Occasionally you meet people who steal a room.
Usually they are never lawyers.
Sean McGraw, an Aquarius, is one of those rare forms. A trial attorney this talent is someone you meet maybe once in your career. You cannot rush him and he won’t half ass it. He’ll go through his own process and develop his own strategy.
Irish, he has the temper to prove it, but he knows that too. He tends to point when he is mad, but he seems to be effective even when pissed off.
When Centre County was under threat of judicial and prosecutorial scandal, it was McGraw who quietly rallied the folks. His argument style is subtle, he points out facts and lets the jury draw it’s own conclusions. He’s strategic and subtle and thoughtful.
McGraw isn’t money driven, otherwise he would have been Tom Kline and made a million bucks by now. McGraw is more people driven.
When Cantorna ran it was at the very last minute. McGraw didn’t want the limelight or attention and frankly he was a tad wartorn.
Cantorna knew McGraw had the level headedness, work ethic, loyalty and experience. McGraw brought that unprecedented sort of on your feet trial experience. The type of thing that cannot be learned, but only earned through combat.
I remember the first time I met McGraw. He used to have hair, and it was almost 20 years ago. I had some type of internship for high school credit that I never finished. McGraw wore spectacles, and he walked me through a process called “jury selection.” He said “I don’t know, see, this is an intuitive sort of thing I can’t quite explain. But you want to eliminate all the mean looking librarian types.” That was when he was still a public defender, back in the days when Gricar was still alive and the public defender’s office was run by Karen Arnold.
I remember McGraw being a hell fire raising cat. As in Judge’s were both amused and bothered by him. He could raise a fury in the driest courtroom.
He always said, “I can almost conceive crimes like a barfight,” but he was ruthless in his prosecution of crimes against old people, women or children, yet vigilent in defense of young idiots like Penn State students who made mistakes.
Calculating he is almost impossible to stir up. McGraw is unshakable in the courtroom (almost), but when you get him riled up he is relentless and dogged and his passion will shake almost any line of jurors.
When he is his normal self, doing his job, law enforcement refers to him as the “witness whisperer.” As in McGraw is ever capable of getting on someone else’s level, wearing their shoes, finding out their weaknesses and preparing them for the moments that they will need God’s strength to be the strongest.
He literally can stop a room when he starts talking, otherwise you’ll find him like a gun-toting redneck, feet spread apart talking about weapons and family issues with local law enforcement. What drove McGraw out of the District Attorney’s office under Miller was a mixture, a convoluted strange mixture between Sean McGraw’s unshakable ethics and his empathy with blue collar law enforcement.
There are a lot of words you can call McGraw. A renegade. A leader. He is loyal and generous to a fault. But you can’t ever call him a liar. After 20 years, I’ve never witnessed him ever lie, though I’ve seen him in court many times. He taught me that you can be effective without lying. And I think he is effective because he never lies.
So when I think of this new “Deputy District Attorney,” I kind of take a step backwards. Of course I insist the press calls him that, but then again, I remember the guy with the beat up truck working till 11:00 at night at the public defenders office. I remember the guy who absolutely steals the floor of a court room and both menaces and intrigues the sitting Judges… And I see, one of the most brilliant, ethically sound and driven attorneys that I will likely ever meet.
You can’t buy that sort of talent, though Sean could have made a fortune in private practice, these lawyers are just a cut above the rest. He doesn’t do it for the money or fame, it’s been principled, humble and modest all along.
It’s a natural born trial attorney, and never did I have any clue such thing existed. Judges are silent and stilled, clients are forever grateful. McGraw has the capacity to move a jury to tears with some dry pointed questions and particular inflection in his tone. Frankly, after 10 years in the legal field, it’s like nothing I have ever seen before.
McGraw is truly underrated, but he also likes it that way.