Mike’s standard for defending people accused of crimes is simple: “A good lawyer represents clients, but a great lawyer fights for people.” With almost 20 years of experience as a criminal defense attorney, Mike Klinkosum is no stranger to legal battles, either inside or outside of the courtroom. Having defended thousands of people accused of crimes ranging from minor infractions to capital murder, Mike has fought on their behalf in numerous trials and hearings as lead counsel. The people he has defended include business people, military officers, school teachers, fast food workers, retail clerks, custodians, mechanics, engineers, law enforcement officers, and those who never held a title. He has waged legal battles on behalf of those with the means to defend themselves, and he has fought just as hard for those who had nothing. He has defended people in high-profile cases, but more often in cases that have never received any media attention. Mike has been certified as a specialist in State Criminal Law by the NC State Bar Board of Legal Specialization since 2004, and has been certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy in the field of Criminal Trial Advocacy since 2007.
Mike was born in Winston-Salem, NC and grew up in Wilkesboro, NC. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1992 with a B.A. in a double major of Political Science and History. He attended the University of Miami School of Law and was awarded his J.D. degree in May 1995. While at Miami, he represented the School of Law on its national mock trial team, and was honored by being named one of the top three students in the law school’s Litigation Skills program.
Mike began his career as an Assistant Public Defender in St. Charles, Illinois and continued his career at the Office of the Cook County Public Defender in Chicago, Illinois. In 1998, Mike returned to North Carolina and entered private practice in Wilkesboro, NC where his practice ranged from misdemeanors to capital murders. He represented clients on appeals to both appellate courts of North Carolina as well as the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2002, Mike joined the Office of the NC Capital Defender. His work for the Capital Defender focused exclusively on defending indigent clients throughout the State of North Carolina charged with first-degree murder and often facing the death penalty.
In 2007, Mike joined the Office of the Wake County Public Defender in Raleigh, NC where he worked as an Assistant Public Defender in the felony unit. During his tenure with that office, Mike was assigned to handle serious felony cases at the trial level. During his time with the Wake County Public Defender, Mike represented indigent clients in felony cases ranging from drug possession to capital murder. Mike joined the law firm of Cheshire, Parker, Schneider & Bryan, PLLC in June 2010.
Mike served two terms as Chair of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice (NCAJ) Criminal Defense Section (2004 – 2006) and served as a member of the NCAJ Board of Governors from 2004 to 2007. In 2005, in recognition of his extensive work for, and commitment to, NCAJ, Mike was presented with that organization’s “Ebbie” Award. In 2010, Mike served as chair of the organization’s SBI Crime Lab Task Force, which acted as a liaison between the NCAJ and the Office of the Attorney General of NC concerning the ongoing review of the NC State Bureau of Investigation crime lab.
Mike has served on the faculty of the UNC School of Government’s NC Defender Trial School and its New Felony Defender Program. He has also served as a faculty member for the National Institute for Trial Advocacy’s Southeastern Regional Trial Skills program, and he has given presentations at seminars throughout the State of North Carolina, as well as the United States, on topics relating to criminal defense, trial skills, discovery in criminal cases, and forensic evidence. He has also served as a Vice-Chair of the Committee on Law Enforcement/Prosecutorial Misconduct of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. For his teaching and commitment to training programs for attorneys who represent indigent clients in North Carolina, in May 2011 Mike was presented with the Professor John Rubin Award for Extraordinary Contributions to Indigent Defense Training Programs by the North Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense Services.
