Though the Law Offices of Browne & Scanlan has a reputation for successful representation garnering Us a great deal of media attention, 90% of our work is behind the scenes with cases that we keep out of the press. A list of some of our more public success stories are below.
Defending the indefensible? Lawyers on representing clients accused of nightmarish crimes
John Henry Browne, 67, has been practising law for 43 years. Based in Seattle, Washington, he has defended high-profile mass murderers, including serial killer Ted Bundy, who sowed fear across the US in the 1970s, and Robert Bales, an army sergeant who massacred 16 Afghan civilians in 2011.
"I've always felt drawn to the underdog. Often government gets things wrong. I've represented a number of innocent people. It's kind of my path. What I'm supposed to do. Performing is part of the job. It came to me naturally. I did theatre in high school. People say I'm a Shakespearean character, flamboyant. I figured out what that means – it means a lawyer who actually has a personality. You can get a big head easily in this business. I struggle with my ego." – John Henry Browne
The Vietnam War was raging, and John Henry Browne believed it was unjust. When his draft number came up, he refused to go. A litigious lifetime would pass before he would become the lawyer for the soldier accused of one of the worst American war crimes in decades, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who was charged on Friday with 17 counts of murder in the shooting deaths of Afghan civilians, including nine children. But even 40 years ago, long before Mr. Browne was known as one of the Pacific Northwest’s most prominent and controversial defense lawyers, he was inclined to make a distinctive case.
“I did all the research and learned that you would not qualify if you were over 6 feet 6 inches tall,” Mr. Browne recalled. He was tall, but was he tall enough? He consulted with pacifist Quakers. He received notes from two doctors. He did stretching exercises. Then he faced the recruiter. “They made me take my shoes off, push my arches down to the ground and do all sorts of things,” Mr. Browne said. “I was still well over 6-6.”
AT 6 feet 6 inches, John Henry Browne towers over everyone in his plush Pioneer-Square law office. His neat suit hides the barbed-wire tattoo inked on his right forearm, and his short hair—which he used to wear in a foot-long ponytail, to the annoyance of courtrooms —is slicked back neatly... The Seattle-based attorney is notorious for his high-profile defense work. From Ted Bundy to the “Barefoot Bandit,” Browne’s legal career has kept him in the spotlight since the 1970s, and he’s been fodder for the media ever since. Once labeled “a pit-bull on crack” by a prosecutor and told by a state justice that he needed a spanking, Browne boasts a reputation that fuses belligerence, charm and a willingness to represent the worst.
Call it an ambush. A TV news crew corrals the attorney at Sea-Tac airport before he flies to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on March 18, 2012. But it’s hard to believe John Henry Browne hasn’t looked forward to it. See him toss his shoulder-length hair. See the scarf—long, white, druidlike—draped over his neck. See the towering 65-year-old lawyer look down at KIRO reporter Stacy Sakamoto through the angular eyeglass frames favored by architects. Hear him speak warmly, like a fond great uncle, of his latest client, Robert Bales, the Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier accused of a rampage in Afghanistan, in which he allegedly shot, stabbed, or burned 16 innocent villagers to death, mostly women and children.
Defending the Undefendable. A new book by Ted Bundy's lawyer sheds light on the enigma of his most famous client.
It seems inevitable, at least from a marketing perspective, that John Henry Browne’s scant interactions with Ted Bundy would be sold as the centerpiece of his career. It is, unfortunately, even less surprising that Browne’s book boasts previously untold revelations about Bundy’s crimes: Browne can’t be compelled to spill his former client’s secrets, but he can apparently share them of his own volition... In The Devil’s Defender, Browne describes Ted Bundy admitting to a lifelong obsession with “control,” and describing a childhood pastime in which he bought a few mice, took them into the woods, and began to “stare into the box and hold a hand over each one, deciding if that particular mouse would go free or die.” Browne describes Bundy confessing to the murders he had been publicly tied to, and admitting that, “when he was a teenager in Tacoma, he killed a fellow teenager, a male.”
Coming to the small screen: the dramas of Seattle attorney John Henry Browne
The drama of flamboyant Seattle defense attorney John Henry Browne’s life and legal wranglings might soon be coming to a screen near you.
