Emmet Bondurant still has a sweater that was given to him by a convicted man. Gary X. Nelson learned to crochet for 11 years on death row, where 15 fellow prisoners were taken from their cells and electrocuted. Sometimes it smells like burning meat.

Bondurant has a sweater, the sleeves are long enough to accommodate Yao Ming, because sometimes the air conditioner is too high or the heat is too low in the offices of Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore (BME), the famous litigation boutique of Atlanta. They also reminded him of the humanity of the prisoners and that sometimes the worst errors in imperfect justice systems can be overcome.

Shortly after Nelson was sentenced in 1980 for the rape and murder of a 6-year-old girl in Savannah, Bondurant examined the transcript of the trial and decided to be involved in a pro bono appeal. “This case is appropriate, but a case like Gary Nelson is the most difficult, because you will probably lose most of the habeas deaths,” said Bondurant, who does not hesitate from controversial cases.

Why should it be so? Bondurant has won about 80% of the over 100 trials in which it participated. His friends chose him as Georgia’s No. 1 lawyer for three consecutive years in this publication, and he was named one of the top 10 trial lawyers in the United States. from the National Law Journal. In 45 years as a lawyer, Bondurant has achieved his greatest reputation as a champion for the oppressed.

“I don’t think I like bullies,” said Bondurant, 69, in a voice so sweet you had to lean back to hear what he was saying. It’s worth it. Man has a story.

Bondurant was 26 and had almost left Harvard Law School when he supported and won an important Wesberry v. Case. Sanders in front of the US Supreme Court (1964), forced the state of Georgia to match its congressional district with the “one person, one vote” rule. In 1984 he won a historic gender decision before the US Supreme Court, representing attorney Elizabeth Hishon against King & Spalding due to the company’s refusal to make it a partner.

He took Coca-Cola, the government and the rich and powerful, who usually represent small businesses against bigger people, against companies. He spent 40 years fighting for the revision of the Georgian public defense system. Represents the prisoner of Guantanamo. He made a recent effort to prevent the state of Georgia from applying a new law that requires citizens to obtain a government-issued photo ID to vote. “He’s a person who really believes,” Georgia chief judge Harold Melton said.

Bondurant is not just a lawyer hired by other lawyers. “He is a lawyer that other lawyers want,” said Jill Pryor, a BME partner. “He can speak any language.” Pryor recalled special bench tests involving trade secrets and computer software. “We have clients and additional consultants who are very sophisticated about software details and judges who are not familiar with the technology. Emmet is communicated in the language the judge understands.”

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