The Real Story Of David Schutter
Wednesday - July 27, 2005
I’m a week-after-funeral late in writing about the late attorney David Schutter. I wanted to let the eulogies settle before I got down to the nitty-gritty of his life as I knew it.
I first met Schutter when he arrived here in 1968 from Arizona, where he was nationally known as the primary law researcher for the Miranda case that makes police warn arrestees of their rights.
My now-wife, Denby Fawcett, was then a newspaper reporter covering Schutter’s lawsuit to stop Washington from sending him and the other 29th Brigade National Guard soldiers to Vietnam as combat replacements. He argued, unsuccessfully, that Uncle Sam had promised to keep National Guard troops together by unit.
Schutter understood he’d be a poor spokesman here as a haolecome- lately. He coached a brigade cook, Henry Peters, to be the public voice for the wedon’t- want-to-go gang.
Washington sent the brigade to war. It gave Schutter a safe assignment at Saigon headquarters. It kept Peters safe in Hawaii.
Schutter came back and set up a criminal law practice. Peters would become the speaker of the state House and a Bishop Estate trustee.
Schutter was a brilliant attorney with a thirst to win. He realized we had many marginal judges appointed for their goalong, get-along roles in our oneparty Legislature. They were not the best or the brightest.
Schutter didn’t fear them. He tore into them. He turned his back — emphasizing his butt — on one judge and said that was what the court deserved from the defense.
He was the first lawyer here to utilize scientific picking of juries. The first to investigate pool jurors.
He was an “attitude lawyer.” One of his associates tells me that when Schutter was co-counsel in a case with F. Lee Bailey, who asked him to carry his briefcase, Schutter told him “carry your own f@&*#@g briefcase.”
I did ask him about his vigorous defense of very bad people he knew to be guilty. Schutter believed the law school mantra that every defendant is entitled to the best defense. If the prosecution can’t prevail, that’s tough. In Schutter’s heyday, our prosecutors weren’t worth a damn and he prevailed.
He once told me: “The same people in this town who complain that I let criminals go free are the people who’d call me in a minute if their sons were arrested.”
When I was busted for DUI, my first call was to Schutter. My wife once said if she were fed up with me and killed me, her second call would be to the police. Her first would be to Schutter.
Schutter had a horrible marital life, a godawful relationship with his biological children (he adopted and gave most attention to the son of a friend), and was a disaster as a businessman.
One biological son was convicted of robbery and given 10 years in prison. One was busted for cocaine possession. One went to law school but doesn’t practice. Schutter died in the adopted son’s house in Kailua. There’s a stepdaughter, too.
Most of his law partners could only stand to work with him for a short time. He had many, including former Gov. Ben Cayetano. Only investigator Steve Lane stuck it out for 10 years.
Schutter had his Kahala mansion open for a decorators’ tour one year and when I went to it, there he was. Most people evacuate for that Sunday.
“Why are you here?” I asked him.
“Hey, some sexy chicks come on this tour, see me, and say ‘wow, is this your house?’ I take them upstairs and show them my bedroom with the mirrors.”
The mother of one of Schutter’s most deadly Waianae criminal clients would deliver him his fees in cash regularly at his office in a brown paper bag.
He tried to withdraw as lawyer for one of our crazier criminals, who came to his office and said in way that couldn’t be misunderstood: “You’re still my lawyer.” But that was the end of his criminal practice. He’d had it with the nasties.
His nutzo behavior at a son’s teen sporting event got him banned from all future games. He built a basketball court and hired a pro player to instruct that son.
He went from a legal comet in our community to a fizzle. From a hot news item to a “who’s he?” He was a man who quickly made a lot of money and quickly lost a lot of money; a walking time bomb health-wise, who stumbled through Kahala Mall at a young age with a walker and a care giver and unfocused eyes.
That’s the real story of David Schutter.
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