At trial, Friedman questioned witnesses while Marshall, satisfied with his co-counsel's performance, took notes from the second chair.
During his two-day cross-examination of Strubing, Friedman combed through her story for discrepancies until she lost her temper. Once he'd shaken her out of the role of helpless victim, Friedman guided her back through her testimony.
Why hadn't she called out to the policeman who stopped Spell? Friedman tied a handkerchief over his mouth, and asked Strubing if Spell had similarly gagged her. She said yes. Later, the lawyer retied the handkerchief as tight as he could and tested Strubing's claim that she could not make a sound. "I let out a shriek," he recalled. "The jurors almost jumped out of their seats!"
Friedman skewered Strubing's "fantastic story" and "evasive answers"—"her resort to tears, her antics on the stand, her resort to every possible trick in the cards."
But looking at the all-white jury, he knew that discrediting Strubing was too risky. He had to offer the jury a way to affirm Strubing's social standing and still acquit Spell.
In a move that the Baltimore Afro-American described as "brilliant," Friedman appropriated the prosecution's rhetoric, explaining how he overcame his own doubts to believe in Spell's innocence.
"They had this improper relationship all through the night. Joseph sees nothing wrong in it. The formality of marriage and divorce means nothing to him," Friedman argued.
"But not to Mrs. Strubing. She has moral fiber and dignity. . . . She knows she has done wrong." Strubing had plunged into the water with thoughts of killing herself, Friedman surmised. "But as soon as she hit the water she was a changed woman. She was a good swimmer and she simply couldn't drown."