February 18, 2014
Gerald T. Zerkin Presented with Carrico Professionalism Award
The award was presented on February 14, 2014, during the section’s 44th Annual Criminal Law Seminar in Williamsburg. The award was named for the former Virginia Supreme Court chief justice who promoted the ideals of professionalism during his forty-two years on the state’s highest court.
U.S. Magistrate Judge David J. Novak, who presented the award, noted in his nominating letter that Zerkin had been one of the leading capital defense attorneys in the country for many years. “But it was his work defending 9/11 terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui that was well beyond the norm,” Novak wrote. “As one of the prosecutors in that case, I can tell you that the pressure … was enormous. … And while defending an alleged terrorist is never an enjoyable experience, Jerry also had to deal with a client who treated him terribly, often disparaging him with ethnic insults. Yet, Jerry persevered in the finest traditions of a Virginia lawyer and ultimately saved Moussaoui’s life.”
Zerkin worked for many years in the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Eastern District of Virginia. Federal Public Defender Michael S. Nachmanoff wrote that Zerkin “has served as learned counsel and consulted on dozens of authorized death penalty cases, including the stunning habeas victory in the case of Richard Stitt, a complete dismissal in the case of Darrell Rice, the reversal of a death verdict in the case of George Lecco, a twenty year term of imprisonment for Arthur Gordon, and a life verdict for Somali pirate Ahmed Salad.”
Last year’s Carrico Award winner, Claire G. Cardwell, wrote that as a young associate she worked with Zerkin. “To this day, I continue to try to emulate his professionalism and consistent willingness to help other attorneys…. He is a supremely talented and capable trial lawyer whose outstanding courtroom skills are complemented by his exceptional scholarliness.”
Zerkin earned his bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University, has master’s degree from the University of Virginia, and his law degree from the Boston College Law School. He began his legal career in 1976 and in 2001 became senior litigator in the Office of the Federal Public Defender, with the responsibility for defending federal capital cases. Since 2008 Zerkin has been Capital Case Resource Counsel, Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, where he provides advice and assistance to federal defender offices and court-appointed counsel defending federal capital cases.
Zerkin has twice argued cases before the United State Supreme Court. He has made numerous presentations on criminal defense and capital punishment issues in Virginia and across the country.Updated: Mar 07, 2014