Roger Stone, the Perp Walk, and Shame’s Role in White-Collar Cases
Posted On February 14, 2019
The recent arrest of Trump confidante Roger Stone brings to the fore once again the ‘perp walk,’ an occasion when an arrested defendant is displayed for the media. What is the history of the ‘perp walk’? What is its justification and rationale? Are there limits to it? What – if anything – can lawyers and clients do to protect themselves from running the gauntlet?
history of the perp walk is a long one — frequently infamous, sometimes
disastrous. During the French Revolution, aristocrats were rolled through mobs
on their way to the guillotine. English church
reformers in the 16th century were similarly paraded about before
being burned at the stake. William Wallace, the 14th-century Scottish
rebel, was taken through London’s streets before his execution. As World War II
drew to a close, French women whom the community believed collaborated with the
occupying Nazis (the “collabos”) had
their heads shaved and were mocked in public.
President Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was shot dead during a
United States, the practice has been in place for nearly a century, especially
in major metropolitan areas like New York.
In the 1930s, the FBI found it useful to publicize its search for and
apprehension (or killing) of famous bank robbers. About the same time, film
technology had progressed to the point that newspaper-photographers could take
high quality photographs while everyone – photographer, handcuffed defendant
and law enforcement – was on the move. Current Trump lawyer and former United
States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Rudolph Giuliani
frequently used perp walks in prosecutions of Wall Street executives. There have
been perp walks of mobsters (John Gotti), officials of international
organizations (Dominique Strauss-Kahn) and, more recently, media moguls (Harvey
Weinstein), actors (Kevin Spacey) and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.
“perp” in “perp walk” is, of course, short for “perpetrator.” A “perpetrator,”
the Oxford English Dictionary reminds us, is “one who perpetrates or commits
(an evil deed).” The word has been used in this sense since at least 1570,
according to the OED, which further points out that “in Latin, the thing
perpetrated might be good or bad; but in English the verb, having been first
used in the statutes in reference to the committing of crimes, has been
associated with evil deeds.”
than a philology lesson, these definitions point us to a foundational curiosity
of the perp walk: the individual arrested is a defendant, one charged with the crime. He or she is not a “perpetrator”
of anything. No judicial process has
determined that he has committed “an evil deed.” Yet, when handcuffed and a bit disheveled,
usually because the arrest is in the early morning hours, the defendant
certainly looks guilty, an image that can become ingrained in the minds of the
When is a perp walk legitimate, and when is it not? And, legitimate or not, is there anything that you as a lawyer can do to avoid it for your client? Read the full article here.