In 2014, Mike was appointed as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the UNC School of Law. In that capacity, Mike designs and teaches the “Criminal Procedure Litigation Skills” course in collaboration with Professor Joseph E. Kennedy. Mike is the author of two editions of the North Carolina Criminal Defense Motions Manual, which was published by LEXIS and the North Carolina Advocates for Justice. The manual, now in its 3rd edition, is edited by Sarah Jessica Farber, Esq., and is titled Klinkosum on Criminal Defense Motions. Mike has also published several articles for legal periodicals including: Piercing the Rape Shield: The Confrontation Clause and Rule 412 in Sex Offense Cases (published in TRIAL BRIEFS, June 2003); Discovery in Criminal Cases: A Need for Reform (published in TRIAL BRIEFS in December 2003); Advocating For Those Left Behind: The Need for Discovery Reform in Non-Capital Post-conviction Cases (co-authored with Bradley J. Bannon, published in TRIAL BRIEFS, February 2005); Brady v. Maryland and Its Legacy—Forging a Path To Disclosure (co-authored with Bradley J. Bannon, published in The North Carolina State Bar Journal – Summer 2006, Volume 11, No. 2); State v. Gregory F. Taylor and Law Enforcement Misconduct in the NC SBI Crime Laboratory (published in “The True Bill,” NC Bar Association Criminal Justice Section, Vol. 30, No. 1, 2010); State v. Taylor and the NC State Bureau of Investigation Lab Scandal (The Champion, published by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Vol. XXV, No. 4, 2011); and Pursuing Discovery in Criminal Cases: Forcing Open the Prosecution’s Files (The Champion, published by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Vol. XXXVII, No. 4, 2013).
In February of 2008, Mike, along with then co-counsel Kelley DeAngelus, was awarded the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Award, given in recognition of outstanding contributions to advancing civil liberties in North Carolina and for their four-year legal battle to win the freedom of Floyd Brown, a mentally retarded man from Wadesboro, NC who was wrongfully charged with murder in 1993 and held without a trial on the charges in a state mental hospital for 14 years. In 2008, Mike and Kelley were also presented with the Kellie Crabtree Award from the North Carolina Advocates for Justice in recognition of their fight to win freedom for Floyd Brown.
In February 2010, Mike and his partner Joseph B. Cheshire V, along with Christine Mumma of the NC Center on Actual Innocence, won a declaration of innocence for their client, Gregory F. Taylor, who had been wrongfully convicted of murder and imprisoned for 16 years. The ruling by a panel of three NC Superior Court Judges is the first time in U.S. legal history that a court of law has declared a person “innocent” of the crimes with which he/she has been previously charged and convicted. In June 2010, Mike was again awarded the Kellie Crabtree Award by the NC Advocates for Justice for his work in representing Greg Taylor. In being awarded the Kellie Crabtree Award for his work in the Taylor case, Mike has achieved the distinction of being the only attorney to have received that award more than once.
The cases of Floyd Brown and Greg Taylor were the subjects of a CNN documentary entitled “CNN Presents: Rogue Justice,” which aired in January, 2011. Greg Taylor’s case was the subject of a documentary entitled “6,139 Days: The True Story of Greg Taylor,” produced by WRAL TV in Raleigh, NC, which aired in 2012.
In 2009, Mike was named as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers Magazine and has been named as a “Super Lawyer” in 2012, 2013, and 2014 by the same publication. He was selected for inclusion in the “Legal Elite” by Business North Carolina Magazine in 2012 and 2013. Mike has also been named, by two separate honorary organizations, as one of the top 100 trial lawyers in North Carolina in the specialty of criminal defense. He was given that honor in 2012, 2013, and 2014 by The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyers, and in 2013 and 2014 by the American Society of Legal Advocates. In 2013, Mike was awarded a Peer Review Rating of “AV” by Martindale-Hubbell/Lexis-Nexis, the highest rating awarded by that organization. The “AV certification mark, also designated as “preeminent” is a significant rating accomplishment – a testament to the fact that a lawyer’s peers rank him or her at the highest level of professional excellence
Mike’s practice focuses on all aspects of criminal trial practice in both state and federal courts, with the primary emphasis of his practice centering on high level felonies.
Note that the specific cases referenced above are not all of the cases Mike has worked on, and past results do not guarantee similar outcomes in future cases. Each case is unique.