Facing the Firing Squad: Linda Kenney Baden
MEET LINDA KENNEY BADEN
Not many of us get portrayed in a movie by an Academy Award-winning actress.
So, how exactly shall I introduce Linda Kenney Baden, other than to say even though Helen Mirren won a Screen Actor’s Guild award for her spot-on likeness of the famed New York City criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, the far more interesting drama has been played out in the real-life experiences of Kenney Baden, for all her personal and professional accomplishments.
Sorry, but when it comes to living life to the fullest while adhering to the highest standards of one’s own personal conviction, Helen Mirren has nothing on this feisty lady.
Kenney Baden is perhaps best known in the public eye for her skilled defense of famous people in high-profile legal cases, most notably music producer and rock icon Phil Spector in his first murder trial, which ended in a hung jury (Spector was later found guilty when he inexplicably went with different counsel in his second trial). Kenney Baden also defended Casey Anthony on murder charges in Florida, NBA player Jayson Williams during his trial, and has made quite a career pleading cases in front of juries where she not only always looks composed and totally at ease, but is just flat out cool.
Yes indeed, she’s a legal rock star.
The self-described “tomboy” with persistent aroma of Chanel on her Handel designer suits and a perfectly coiffured golden sheen of hair appears regularly on television just about everywhere — CNN, 48 Hours, you name it — usually as an expert legal commentator on whatever the biggest trial of the day is happening. She pens a blog on The Huffington Post. She also makes frequent speaking engagements as a much sought-after source of legal tales, humor, and — for many — inspiration.
Naturally, this second-generation Italian-American and proud “Jersey Girl” was indeed born in New Jersey and appropriately enough, earned her law degree from Rutgers University (where else?). She worked her way up the ladder gradually, at one point even serving as the actual in-charge “Law and Order”-like prosecutor of a Sex Crimes Investigative Unit, which means she got to tear apart some real perverts in the courtroom and put them behind bars for a long time. Later on, she moved to the highest plateau of criminal defense as one of New York’s most sought-after legal counselors.
But all those who know her outside the courtroom, and I’m privileged to be within that circle, know Kenney Baden to be about as down-to-earth as it gets. She can easily let her hair down and go without the makeup. She goes on white-water rafting trips. She camps out in the wilderness in the middle of Canada. She clams on the Jersey Shore (is that a word?). She’s even a longtime, long suffering New York Jets season ticket holder and can talk pro football with any sports fanatic around (okay, so the Jet’s connection isn’t something that should be listed on anyone’s resume).
Amazingly, Kenney Baden is just one-half of a what’s truly a superstar power couple, arguably the best one-two punch of legal knowledge and great storytelling ever to be experienced and enjoyed. I’ve had multiple four-hour dinners with both, and we often still end up standing in the lobby or out on the street at midnight discussing whatever topic suits our fancy. When you’re in the company of the two Badens, the party never ends.
Her husband is none other than Dr. Michael Baden, one of the world’s most respected forensic pathologists, who has worked on the several of the most intriguing legal cases of the last century, from the Kennedy Assassination, to testifying in the O.J. Simpson case, to serving as an expert witness on autopsies of Sid Vicious, John Belushi, and even Michael Brown, which triggered last year’s Ferguson (MO) riots. “Dinner with the Badens” is a most coveted invitation, and also to be taken as the prized opportunity it is to learn more about things you’ve only read about your entire life.
Of the two Badens, one thing’s for sure — Linda is clearly the more accomplished poker player. The couple plays regularly at the renowned Friars Club, in Manhattan. However, only Linda has made the brave foray into several World Series of Poker events in Las Vegas. Last year, I invited Kenney Baden to appear on an episode of the television show “Poker Night in America” we were filming in Pittsburgh. She not only agreed to play, she showed up at the game and ended up the biggest winner at a table composed of world-class competitors — including Brian Hastings, Greg Merson, Tom Schneider, Phil Hellmuth, Shaun Deeb, Greg Mueller, and Gavin Smith.
