Yesterday, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain held a press conference in which he denied sexual harassment allegations from five different women; but it was his attorney, L. Lin Wood of Atlanta, whom Dan Rather once called the "attorney for the damned," who first stepped to the microphone.
He's been there before.
"I find [being on TV] a professional challenge," Wood told us in a 2006 Georgia Super Lawyers feature, "L. Lin Wood Fact-Checks the Media." "My clients are on the hot seat so I'm on the hot seat. You've got to think on your feet. A media appearance is really a mini-trial. You may be advocating to a jury of millions."
Wood, of Wood, Hernacki & Evans, has a reputation for aggressively representing those caught in the media storm, including John and Patsy Ramsey, suspected in the death of their daughter, JonBenet, in 1996; Gary Condit, U.S. representative from the 18th district in California, suspected in the disappearance of his intern, Chandra Levy, with whom he'd had an extramarital affair; and Richard Jewell, who went from hero to suspect to hero again in the Centennial Olympic Park bombing during the 1996 Olympics.
But what's fascinating about Wood, and less well-known, is the tragic nature of his own past. When Wood was 16, he came home one evening to discover that his father had killed his mother.
From our 2006 feature:
"I wasn't surprised. I grew up in a life of domestic abuse. It was a brutal life," he says of his childhood in Macon, Ga. Both of his parents were troubled alcoholics who were frequently violent toward one another.
Wood says he checked his mother's pulse, and, realizing she was dead, called the police.
"I remember walking down the driveway and driving off in my mother's car," Wood says. "I was going to stay with a friend, but first I stopped in the park and kind of had a little heart-to-heart with myself. I said, 'You're in charge of your life now. You've got to do something with it.' That doesn't mean that I wasn't affected by it emotionally. I just knew that I had a horrible situation and I had to deal with it.
"I've been fairly independent ever since."
Wood, left, with client Richard Jewell.