Chicago’s Defense Lawyer: Eddie Genson

A brilliant, legal mind that combined street smarts, charisma and knowledge to win cases for the elite.

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From the Chicago Tribune author JASON MEISNER: Storied Chicago defense lawyer Edward Genson combined street smarts with a brilliant legal mind

Ask anyone in Chicago’s legal community about longtime criminal defense attorney Eddie Genson and they invariably have a story — or three — to tell.

There’s the one where Genson loudly cracked his cane over the defense table to startle a sleepy courtroom during his six-day cross-examination of a government mole; that time he tapped a prosecutor on the back and whispered to “get ready” to object to a question he was about to ask; even a tale of Genson hopping into the jury box in the middle of a trial just for dramatic effect.

Over the years, Genson was said to have narrowly escaped a mob hit on his own client, disarmed a man he represented who’d taken a hostage in a store, and planted a woman and children unrelated to a defendant in the front row of the courtroom, imploring the jury during his closing argument to “Send this man home to his family!”

Genson, whose five-decade legal career ended in 2017 after he was diagnosed with bile duct cancer, died Tuesday. He was 78.

A lifelong resident of the Chicago area, Genson lived in Deerfield with his wife, Susan. They have three children and five grandchildren. His law partner, Vadim Glozman, told the Tribune that Genson’s family was mourning his loss and did not wish to comment.

Raised on Chicago’s West Side, Genson was the son of a bail bondsman and spent his early childhood hanging around the city’s dingy police station courthouses, selling pastries, reading court transcripts and soaking up knowledge.

He earned his law degree from Northwestern University in 1965 and opened a law office at the famed Monadnock Building across the street from federal plaza. Over the years, he teamed up with a vanguard of powerhouse attorneys, including Sam Adam Sr., R. Eugene Pincham and Terence Gillespie, trying one big case after another.

Though he could be a bear in court, Genson was affable and approachable otherwise, often stopping to chat or exchange wisecracks with anyone who sought his counsel, his friends and colleagues say.

“It was impossible to go to a courthouse with Eddie and get out in less than two hours,” Glozman said. “Everybody wanted to stop to talk to him — lawyers, judges, deputies, court clerks, you name it.”

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