A prominent Georgia defense attorney who often provided expert legal analysis for news organizations covering high-profile cases drowned over the weekend while swimming in waters near his coastal home, a coroner said Tuesday. Page Pate, 55, worked for more than 25 years as a trial lawyer and divided his time between offices in Atlanta and Brunswick on the coast.
Pate’s death was also confirmed Tuesday by Pate, Johnson & Church, an Atlanta-based law firm, CBS affiliate WGCL-TV reported.
“Once the shock wears off, it’s just hurt. And there’s no easy way about getting rid of that, except for time and grieving. But I think one thing we can also take with us is the celebrations of this man’s life,” said Tom Church, Pate’s legal partner.
Pate drowned Sunday while swimming in an inlet with his teenage son on St. Simons Island, where the family lived, Glynn County Coroner Marc Neu said. Father and son were swept into open waters by powerful rip currents, Neu told The Brunswick News.
Pate’s son swam back to shore unharmed, but a rescue crew had to pull Pate from the water. Despite attempts to revive him, the coroner said, Pate was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
“Though he was a formidable, sometimes intimidating, attorney in the courtroom, Page had an easy smile, an earnest laugh, and a great sense of humor,” Pate’s law firm, Pate, Johnson and Church, said in a statement.
Pate was a native of Dublin, Georgia, who graduated from the University of Georgia’s law school in 1994. He specialized in criminal defense, handling cases in both state and federal courts.
In addition to trying cases, Pate frequently provided expert commentary and analysis on legal issues to media organizations including The New York Times, CNN, NPR and The Associated Press.
Jason Sheffield, a metro Atlanta trial lawyer and president of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, called Pate “a larger-than-life person and attorney.”
“Page’s dedication, creativity, knowledge and compassion for those persons facing prosecution across the United States was legendary,” Sheffield told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
State Sen. Jen Jordan, an Atlanta Democrat running this fall for Georgia attorney general, posted on social media Tuesday that she had known Pate for nearly three decades.
“He was brilliant, kind, professional – and could cross examine the hell out of a witness,” Jordan tweeted. “Such a loss to his family & everyone who loved him.”
Pate was also a founding member of the Georgia Innocence Project (GIP), which said it was “heartbroken” by Pate’s death.
“A fierce advocate for the criminally accused and unjustly convicted, Page was a visionary founding member of the Georgia Innocence Project twenty years ago,” the group wrote on Facebook. “He remained active with our organization over the years, consulting on cases, advising on media strategies, and raising awareness about wrongful convictions and GIP’s work.”