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Marvin Levy, a veteran Berkeley criminal defense attorney, died Feb. 23 from heart failure. He was 67. Friends and family knew Levy as a kind-hearted man who loved his solitude, dark humor and Clint Eastwood movies. In court, Levy was known as an astute attorney — albeit with a strange sense of fashion — who tried tough death penalty and murder cases. Levy stepped forward to defend a client after an earlier attorney was disbarred in the midst of a murder trial, recalled Judge Julie Conger. “Who would we turn to to pick up the pieces and do a good job but Marv?” the judge said. Levy’s habit of inheriting grueling cases became a running joke, said Assistant Public Defender James McWilliams. “I’d say, �Marvin, next time you have to get one with a defense,’” McWilliams said. In another case, Levy’s client was an explosive defendant who flipped counsels’ table and spit on him, said Levy’s daughter, Alissa. Instead of getting angry, Levy joked about how he and the prosecutor had to sit in the jury box. “He took his job very seriously — he wanted what was best for his clients — but he had a sense of humor about the legal system,” she said. The only exception to that was death penalty trials. After a string of bleak cases, Levy stopped trying capital cases, Alissa Levy said. “It really got to him when he lost.” Levy graduated from the University of San Francisco School of Law and was admitted to the Bar in 1969. Early in his career he was a deputy public defender in Alameda and Riverside counties. But for the bulk of his professional life, Levy was a private criminal defense attorney, said Robert Beles, an Oakland criminal defense attorney who often tried cases with Levy. For 20 years Levy lived and worked from a boat docked at the Berkeley Marina. Working in a traditional law office “wasn’t his style,” Beles said. Neither was the suit-and-tie uniform that most attorneys wear to court. Beles said he liked to wear sports jackets and shirts and socks that rarely matched. Attorneys say they constantly ribbed him about it. “He had this horrid jacket he wore all the time,” laughed Alissa Levy. It was a sports jacket with a hound’s tooth check and Western-style details. Once Levy left it in his car and the car was stolen. Alissa Levy said she thought the jacket was gone for good until the police recovered the car. While thieves swiped several items, they left the jacket behind. In many ways the Berkeley attorney was a man of polar opposites. Levy hated to eat out at restaurants but recently splurged on a three-week trip to Europe. He loved to hole up in his boat to watch “Sex and the City,” film noir and Clint Eastwood movies, but also fostered many friendships. Levy never seemed to have money in his pocket, laughed his ex-wife, Phyllis Levy, but he was extraordinarily generous to his family and friends. “He was a capable handyman — there wasn’t anything he couldn’t fix,” she said. Even though the pair divorced many years ago, they remained close. That’s why the court called her Wednesday when her ex-husband didn’t show up to argue a motion for a pending murder case. She told the court that Levy died a few days earlier. Marvin Levy is survived by his three children, Andre, Erick and Alissa Levy; sister, Joan White; and brother, Dana Levy. A memorial service was scheduled to be held Sunday.

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