Life and death of a legendary lawyer

Life is what happens between the death of a friend and our own departure.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
26 August 2023 Saturday 10:23
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Life and death of a legendary lawyer

Life is what happens between the death of a friend and our own departure. Accustomed to always seeing him in the Lost Steps hall of the Palace of Justice in Barcelona with his everlasting gray hair, one day his hair surprised me. Chestnut black. Darker, even, than his robe and a raven's wing. "Roqui, have you showered with a bucket of dye?" I said jokingly. "Shut up, shut up, my father has passed away," he replied.

He knew that I knew that he was gay. But those were other times, another generation. He lived forced to hide it, to disguise it, as if it were a crime or something shameful. The answer left me puzzled until he pointed to his hair and added: "In his lifetime I would never have dared." This was Juan Antonio Roqueta Quadras-Bordes, the lawyer for Arropiero, the biggest serial killer in Spain.

That title has followed him since he took over the defense of Manuel Delgado Villegas (1943-1998) in the 1970s, who has gone down in black history as the Arropiero for the candies he sold made of arrope or fig molasses. Despite his comical appearance (as a young man he resembled Cantinflas), he is considered the biggest serial killer in Spain. He confessed to 48 crimes, although only eight were proven (seven, according to other sources).

El Arropiero, who had a sister in Mataró, committed his murders throughout Spain. He had been detained for some time and on tour with the Police, looking for bodies, when prosecutor Del Toro was stunned. I said: they were other times. Alejandro del Toro, lieutenant prosecutor of Barcelona (who in his heyday was preceded by an usher shouting: "I'll pass to the lieutenant prosecutor!"), discovered to his astonishment that he had no lawyer.

Del Toro telephoned an old and admired college classmate, Roqueta, to ask him to assume the detainee's representation and avoid embarrassing the Spanish justice system. Since then, Roqui (or Rocky, as his friends also transcribed his name) appeared in a thousand reports as "Arropiero's lawyer, the oldest..." etcetera, etcetera. In reality, Roqui was a thousand other things. Wizard, for example.

Yes, conjurer, as well as a legendary criminal lawyer and professor at the School of Legal Practice. His appearance was shabby. Disheveled, not always clean shaven and with dandruff on his shoulders. The also missed José Martí Gómez portrays him in Historias de amor y sangre in La Oficina (La Campana) with an egg stain on his chest. He would swear that this is how he would like to be remembered. The Fried Egg Lawyer.

It wasn't so much because of the stain, but because of one of his cases. Another of his lifelong clients was Lopecito, whom we were talking about yesterday. On one occasion, Lopecito broke into an empty house, got hungry and made a fried egg. They detained him because he had a record and his fingerprints appeared on the frying pan. Roqui managed to annul the conviction due to a formal defect. The matter was highly commented at the Hearing.

For weeks the judges who met at La Oficina, the Martí Gómez book bar, a place near the court building, whispered when they saw him: "That's the lawyer with the fried egg." In addition to murderers and rogues, Roqui had the best among his clientele (a clientele, alas!, that he did not always pay). The flower and cream of a crime that no longer exists.

Roqui had a totemic phrase, which he repeated in a thousand trials. "Man is not made for the Law, but the Law for man." He was an old-school criminal lawyer, who would have given his life for the law, but who knew that if the law ever conflicts with justice, there is no doubt. First, justice. He came to the rebound courts. Or bounced. He wanted to be a magician, an illusionist. And to some extent that was always.

"Better dead than a puppeteer," they told him at home when he commented on his plans. His father was a court clerk; her mother, one of the first women to graduate in medicine in Spain: she came to receive Queen Victoria Eugenia in her office. At the entrance to the family apartment, which also served as a law firm, there was a sign, imposed by Dr. Quadras-Bordes: "For hygiene reasons, do not spit."

His funeral brought together lawyers, policemen, journalists and criminals. The lawyer Mateo Seguí, still active and of whom many things could also be told and all of them good, said it this way: "Jurists, police officers, journalists and other criminals." La Vanguardia, where Roqui had and has many friends, was well represented. Francesc Peirón, our eyes in New York, arrived directly from the airport, without sleeping.

Before the coffin was cremated, Siscu, as he called him, gently placed a deck of poker cards on the coffin so that he could continue doing his tricks in the afterlife, his incredible plays that could turn a judgment on its head in a moment. the other. His natural position was that of defense attorney, but sometimes he had to change his trenches. On one occasion he brought the private prosecution against a murderer...

The defendant moved the room with her tears. When it was her turn, Roqueta began to ask her about things that seemed out of the question. Her studies, her training... The woman replied that she hardly had any academic training. “So, she hasn't studied at all? Nothing, are you sure?” she insisted. "Well, yes, a dramatic art course." "Ah, dramatic art!" he repeated. And, hocus pocus, from that moment the crying stopped. The sentence was damning.

Another version of this text was published on our website on Friday, October 29, 2021.