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Thursday, January 19, 2012

It is not my job...(part 1)

Water is slowly dripping from the ceiling, not enough to actually warrant a new roof or even a bucket, but enough for mold to be growing like grass on the floor.  The sound it creates when the moisture hits the floor is akin to wet golashes pressing against an equally wet carpet.  There is a mixed sound of sobbing coming from the left and someone having sex down the hall to the right.  With the constant and aggressive slap of skin on skin contact you can't tell if it's consensual or forced.  Actually, you can't tell if the sobbing and the sex are in fact coming from two different directions.  There is a toxic smell of gasoline and body oder mixed with mold everywhere you turn.  It's 45 degrees outside so the air conditioning is blowing full blast and although you curl up in the fetal position so that you can fit under your 3X4 faux wool blanket, the cold slab pressed against your back makes that effort pointless.  Suddenly and without warning, the brightest lights you have ever seen illuminate your surroundings.  It's 4am & it's breakfast time...welcome to the County Jail.

2 days earlier a friend called you up, he needs a ride to his grandmothers house to pick up something.  You're a good kid, senior in high school, active in sports, going to Fill-in-the-blank University next fall on a basketball scholarship.  Your parents aren't rich or highly educated but they work hard and although they never married they were both very active in your life.  You have a girlfriend and a little brother that looks up to you and wants to be JUST LIKE YOU.  You're on the straight and you think nothing of it when your friend tells you that his grandmother goes to bed early so he has to get the spare key from the back door.  10 minutes later he comes from the back, hops in the car and tells you to go.

1 day after that you are arrested as an accessory to burglary.  The police interrogate you and based on what you share with're guilty. 

yes, you know where your friend lives.

no, that was not where he lived.

no, you have never taken him to this house before.

yes, you drove him there.

no, the lights weren't on.

yes, you drove him away when he came out.

I had a conversation with an ex-coworker yesterday and he asked how I could work so hard to get 'these people' off.  Before you judge, understand that that is what most people (even if they will not admit it) are thinking when they hear that you are a criminal defense attorney.  Truth be told it is not my job to get people off.  It is my job to make sure that the police, the investigators, the state AND the judge do their job and do it right.  It is my job to make sure that your full scholarship to Penn State doesn't turn into 15 years at State Penn, simply because you were not well versed in the law or the legal system. 

People seem to take less of an issue with judges that do their 'own thing' from the bench-even when it's not the right thing.  They do not hold the same harsh light on the prosecutor that commits misconduct during the course of the trial.  But public defenders, public "pretenders", public "offenders" AKA criminal defense attorneys?  People would readily string them up by their reproductive parts and let the birds eat away at their flesh.

It's not my job to "get people off" so don't judge me. But wake up in the county jail at 4am....and that's damn sure what you'll want me to do.

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, don't confess and don't consent.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Second guessing....

I didn't want to say it.  I didn't want to admit it.  I didn't want it to be true...but I don't think I want to practice law anymore.

Let me explain myself.  I went to law school because I LOVE learning and I LOVE knowing things.  I enjoy being able to intelligently form an opinion and then clearly advocate for the position I have taken.  Unfortunately, I think the quickest way to HATE the law is to practice it.  I am still searching for that area where you can do what you truly believe is right 100% of the time.  I'm not saying that I will do what is right 100% of the time, but I want to know-without a shadow of a doubt that when I make a decision--I am confident in the decision I am making...and that it is MY decision.

Working at the public defenders office means no say-so over the cases and clients I accept.  The judges appoint our office and the office case manager assigns them.  Your only way out is if the family of the defendant decide they want to hire a 'real' lawyer or if there is a conflict and our office cannot represent the client.  I have a problem with that.  I know that everyone accused has the right to an attorney.  I don't necessarily want to BE that attorney. 

As a prosecutor, you have no say so over who you prosecute so you could end up tacking a record onto a person you don't believe is guilty.  As a public defender, you have no say so over who you represent so you could end up zealously advocating for someone that your gut is telling you is guilty as sin.  Plaintiff attorney's can't tell their bank clients that they should cut a break to the little old man that ran into hard times and couldn't afford his mortgage for a few months.  Legal Services attorneys can't refuse to represent clients that have been living in a house for 2 years, without paying a mortgage.  It's enough to drive you crazy.

I know it's cheesy and cliche, but I also went to law school so I could make some type of difference in the world.  Thus far, goal NOT accomplished.


Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, don't confess and don't consent.