18.6.06

And Justice for All: It takes two

Friday was a large docket for the small county circuit court of Laurel County, Kentucky. The Docket had about 50 cases that were awaiting indictments. Everything from flagrant non-support (missing child support payments) to rape, to incest, to murder. Mind you, these were all felony.

As I and a few others were there watching, waiting (our original intent was to see whether one our clients was indicted for murder/robbery--which could make him eligible for the death penalty in Kentucky), we were all anxious.

Anxious to do something, but not anxious to get out. The day, though, did teach me a few things.

Lesson One and Two: to be a criminal lawyer, you've got have thick skin and a strong will.

While some clients may truly be innocent, sympathetic, or have other exculpatory/mitigating circumstances. Chances are they've done something to get to this point (hence the reason you see a HUGE number of plea bargains).

So, naturally, you see a lot of what I described earlier. Pretty nasty shit.

But, the other thing you have to do, besides see these kinds of charges, is face those accused.

On Friday morning, I and two other interns went to the detention center to interview three clients: one charge with growing five or more plants of marijuana (a felony in KY), another charge with Assault in the 2nd degree, another charged with Sexual Abuse in the 2nd degree. We were set to interview them, and this is where I learned , for sure, that you need to have thick skin.

The first and third guy pretty much admitted to what they were doing (they were honest guys and just wanted to tell their side of the story.). The second, however, tried to explain away what he was charged with.

Now I could understand if he was telling his side of the story. But, as I read him, I noticed some tell-tell signs: he narrative was getting larger and grader by the syllable, he was moving around in his chair, he was blinking alot, etc...

I consider myself a pretty good reader of people, especially when I'm trying to (as I was here), and I just got the distinct impression he was lying to me. While he has every right to do say whatever he wants, it did make me angry.

The reason being, if he was lying about his claim, then, ceteris paribis, he would have done it.

And, frankly, that brought up a fire within me that I do not have all too often. The passion within me, that will allow me to do great things.

I could have easily, I believe, questioned him to the point that many holes appeared in his narrative. But, working for his attorney, I tempered that passion because it was neither the time nor place.

So, the thick skin part of my lesson is you cannot let accusations of despicable crimes deter you mentally from doing your part on the defense team or the prosecution.

A strong will is the second lesson. Just like in any major sport, whoever wins comes down to who works the hardest (usually the prosecution and defense are both very good lawyers since they have had seven years of training (under-grad and Law school). For example, the stereotype that public defenders are weak lawyers is just bullshit.) If I am the defense attorney I have to research the most, work the hardest, question the best way, etc. And, as an attorney, this only comes with talent and hard work (e.g. "putting in the long hours").


So, my friends, this is where have come two in my lessons on what it takes to be lawyers.

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