A New York production company is seeking to adapt Browne’s recently-published memoirs, “The Devil’s Defender,” into a feature film or TV series, Browne said. “I got a call about 9:30 last night and had a hard time believing it,” Browne said Thursday. “So, I called my agent, and he said it was all true.” Viewfinder Pictures purchased an option for the book from Browne’s publisher and will seek to adapt it as an hourlong drama series, according to a report in Deadline, an entertainment industry news site.
Colton Harris Moore, also known as the "Barefoot Bandit," pleaded guilty to 33 state charges including burglary and identity theft. JHB and Emma Scanlan obtained the lowest-possible sentence within the standard range. With the help of a nationally-known expert on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Dr. Richard Adler, JHB successfully argued that Colton's mother drank while she was pregnant with him, which significantly affected his development. Judge Vikki Churchill sentenced Colton to just 6.5 years, calling the case a "triumph of the human spirit."
John Henry Browne’s new memoir The Devil’s Defender devotes a lot of ink to two subjects that arguably already have gotten their fair share.
The first is Ted Bundy, the Washington serial killer who’s been the subject of countless true-crime books and articles. The second is Browne himself. As a lawyer who’s defended Bundy, a Wah Mee massacre defendant, the “Barefoot Bandit” Colton Harris Moore, and Kandahar massacre perpetrator Sgt. Robert Bales, Browne hasn’t exactly flown under the radar during his 45 years of legal practice. And yet this short book (220 pages) marks the first time Browne has told his story in his own words. That will be cause for little celebration among those who consider Browne a “blowhard” (in the words of one Washington prosecutor). But for the rest of us, the book is a surprisingly personal look at the man behind the legal briefs. Browne opens up about his cocaine addiction, his struggles with his own ego, and, most revealingly, Deborah Beeler, a girlfriend murdered around the same time Bundy was on his crime spree.
For all of John Henry Browne's confidence — and for all the high-profile cases he's handled over the decades — he is now receiving unprecedented national attention. In what could be the biggest case of Browne's career, he is defending Robert Bales, the Joint Base Lewis-McChord staff sergeant charged with murdering 17 Afghan civilians.
Browne, 65, has been doing defense work since the 1970s. This year he wrapped up the charges against Colton Harris-Moore, the infamous Barefoot Bandit. Accused of at least 67 crimes — from Washington to Canada to Indiana to the Bahamas, stealing planes, cars and boats and burglarizing stores and homes — Harris-Moore received 7 ½ years, after Browne detailed his client’s miserable, abusive upbringing. Browne calls it the best result of any case he’s ever plea bargained.
Murder charges have been dropped against a former Pasco policeman accused of strangling a prostitute 31 years ago. Spokane County prosecutors asked a judge in a motion filed Wednesday to dismiss the case against Richard Aguirre. Deputy Prosecutor John Driscoll said in his one-page motion that the “recent DNA results raise significant evidentiary issues.”
Driscoll asked for the case to be dismissed without prejudice, meaning prosecutors could refile charges in the future. Ruby J. Doss was found beaten and strangled in January 1986. The investigation into her death went cold for 29 years until detectives claimed Aguirre was a match for a DNA profile from a condom found near the murder scene. His DNA was entered into a national database in 2014 after a Franklin County woman accused him of sexual assault.
Attorneys for the U.S. soldier who massacred 16 unarmed Afghan civilians last year will call witnesses on Thursday as they try to show he suffered a breakdown under the pressure of his final deployment to Afghanistan. The first witnesses to be called by the defense in the sentencing phase of Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales' trial will be a number of medical doctors flown in from across the United States, his attorney John Henry Browne told reporters. Defense testimony on Wednesday appeared aimed at telling the story of Bales' transformation from a dutiful young man to a soldier who his civilian attorney says broke under the pressure of overseas deployment.
"I don't think anybody with a rational mind could say Bob Bales didn't snap," Browne told reporters on Wednesday after the court-martial session before a military jury. A decorated veteran of four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bales pleaded guilty in June in a deal that will spare him the death penalty.