One of Theodore V. Wells Jr.’s past clients slipped quietly into the courtroom recently to watch a day in the perjury trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr. Mike Espy, agriculture secretary under President Bill Clinton, sat watching Mr. Wells, whose defense of Mr. Espy against criminal charges that he had accepted illegal gifts ended in 1998 with a stunning verdict of not guilty on 30 counts.
The Espy case is one reason Mr. Wells is regarded as a celebrated defense lawyer with a reputation for a sure and supple touch with criminal juries. In that case, Mr. Wells prepared himself by asking Mr. Espy to move into his house in New Jersey, where, Mr. Espy recalled, for two months the two men talked “over and over about the facts of the case” until Mr. Espy felt that Mr. Wells had become his alter ego.
Reid Weingarten, another well-known criminal lawyer who shared the defense table with Mr. Wells in the Espy case, said: “The real truth about Ted is that it’s not about the flash, the geniality and the big smile. He is a prodigious worker. He loves facts. No one outworks him. No one.”
Thus far in the Libby case, Mr. Wells, with his tall and athletic bearing, has displayed his skill as a communicator through his opening statement and his cross-examinations of government witnesses. He used a wireless microphone so he could stride around the courtroom while striking notes of anger, incredulity and wounded innocence on behalf of Mr. Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.
It is a style in notable contrast to that of the chief prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who methodically drew his witnesses through their accounts of Mr. Libby’s alleged false statements, prodding them with questions that were unemotional, simple and often short.