Edgy Lawyer in Algiers Case Worries Movie Won't Portray Him as Brilliant
July 14th, 2017, 8:55 AM
Norman L. Lippitt, 81, has had quite a legal career. He was an Oakland County judge, and as a lawyer he was involved in some of the biggest criminal cases in town.
But one of the cases that he takes particular pride in involved the murders in the infamous Algiers Motel. He successfully defended white cops accused of beatings and murder at the Algiers Motel during the 1967 Detroit Riot.
The incident is the focus of a new film, "Detroit," that is premiering at the Fox Theatre on July 25, and opening nationwide Aug. 4.
Joel Kurth of Bridge Magazine shines a light on Lippitt in an amusing piece for the Detroit Journalist Cooperative. It begins:
Norman Lippitt makes no apologies. He made big money winning acquittals for cops accused of brutalizing blacks in Detroit. It was a paycheck.
Lippitt leans back in his corner office in downtown Birmingham. He’s discussing his most infamous case: successfully defending white cops accused of beatings and murder at the Algiers Motel as Detroit burned in the summer of 1967. The allegations were savage. The case exposed racial wounds that perhaps still haven’t healed.
Lippitt pauses. He puts his feet on his desk to reveal soft leather driving shoes that he wears without socks. “Let me ask you a question,” he says with a smile. “What do you think of my new shoes?”
Lippitt, once one of Detroit’s best-known and most flamboyant trial attorneys, is ready yet again for his star turn. Now 81, he’s edgy and annoyed – but loving the attention – in the days leading to the Aug. 4 release of “Detroit,” Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s movie based on the Algiers Motel killings. Lippitt is one of the last surviving principals of the divisive case, and a character based largely on him is played by John Krasinski, of television’s “The Office.”
Lippitt hasn’t seen the movie. And he’s upset. Not that it may depict his clients, the cops, as racists. But that it might suggest it took something less than brilliant advocacy to persuade all-white juries to acquit the officers.
“I’m just pissed off that they’re going to make me look irrelevant. I don’t like being irrelevant,” Lippitt says. “I’d rather have them tell me that I’m an asshole or a racist than tell me that I’m irrelevant.
“Maybe I’m a narcissist.”