Thursday, October 06, 2005

How Can You Represent People Like That?

I got that question from a potential witness I was interviewing for my murder trial that settled this week. (Day in the Life aside: she was the only one of 22 potential defense witness who was still at her last known address/phone number)

Reason 1: Naive idealism. I believed everything I heard in American History and Civics class. I believed that America is a nation of laws, laws that implement the ideals of freedom, fairness, equality and personal autonomy. That those laws apply equally to every person. That those who break the laws are punished in proportion to their crime and rehabilitated. That serving one's country is the highest goal. That the guiding beacon of our elected officials is the well-being and happiness of the greatest number of people. That while the purpose of the courts is to judge disputes dispassionately, the courts' ultimate purpose is to be a bulwark between the tyranny of the majority and those ideals of freedom, fairness, equality and autonomy.

I bought into the "Glossy Brochure" version of America and internalized it. I made it part of who I was as an American. My environment growing up reinforced those ideals; I was simultaneously raised in accordance with those ideals and protected from seeing where those ideals were not being honored.

For example: I was raised an Army brat. The military is a two-class meritocracy; as a metric of the (relative) lack of divide, the pay difference between the two classes ranges from 2:1 to 3:1. Compare that to the private sector: from 200:1 to 300:1. When my father became a battalion commander (like being the CEO of a subsidiary with 700 employees) he took me aside and told my why I could not and would not invoke his rank over others. We lived in the exact same apartment a married Staff Sergeant with two kids would live in. For an example on the protection side, when we moved to Petersburg, VA, I went to a private school. I was never confronted by poverty or racism. I didn't know about inner-city schools and the fight against desegregation.

I gradually learned that the "Glossy brochure" version of America doesn't exist.
But it should.

And that's one reason why I do what I do. Trying to get the way it is closer to the way it should be. The laws that protect us and guide us should apply equally, whether you're poor, addicted, stupid, or bad. The witness found it very ironic that the victim in the case had (previously) represented by indigent defenders for his cases, and now indigent defenders represented the guy who killed him. But they, like every other preson in America, both deserve the benefit of the laws and they both need and deserve a public defender - the best representation money can't buy.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, i read the headline wrong at first. It sounded like something you'd say to the jaded, incompetent lawyer: "You're not even gonna cross that witness? Where's your trial notebook? You smell like gin. How can you represent people like that?"

10/07/2005 6:48 PM  
Blogger Gideon's Guardians said...

this is why i respect jack.

10/11/2005 8:13 AM  
Blogger notguilty said...

Here here.

I'm not a public defender, but I tried to be. . . they rejected me. Boohoo! But I do what I do for the same reasons, and I try to explain that to people every day. Some just don't get it, some think I'm lying. But, we all just gotta keep on keeping on, right?

10/20/2005 5:47 AM  

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