dramatic."

Hartzler wears unassuming gray suits, conservatively tailored. Jones favors showier pinstripes, with shoulders padded into architectural structures that swoop up and away from his body.

Hartzler, 46, is known for a direct courtroom style and a wry sense of humor. Jones, 56, has a reputation for flamboyance, with an energetic delivery meant to seize the jury's attention.

Dictating tone, strategy

Any of the lawyers involved in the case could make the opening statements. But observers expect that Hartzler and Jones will reserve the job for themselves. Even if Hartzler and Jones choose not to speak themselves, they will be the lead strategists who dictate the tone and the strategy.

William J. Campbell, a former partner with Hartzler in a Chicago firm, predicts Hartzler will not give up the chance to make the opening statement.

"He's good at it, and he's in charge," Campbell says. "Joe's a very careful planner. He's got the whole case organized."

Campbell describes Hartzler's approach as "understated. He comes across as a regular person, somebody that's your next-door neighbor -- not an actor, not a preacher, not anybody really flamboyant. It's more your neighbor explaining a complicated case.

"He's not imperious. He's not pompous. He knows how to deal with people."

Hartzler first served as a prosecutor in Chicago, where he spent 10 years in the U.S. attorney's office. His cases included the convictions of five Puerto Rican terrorists charged with bombings in New York and Chicago.

In 1989, he went into private practice at Rudnick and Wolfe, specializing in civil litigation and white-collar criminal work. But he gave it up in 1991, opting to leave Chicago for Springfield and the U.S. attorney's office there.

"We were sorry to see him leave," Campbell says. "But he wanted to be closer to his family. It was a time when his children were coming of age, and he wanted to spend more time with them."

Hartzler, who with his wife, Lisa, is rearing three boys, talks often about playing catch with his sons and coaching their baseball teams. In 1995, Hartzler, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis several years ago, was named the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's father of the year.

In Denver, Hartzler travels through the courthouse in a wheelchair or motorized scooter, rolling past the microphones pushed in his direction. In the courtroom, his table has been outfitted with a special microphone, so that he doesn't have to stand.

Raised in Ohio, Hartzler was student body president at his private high school and co-captain of the baseball team. He graduated from Amherst College and the American University law school.

"He has a very sharp wit, but it's an understated sense of humor," Campbell says. "He can break a tense situation with a remark. His ethics are impeccable. He's one of the good guys."

Hartzler has told colleagues that he loves his work, that he enjoys the drama of the courtroom and the human stories he encounters. He adds without embarrassment that he believes his work values truth and integrity, and that he is proud to be part of it.

Formidable opponent

While Hartzler comes across as a regular guy, Jones cuts a sharper figure. And people who've watched him work say he will be a formidable opponent.

"His opening statements and closing arguments will be second to none," says Norman Grey, a former Enid mayor and a longtime lawyer there.

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