Whether it’s the poker table or the courtroom, Linda Kenney Baden always comes fully prepared with her “A” game, and always plays to win.
Read more on Linda Kenney Baden’s impressive background here: LINDA KENNEY BADEN, ESQ.
Linda Kenney Baden can be followed on Titter at:
Her website, with commentary on several high profile legal cases can be viewed here:
Thanks to Linda Kenney Baden for her time and willingness to take the witness stand here and answer some tough questions. Given her extensive legal background and talent, this promises to be the only firing squad she’ll ever face.
LINDA KENNEY BADEN FACES THE FIRING SQUAD
What are some of the things you stand for?
Hard work. Treating people with respect. Fearlessness and preparedness in the courtroom.
What are some of the things you stand against?
What living person(s) do you admire the most, and why?
- My husband Dr. Michael Baden. He was a poor kid who came from a broken home. At six-years-old he was sent to reform school as an act of unselfish love by his mother to get him out of a bad home life. His mom told him he could be a doctor if he wanted when he returned to regular school. The kids and the teacher all laughed at him. Despite his hardships, including he and his mom and brother living in a one room apartment while going to school, he triumphed and was even Chief Resident in his class. He chose a selfless area of medicine to immerse himself in and became board certified in forensic, clinical and anatomic pathology in at the time that doctors were choosing other glamorous specialties. He is the smartest, funniest, kindest and most generous person I have ever known. He is such a gentleman (which he attributes to reform school) and so supportive of me, let’s me beat him at Scrabble or Aworded. He is also a fab dogfather to our dogchildren (Mycroft in the past, Valjean in the present).
- Pope Francis- just follow his Twitter account @Pontifex to see why.
What historical figure do you admire the most, and why?
- President Abraham Lincoln. Let me see if I can answer this as succinctly as his Gettysburg Address. He was a lawyer. He led the fight to abolish slavery. He died for his beliefs. I felt chills when I once stood at the lectern he used at his famed Cooper Union address: “Let us have faith that right makes might…. ”
- Clarence Darrow. A trial lawyer his practiced the areas of law I concentrate on— civil rights and criminal defense. His anti-death penalty summation in the Leopold and Loeb murder trial stands alone. Albeit he probably did engage in bribery in some of his cases — but he candidly hinted that sometimes the cause is more important that the moral sanctity of the player.
What living person do you despise?
No one. It’s too caustic an emotion. That being said some stupid TV anchor commenting about a foreman of one of my juries possibly putting his safety on the line, brings me close to despicable behavior that I despise (as opposed to the person). And there was this outrageously biased judge IMO ……….
If money were not an object, what profession would you chose?
Professional Shopper (Can I shop!), poker player (of course), anything to do with dogs, ducks, or horses (I’ll send the Duck photo tomorrow and it will explain everything).
What is it about yourself that you are most proud of?
Professionally: Someone once called me a “clam-digger” as a disparagement since I am from the Jersey shore. I am proud that an Italian-Catholic girl from a small community in NJ whose immigrant father was a postmaster (even though he never went to college) and whose mother was a domestic goddess (who never graduated high school) could realize her aspirations of being an attorney.
Personally: My marriage to my wonderful husband for all the reasons stated above.
What is it about yourself that you’d like to change?
I would like to get back the time I wasted in life starting from placing the eight or more decorative pillows on the bed and taking them off every night (my time waste brought to my attention by Dr. Rosemarie Poverman).
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?
Well most people look at me though my TV persona of hair and makeup and think I can only stay in a five-star hotel with all the accoutrements when I travel. In fact, I am a tomboy at heart and grew up being one of two daughters to my Italian immigrant father who had no sons. I learned how to change electrical outlets, climb trees, play poker and and love the horses. In other words, my dad taught me how to play in the sandbox with the boys. I t’s a line I used in my husband’s and mine first fiction novel REMAINS SILENT (followed by SKELETON JUSTICE) describing one of the two lead characters, a lawyer named Philomena Manfreda (who is named after my mother).
