October 2016 Bar Bulletin
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Profile / Patty Eakes

Tenacious ‘P’ ... Try, Try Again

By Andrew R.W. Hughes

 

Always self-effacing, Patty Eakes enjoys telling the story about her opening statement in a federal criminal trial she defended in Boise. As she was about to address the jury for the first time, she looked down at her shoes. They were two different colors! The light was bad in the hotel room, and she hadn’t noticed she had put on one navy shoe and one black. She was mortified.

But after the months of preparation for this moment, she wasn’t about to let a little wardrobe snafu faze her. So, calmly, she took a few steps forward so the jurors couldn’t see her feet, and delivered her opening statement in a massive, federal fraud prosecution. What she wouldn’t tell you — but others will — is that it was a tremendously powerful opening statement from one of the Pacific Northwest’s most in-demand trial lawyers.

Patty first made a name for herself as a prosecutor handling some of Washington’s most high-profile and horrific cases, such as “Green River Killer” Gary Ridgway and the 1997 murders of the Wilson family in Bellevue by Alex Baranyi and David Anderson. Since entering private practice, she has represented celebrities, CEOs and public officials in civil and criminal cases, and conducted major, newspaper-headlining investigations. Her reputation as one of Seattle’s most effective, tenacious attorneys is well deserved.

But you might never know it to talk to her. She is unstintingly warm and gracious, and always ready to deflect credit to her team, to mentor a young attorney, to laugh at her own expense.

Patty’s path to the law was never a sure thing. Her father was a career Navy man who met her mother when he was stationed in the Philippines. Originally from Tacoma, Patty moved all over the world as a kid: to Germany, Greece, Texas, and back to Tacoma. After graduating from Mount Tahoma High School, she did something no one in her family had ever done before: She went to college.

She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do until her senior year when she was placed in an internship in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. “I fell in love with the work they were doing,” she says. (Plus, she smiles, student loans were coming due and she had no way to pay them.) And so she decided to go to law school.

A few months after graduation, Patty took a job with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, where she would remain for the next 17 years. In 1992, barely two years into her career, Patty received her first high-profile case. It was a tragic one. Julie Sousa was accused of scalding her 6-week-old baby, along with her husband, Gerald Sousa, who failed to call for help while they worked out a story and the infant died. The couple blamed their 2-year-old daughter, saying that she had tried to give her sister a bath, and that they had slept through the whole thing.

The press was all over it. It was a sensational case — the first case from Seattle to be featured on “Court TV.” The first jury hung 7–5 in favor of conviction. It was heart-wrenching, but Patty knew she couldn’t let it go. The second jury was hung 11–1 for conviction. Finally, on the third try, the parents were convicted in December 1994.

Almost 22 years later, even after eventually securing a conviction, Patty still blames herself for that first loss. “I conducted the world’s worst cross-
examination,” she says, half-laughing, half-cringing. “And I was panned on national TV for it.”

She determined to get better. The parents were represented by David Allen, a respected criminal defense attorney. Patty watched what he did, she watched what other people did, and she worked to become better. Eventually she got the hang of it.


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