Naples, FL – Naples has lost a legal legend. Jerry Berry, a criminal defense lawyer who handled a number of the most high-profile cases yet never sought attention, passed away on January 31. He was 68. After a spectacular 43-year career, which included his early years as a prosecutor, he retired last year. He received a cancer diagnosis in October 2021.
Circuit Court Judge Shannon McFee praised Jerry as “one of the kindest and most empathetic guys I have ever encountered.” He prioritized doing what was right. A former law partner of McFee’s stated that everyone deserved to have support in the courtroom, regardless of the nature of their criminal accusation.
Many young people were motivated to seek legal careers by Berry. His daughter Taylor Berry, 38, stated, “So many people looked up to Dad as a guide.” He inspired some of her classmates at The Community School of Naples, from which she graduated, to become attorneys.
Former legal partner and Collier County Judge Janeice Martin claimed Berry’s influence would last forever in courtrooms. In Collier, he played a key role in the establishment of specialized courts for substance misuse, mental health, and veterans.
“It is absolutely part of Jerry’s legacy that we now have multiple courts that exist to treat the illnesses that drive so much criminal conduct, and offer people a way to get help, get out of the system, return to their families, and lead productive lives,” Martin said.
Berry taught classes and presided over the Inns of Court, a non-partisan organization promoting professionalism. He served for a term as president of the Collier County Bar Association.
Berry founded the Collier County Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and served as its first president. One month after the 9/11 attacks, when he was president of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, he refused to move the annual gathering out of New York City because “we cannot allow the bad guys prevail.”
Berry was chosen in 2016 by the American College of Trial Attorneys to join the group’s honor society, which is open to attorneys only by invitation. Berry then served as board chair for the Florida Innocence Project, where he relentlessly fought for the release of those who had been wrongfully imprisoned.
Berry, who joined defense lawyer Mike McDonnell in what is still perhaps the most infamous murder case in Naples history a year after leaving the state attorney’s office, is credited with inspiring McFee to become an attorney, according to him. click here to read more
READ MORE: Former KPDA dancer, has tragically lost her precious son, John Viera – GoFundMe