Great Trials, Occasional Errors

Steve Lowry and Yvonne Godfrey’s new podcast delves into the stories, mistakes and risks of notable court cases

Published in 2019 Georgia Super Lawyers Magazine — March 2019

Listen to Steve Lowry and Yvonne Godfrey bat around the infamous “Owl Theory” from Netflix’s The Staircase—which chronicles the 2003 Michael Peterson murder trial in North Carolina—and it’s clear they make a good act. 

“The neighborhood that I live in is near a wildlife preserve, and there have been multiple owl attacks,” Lowry insists during a phone interview. “You can be walking or running down the street, and they swoop down and grab your hat. One of our neighbors was actually attacked by an owl. It does happen.” 

Godfrey is not impressed. “Come on—it’s insane,” she says, laughing. “But I will say this, though: I’d hire [David Rudolf] as my lawyer.” 

Lowry and Godfrey, both of Harris Lowry Manton, spend a lot of time geeking out about lawyers and trials. “I listened to a lot of podcasts—Serial, Up and Vanished, Stuff You Should Know—which is just two guys talking about stuff they find interesting,” Lowry says. “And I knew Yvonne was really into podcasts, too. We’d tell each other about which ones to listen to.”

So when Lowry thought about starting a podcast that featured one lawyer per episode taking a deep dive into a particular trial, he wanted Godfrey on board. She agreed, and the Great Trials Podcast was born. 

“We bring an interesting dichotomy in that, by trial lawyer standards, I’m not that experienced,” Godfrey says. “I’ve only been practicing a little over five years, so I come at each episode from a different place than Steve does.”

“She’s very smart and a very good storyteller,” Lowry says of his co-host. “So it’s more than just ‘she’s younger and more energetic.’”

“Steve goes all-in on the trial stuff, whereas I try to keep in mind what the non-legal audience is thinking,” Godfrey adds. “I wonder while we’re chatting, ‘If my mom and dad were listening, did we lose them by now?’”

The podcast, which launched Jan. 1, has had some impressive guests: Louisiana’s Russ Herman, who tried the first big-tobacco case; Georgia’s Chris Stewart, who won a billion-dollar jury verdict for a rape victim; and Georgia’s personal injury legends Tommy and Adam Malone.

Godfrey and Lowry are fascinated with the risks—big and small—that lawyers take, and the thinking behind them. 

“In one particular trial [by Atlanta lawyer Andy Scherffius], a bio-mechanical expert asserted that the force of a 45-pound seat, which had fallen on a little girl, wasn’t enough to paralyze her,” Godfrey says. “So Andy manages to steal a 45-pound plate from his gym, and he brings it to trial. He asks the expert, ‘So can I put this on your back?’ 

“Talk about a risk. He had no idea how that was going to turn out.” It worked—the expert refused. 

Lowry has a favorite, too. “I watched Russ Herman in a trial conference once, talking about how a railroad company had disregarded signals, and literally in court he’s going, ‘Chugga chugga chugga chugga,’ pumping his arms. Do you know how much you have to believe in yourself to do that in front of a jury?” Bucket-list guests include Gerry Spence, Gloria Allred and Morris Dees.

Having a podcast featuring only lawyers does present a challenge: attorneys can be a little chatty. “You really can’t stop one trial lawyer from wanting to talk at great length to another trial lawyer,” Godfrey says. “You not only have to keep it within a reasonable time frame, but you have to keep it accessible. My Favorite Murder, a podcast from two friends who thought they were weirdos because of their true-crime obsession, is a good guidepost for keeping things conversational. That’s the tone we strive for.” 

The duo does some pre-episode research, such as reading opening and closing statements.

“We want to be in a position that we know enough about the case, but also want to be in the position of you, the listener,” Lowry says. “I like hearing stories of things that didn’t work. That’s a whole lot more fun.”

“Lawyers have a lot of fascinating conversations when they’re grabbing a drink, having dinner, sending Listserv emails,“ Godfrey says. “Having these types of conversations accessible to anyone, I think is a great thing.”

You can listen to all episodes of the Great Trial Podcast at greattrialspodcast.com or on iTunes.

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