Concealed somewhat behind Jack Venturi's pleasantly off-beat manner is an enviable reputation: The 63-year-old Newark native is regarded as one of the best criminal-defense attorneys in New Jersey. Experienced and with a string of trial accomplishments spanning nearly 4 decades, Venturi has built a practice truly for "The People" - that is, for virtually anyone who comes to his downtown New Brunswick office facing serious criminal charges, including the very rich and the not-so-rich. That has made for a remarkably diverse and interesting client base. Further, Venturi's outspoken style is a fresh contrast to the conservative, uptight ways of most of his colleagues in the law.
Growing up in Newark and Irvington, Venturi said it was a fourth-grade teacher - whose husband was a lawyer - who inspired him to pursue a law career. "She introduced me to Clarence Darrow and the other historic names of trial law. I was already watching Perry Mason and 'The Defenders' on television. I always had strong feelings about fighting for liberty."
He excelled at the University of Connecticut, graduating with highest honors and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. At NYU Law School, which encouraged real-world training, Venturi won a motion to suppress evidence and won a trial in the NYC Criminal Court. Venturi watched many trials as well: "I saw great trial lawyers at work in the Manhattan Criminal and U.S. District Courts." So it was early on that Venturi began developing his courtroom skills, which he took with him to his first job - in the public defender's office in Elizabeth, N.J. "It was 12 hours a day and $17,000 a year - and it was the most valuable experience I ever had," he says. Three years later, after trying 50 jury trials, including murder cases with the Public Defender's Office, Venturi joined the prominent Woodbridge-based firm of Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, where "I was the whole criminal-defense department. I did everything. Municipal, State and Federal Courts. I handled a number of cases involving executives, professionals and public officials."
Two years later, Venturi started his own practice. Over years of constant trial work Venturi has handled over 25 murder cases. One of his most memorable was defending 21-year-old Kelsey Kirk, a clergyman's son charged with shooting to death a woman at a 1999 party. Kirk was acquitted, aided by Venturi's skillful representation. He also was the first lawyer to challenge the FBI's so-called comparative bullet lead analysis (CBLA), which was found to be "junk science" and can no longer be used as evidence.
Today Venturi heads a practice with an expanding "white-collar" clientele, yet he remains true to his roots, a street lawyer for "The People."