My two year old daughter Mia asked me for the first time recently what I did at work. My response: “I help people.” She smiled, approved and said that it was good to help people.
While it might not be well liked or socially popular, criminal defense attorneys play an important role in society by simply helping people in a time of need. In my career and travels all over the country, I have been the object of scorn, ridicule and have been punched, cursed at and spit at all because I choose to take a humane route and help defend a person in their time of greatest need. It’s a thankless job, showing mercy when so few would.
A while back I was defending a murder case here in Pennsylvania, when a man spit in my face one day and then tried to do it again every day thereafter for the entire five day trial. He yelled at me and cursed at me for defending this “murdering SOB.” It came to pass that nearly two years to the day when he spat in my face that his beloved son was accused of a gang fight and shooting another person, he was charged with attempted murder.
The same man who had spit in my face for five days straight and cursed me for defending a “murderer,” now wanted me to do that which he found so objectionable for his son: defend him even though he was guilty- in other words help him in a time of need.
And you know what I did? I defended his son and I defended him well. I never once reminded him of how we met until he brought it up after the trial. He revealed to me his great shame and life-long regret for not understanding the role that I played. He said that now having lived through this that he was sure that I wasn’t just necessary for his son, but for every man’s son. He cried in my office, while asking for my forgiveness.
What I really wish people would understand is that even a person who is objectively guilty of the most heinous crime has a right to be defended in a court of law. This right is enshrined in our Constitution and is the hallmark of a civilized and democratic society.
So before you spew hate and shower us in criticism, please remember – all we’re tying to do is help people.