So getting back to the question;
It was a white-water trip down the Alsek and Tatshenshini Rivers for ten days in Canada and Alaska. At the time I did it one of the rivers was in the news for being very treacherous having taken the life of a number of people in a business group prior to our trip. I went with my son Christopher as a graduation present but we did it by raft (not kayak), so that the white water danger rating was lower. On the first night’s camp I suggested to my son that he should stay on his side of the camp and me on my mine because it was both our vacations. Then— a big brown bear was spotted coming toward our camp. I graciously retracted my position when he politely asked, “Mom, would you like me to stay on this side next to you?”
And of course, when we were supposed to portage over Turnback Canyon an area too dangerous to raft — the assigned pick-up forgot us for three days in the wilderness. The guides hiked up the mountain to try to make contact but the radios still didn’t work. Finally, the helicopter came for us piloted by one of the great old Vietnam-era helipilots- the portage took much less time than other trips because the pilot went through the canyon with only feet of clearance on each side rather than over the canyon. I was in the passenger front mesmerized by his skill. It was a once in a lifetime memorable experience with my son and nature.
What’s the most unusual time and place you’ve ever visited?
I visited death as a child when I was about 10, obviously only in a dream. I could hear everyone talking about me that I was dead. But I knew I was alive. But I couldn’t move or say anything. I still vividly remember that experience of absolute fright absolutely. Until I experience that again, I know I am still present.
Name a place or places you’ve never visited where you still want to go.
Antarctica, the Galapagos, and Iceland.
Favorites: Books, Movies, Musicians, Plays, Poets:
I can’t play favorites here — haven’t you ever heard of the movie “Sophie’s Choice?” So here are some groupings:
Books: Anything by David McCullough, “Kane and Abel” by Jeffrey Archer taught me a great lesson about not speaking about confidential items in restaurants where the servers can hear. In that book one of the protagonists a waiter at The Plaza becomes rich by overhearing his clients talk business. Robert Caro, “The Power Broker,” about Robert Moses (as a political science major, it taught me everything I wanted to know about politics.
Movies: “Yankee Doodle Dandy” with James Cagney and “Gaslight” with Ingrid Bergman hit the finish line in a dead heat as stand alones. In series: all Alfred Hitchcock and James Bond films.
Musicians: Bessie Smith, Big Mama Thorton (She recorded Leiber and Stoller’s “ Hound Dog” in 1952 before Elvis ), Alberta Hunter, Carly Simon, Janis Joplin, Cole Porter, TampaRed
Plays: Les Miserables, anything Shakespeare, or anything David Mamet (disclosure: he wrote the HBO movie “Phil Spector” using a character named Linda Kenney Baden)
Poets: Emily Dickinson and Shel Silverstein (“The Game in the Windowless Room” is- a must read for every card player — LINK HERE).
What upsets you the most?
Discrimination, civil rights violations and a court system that had historical civil rights failures. In fact, I collect historical slave documents related to the legal system so that when someone espouses the righteousness of the legal system to me I can pull out concrete legal refutation. My pet peeve is biased or willingly stupid judges — those who might as well come off the bench and either sit with prosecutors or at the counsel table they that they can wear KKK robes. See how I get about this?
Back to my lawyer like response: Let’s remember, for every wrongful conviction in this country there was a judge(s) who let the jury hear bad evidence because of bias or stupidity.
What bores you?
Going to events in these very private clubs (and I’m NOT talking about the Friar’s Club which I am a member of — it started as an outsiders clubhouse!). I look around and I see no diversity. It upsets me. I was born an outsider to that world although in my present life I can and do function in it seamlessly wearing Chanel. But I would rather be digging for fresh clams with my very own clam rake and basket (which I do in the summer), playing poker, or supping with one of my ex-clients and/or their families.
Do you believe in an afterlife and why do you believe it so?
No, even though I went to Catholic school for 12 years of education. But just in case, I try not to do to many things that will send me to Dante’s Inferno just in case the oddsmakers are wrong.