Ernest Kinney a Popular Fresno Attorney Dies

April 30, 2008 7:11:33 PM PDT
One of the most high profile and passionate defense attorneys in the Valley has died.Ernest Kinney passed away at his Fresno home just before midnight. Close family members say he slipped away peacefully following a fierce battle with leukemia. Kinney might best be remembered for his colorful character as well as his skills in the courtroom. Friends say it was the way he connected with people that made him a legal legend.

Now, there's a sad silence in the halls of Kinney's law office in downtown Fresno. His wall of fame tells of his success. But the big man with a fighting spirit is not at his desk or at the Fresno County courthouse. His family says he's now at peace after waging a battle against a relentless enemy. Two weeks ago Kinney knew he would have just a few precious moments left. "It's clearly the biggest battle, I mean what else would it be? The Marine Corps? Yeah, that was tough but you get through that," said Kinney on April 17th.

Before his career as a successful defense attorney, Kinney served as student body president at Fresno State in 1965, and then joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1968. But he is best known as the take charge, fiery lawyer who has represented some of the Valley's most notorious criminals.

Kinney never backed down, sometimes not even to judges. Once he even spent a night in jail after a judge said he was in contempt of court for refusing to go forward with a trial. He wanted to delay the case. Through it all, Kinney embraced the media. For the past two years he's known his future was uncertain. Doctors told him he had the beginning stages of leukemia. Kinney turned to a team of specialists at U.C. San Francisco to help him fight for even just a few more days.

During his last interview, Kinney said he has lived a very happy and rewarding life. "Whatever happens to me. Whatever happens to me I was born in the High Sierra of Bishop, California in God's country to two wonderful parents that are 90 and still alive. You know, you just can't have the good things happen and turn around and say why me. Of course, I want to see my grandkids, of course I want that life but quality of life is more important," said Kinney during his last interview.

Even though he battled prosecutors in the courtroom, outside the courthouse Ernie Kinney was well respected and admired.

Over the past few days attorneys and judges have filled his home to thank him for touching their lives and leaving his mark on the legal community.

But for all his professional success, Kinney treasured his family's love most of all and was surrounded by it during his final moments.

Memorial services are pending.


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