San Bernardino Defense Attorney Gary Wenkle Smith’s

Training and Experience

I started 2017 with a Trial Lawyer’s College Regional Seminar covering Opening
Statements. This training is, once again, a “hands on” approach to presenting the story of the case. We develop the characters and story through the use of psychodrama.

Understanding how people feel, on both sides of a case, can help us learn how to show what really happened with all of the parties involved, and the emotional content of what takes place in each scene of the story.

In 2016 I attended a Trial Lawyer’s College Regional Seminar covering Voir Dire—jury selection—the first stage of the trial. Learning how to speak with prospective jurors and share your concerns about the case with them so that they feel free to share openly is the beginning to selecting the people that are best suited for any given case.

All training through the Trial Lawyer’s College is with a faculty of the best trial lawyers in the nation.

The year 2015 has already been busy with training. I have attended three separate seminars, accumulating around a hundred Mandatory Legal Continuing Education credits. Only twelve credits are required each year. I began with a four day Trial Lawyer’s College Regional Seminar in San Diego, where we worked on Voir Dire, jury selection, using the psychodramatic method. The training was intense, and, once again, with the best Psycho drama instructors and the best trial lawyers in the nation as faculty.

Then, I attended the annual CACJ/CPDA Death Penalty Seminar in Monterrey. There, all aspects of Capitol Case defense are explored, and an enormous amount of written material is provided. Death cases take years to litigate, and, should there be a conviction and death sentence, an appeal directly to the California Supreme Court is automatic. On appeal, it takes between eleven and fourteen years to complete. The amount of work and the volume of paperwork are truly astonishing, and burdensome. Death case defenders pay a heavy price for their work. Most recently, I attended a nine-day Trial Lawyer’s College seminar at the Ranch in Dubois, Wyoming, entitled “In Defense of the Damned: All Serious Felonies.” We worked hard for those nine days, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. We covered all aspects of trial work, again using psychodrama. The faculty was made up of top trial lawyers and psychodrama instructors, as well as the maestro, Gerry Spence.

The Ranch is a truly spiritual place, where lawyers with a common cause come together to learn and share and experience through psychodrama how to become better lawyers representing people, not corporations or governments.

Another important aspect of this training is that we lawyers who do not represent the government or corporate interests have a role to play on the world stage. We have lawyers from almost every national origin attending our training. So many languages are spoken, and so many diverse personalities–all with a common goal: to be champions of justice for the People. This is my thirteenth year of training with the Trial Lawyer’s College. I have encouraged many lawyers from the Inland Empire to attend TLC. Most have, and they offer the same praise and joy that they found the Trial Lawyer’s College. There is no program like TLC anywhere in the world.

In June 2009 I attended a one week Death Penalty seminar at Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyer’s College on Thunderhead Ranch in Dubois Wyoming.

In May 2006 and February 2009, I attended the CACJ/CPDA Death Penalty Seminar in Monterey, California. The program covered presenting a death penalty defense, as well as many topics related to the general practice of criminal defense.

In June 2002, I attended a two week Trial Practice Institute at the National Criminal Defense College (NCDC) in Macon, Georgia. A faculty of top criminal defense lawyers from all over the country conducts the NCDC program. There were 96 students, and we studied all phases of trial preparation and trial work. It was an excellent program, with an opportunity to spend time with other criminal defense lawyers from all over America.

I have been honored to have the opportunity to attend Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyer’s College for seventeen days in June 2000. The College is located on Gerry’s ranch in Dubois, Wyoming. At the Trial Lawyer’s College, some of the top trial lawyers in America taught forty-eight lawyers, like myself. If you do not know who Gerry Spence is, you are missing the opportunity to observe one of the greatest legal minds this country has ever known. The faculty of the Trial Lawyer’s College is comprised of nationally renowned trial lawyers from all over America, as well as professionals in psychodrama and the performing arts.

Below is a photograph (from right to left) of Gerry, Abraham Kazanjian, and myself taken at the Palomar Mountain Trial Lawyer’s Voir Dire and Closing Argument Seminar in January 2000. The seminar was four days of intense study by “hands on” involvement.

Since attending the Trial Lawyer’s College, I have attended ten additional regional seminars conducted by the faculty of TLC, as well as a week long “graduate program” at the Ranch.