Hello, my name is Michael Withey and I’m a Seattle-based human rights lawyer and first-time author. Writing Summary Execution has long been my “bucket list” of one.
I have dedicated my career to fighting for the “little guy” against powerful interests and to protecting constitutional rights, civil rights, and human rights.
In June of 1981, I was a crusading young lawyer when my best friends Gene Viernes and Silme Domingo were murdered in a Seattle union hall in a political assassination for activities which threatened the interests of the regime of Ferdinand Marcos, the corrupt dictator of the Philippines. In the aftermath of the murders, I left my law practice for two and half years to pursue justice in their case, wearing a bullet proof vest and carrying a firearm for self-defense.
This was a very intense time in my life and it took a heavy personal toll. I was recently divorced, with two young children, working the case 24/7, hitting the bottle too hard, and trying to make ends meet on very little income. We had formed the Committee for Justice for Domingo and Viernes and worked 80-hour weeks to plot the strategies to hold accountable those involved in the murders. I was, and still am, deeply inspired by the amazing courage and grace of all the CJDV activists in their brave choice to fight for justice despite these intimidating murders. My strength, solace and solidarity was with those Committee activists, which included Cindy Domingo and Terri Mast, the sister and widow of Silme, as well as the dynamic legal team we had assembled.
We encountered and struggled against a cover-up that was dastardly and underhanded:
- A key accomplice of the hit men was himself murdered to shut him up;
- The FBI informant who watched the murders occur came forward to perjure himself while testifying for the hit men;
- The local prosecuting attorney refused to charge the Marcos ally who supplied the murder weapon and paid for the hit;
- US intelligence kept dossiers on the murdered pair and their anti-Marcos organization that mysteriously disappeared.
- A “deep throat” intelligence source implicated both the FBI and Naval Investigative Service in the cover up.
Our efforts eventually paid off and we won a $15.1 million federal court jury verdict against the Marcoses and negotiating a $3 million settlement on behalf of the Estates of Domingo and Viernes. We never did it for the money, but the settlement provided validation and some closure, although the involvement of US Intelligence agencies was left unresolved. Remarkably, this case still stands as the first and only instance of a foreign head of state being held liable for the murders of American citizens on US soil and is an important, precedent-setting case in international human rights circles.
Our pursuit of justice for Silme and Gene is not finished. We recently brought a Freedom of Information Act request against the FBI to obtain more information on the its mystery informant at the scene of the murders. To date the FBI has been stonewalling our requests but has admitted he was used as an informant by the Seattle FBI office during the times of the murders.
I was moved to write this book by the inspiration I draw from Silme Domingo who, with four .45 caliber bullet holes puncturing his chest, chased the fleeing assassins out of the union hall and, bleeding profusely, hailed a fireman in order to name the hit men. In writing this book, I hope to honor Silme’s dying wish: “Don’t let them get away with this!”
As I said in closing argument” “May justice flow like water and righteousness come down like a mighty stream!”
McCormick, Mike. “Michael Withey: Exposing Human Rights Cover Ups.” KEXP’s Mind over Matter and Talking Stick TV. November 7, 2016. Accessed from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqS6oUHqmxQ
“Seattle Attorney Michael Withey Receives Pursuit of Justice Award.” American Bar Association. September 23, 2011. Accessed from: http://www.americanbar.org/news/abanews/aba-news-archives/2013/08/seattle_attorneymic.html
“WTO Protesters to get $1 Million Settlement.” Associated Press, NBC News. April 3, 2007. Accessed from: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/17921582/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/wto-protesters-get-million-settlement/
“Seattle Lawyer Mike Withey takes on AT&T”. Associated Press, The Seattle Times. July 7, 2006. Accessed from: http://www.seattlepi.com/news/slideshow/Daily-News-Gallery-7-7-2006-12875/photo-907131.php
Smith, Wesley J. Fighting for Public Justice: Cases and Trial Lawyers that Made a Difference. TJLP Foundation (Washington, DC). 2001. “Human Rights: Domingo v. The Republic of the Philippines, Michael E. Withey.” Page 157.
Large, Jerry. “A Life of Justice: ‘I’m Proud to be a Trial Lawyer’ – Michael Withey has Challenged Wrongdoing by Marcos, Boeing, Seattle Fire Department.” The Seattle Times. August 24, 1995. Accessed from: http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19950824&slug=2137908