11th Apr 2014
By John Pirro, Staff Writer
Published 6:52 pm, Sunday, September 20, 2009
DANBURY — He grew up in the Southport section of Fairfield, the son of an attorney who worked for the State Department during the Eisenhower administration.
He spent the first eight years after he graduated from law school with a small firm in Fairfield County, and with his patrician good looks and engaging manner, he probably could have spent his career sedately handling legal matters for society’s haves instead of its have-nots.
But Miles Gerety came from a family “that has always been interested in the underdog,” and he hungered to be a trial lawyer, as his father had been early in his own career.
“You didn’t get to try cases,” Gerety said of his early years in private practice. “Only public defenders and prosecutors got to try cases.”
Over the past two decades, Gerety, who was recently appointed as the head public defender in the Danbury judicial district, estimates he’s tried between 70 and 100 cases, including more murder trials than he can remember.
“I stopped counting at 10,” he said.
Gerety did most of his trial work in the public defender’s office in Bridgeport. He succeeded Robert Field, who retired in July.
Colleagues on both sides praise Gerety’s ability, experience and dedication to the people he represents.
“He’s been trying cases in Part A in Bridgeport for years, including death-penalty cases. He’s very good with juries and he has a great gift of gab,” Field said. “He’s also a people kind of guy, who cares about the people he represents and that’s what’s important.”
Gerety previously worked in Danbury in 1995 and 1996, assisting Field during the early stages of the case of Geoffrey Ferguson, the man accused of killing five young men in Redding, and representing the woman accused of setting fire to the Danbury Public Library.
Bridgeport State’s Attorney John Smriga has done battle in the courtroom with Danbury’s new public defender for years.
“The words that come to mind with Miles Gerety are charming quirkiness,’ ” Smriga said. “He’s an intelligent, charismatic and experienced defense attorney, who genuinely cares for his clients.”
Gerety takes issue with those who automatically assume the people he represents are guilty of the crimes for which they have been accused.
“In my experience, a lot of clients have done something wrong, but often they are over-charged or they are innocent,” he said. “I’ve represented battered women where the chief witness against them was the person who battered them.
“The police have to make an arrest based on what they are told, but what the witnesses say might not be true. … Unless you try the case, the integrity of the system isn’t tested.”
He opposes the death penalty, a position reinforced by the two capital cases he’s handled.
“Rather than giving loved ones closure, it prolongs their suffering,” he said.
In addition to a love of the courtroom, Gerety also shared a passion for politics with his late father, Pierce Gerety Sr., a deputy director of the State Department under President Dwight Eisenhower.
But while his father was a Republican, Gerety is a Democrat, who worked for John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama last year.
He even had a featured role in a documentary film about the last four days of the 2004 presidential campaign in Ohio, titled “… So Goes the Nation.”
All three of his older brothers followed their father into the legal field, Gerety said. One is an attorney in Fairfield, a second is a retired college president now teaching law at New York University, and a third, Pierce Gerety Jr., was a former legal-aid attorney who later became a deputy director to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
Pierce Jr. was on a U.N. mission in 1998 when he was killed, along with more than 200 others, in the crash of Swissair Flight 111 off Nova Scotia.
Miles Gerety became head of the group representing the survivors’ families.
“You always think you have lost a lot until you meet people who have lost so much more, in some cases their entire families,” he said.
Gerety and his wife, Sylvia, live in Redding, and have two sons, one also named Miles, who is pursuing an acting career in Hollywood, and Padrick, a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa.