Jay Goldberg was born on Jan. 2, 1933, in Brooklyn. He described his father, Joseph, a wholesale apparel sales representative, as a loving father but a degenerate gambler. His mother, Lillian (Adler) Goldberg, was a homemaker.
After graduating from James Madison High School, he earned a degree in political science from Brooklyn College and then attended Harvard Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1957. A member of the R.O.T.C., he was commissioned as an Army second lieutenant, discharged as a captain and retired as a lieutenant colonel.
In 1959, he married Regina Hochberg, known as Rema, a jury consultant. In addition to her, he is survived by their son, Justin; a daughter, Julie Maniha; and five grandchildren.
Mr. Goldberg was hired as an assistant to the Manhattan district attorney Frank S. Hogan. At Mr. Hogan’s recommendation, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy appointed him as a special prosecutor to root out corruption in northwestern Indiana.
As a private defense lawyer, Mr. Goldberg attracted a long list of high-profile clients, including Miles Davis, Bono, Johnny Cash, the industrialist Armand Hammer, the Hells Angels, the financier Carl Icahn, former Representative Charles B. Rangel, the Manhattan Democrat, and the crime syndicate chief and banker Meyer Lansky.
He was the author of five books, including a memoir, “The Courtroom Is My Theater: My Lifelong Representation of Famous Politicians, Industrialists, Entertainers, ‘Men of Honor,’ and More” (2018, with Alex S. Huot).
He also wrote several manuals on how to prepare for trial, but told The New York Times in 1990 that his own formula was clear-cut:
“I say to myself at the start of a case: ‘What do I want the jurors to be saying to each other during deliberations? I want them to be able to grasp onto a reed. If I give them nothing to grasp, the case will sink. You have to have a theory: the simpler, the better.’”
In a Times interview in 1997, he stated the strategy even more starkly: “It’s theater in the courtroom. It’s the only place were you get to emote and try to convince juries that black is white.”