The son of a Jewish Belgian haberdasher and his wife, who together fled Europe the day before the Nazi invasion of Belgium, Litman was born in New York City. He attended Stuyvesant High School and Cornell University before enrolling in Harvard Law School, from which he graduated in 1967.
After a Fulbright scholarship in France, he joined the Manhattan District Attorney's office under the leadership of Frank Hogan. He left the DA's office as deputy chief of the homicide bureau, and became a defense attorney.
While intellectual and cool in the courtroom, he adopted the strategy of soliciting juries' sympathies for the perpetrators of even the most horrible murders. The tactics used in the Preppy Killer trial earned him scathing criticisms from many quarters, including victims' rights advocates, feminists, and the family of the victim.
Litman had two sons, who survived him. He died at age 66 in January, 2010, of lymphoma, a disease he had suffered for more than ten years.
- Hartocollis, Anemona (January 23, 2010). "Jack T. Litman, Lawyer for 'Preppy Killer' and Others, Is Dead at 66". The New York Times. Retrieved January 24, 2010.
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