Some days this gig is just a job, but most days it feels like a compulsion. It’s still easy, after all these years, to feel self-righteous and view this thing we do as a calling, but today I wanted to see what others had to say about just that. I mean, is there scholarship about criminal defense lawyers feeling closer to god than, say, tax lawyers? Are there articles chronicling criminal lawyer’s disavowing their religion because of what they’ve seen in their careers? In order to answer these questions, I undertook a very rigorous study – I googled “god and the criminal defense lawyer.” Instead of finding out that, indeed, I am somehow wired to uncover the mysteries of the universe here in my office in Takoma Park, I unearthed some clever marketing by folks whose intention it was to “fight and pray hard” for their clients (not a terrible thing if you believe that sort of stuff, but motions are probably more the way to go) to another who viewed the prosecution of a client as an opportunity to convert them to the ways of Jesus Christ, which strikes me as something the grievance committee should address. I didn’t go to page 87 of google, so my study is probably not terribly scientifically reliable, but it’s what I got. No one has yet to say that criminal defense lawyers are more likely or less likely to believe in god. Oh, and lest I forget, one defense lawyer said Jesus was HIS defense lawyer.
So, you wonder, why am I asking these questions? Have I been MIA because I have been on a spiritual journey, an awakening of my inner self? Have I been readjusting my Chi or whatever. Sort of. I kind of have and at the same time I’ve actually just been really busy in this business of being a real big girl lawyer and taking care of my family. My dad went back to Afghanistan in March and I’ve been neck deep in discovery and have not had time to think about the issues of the day. I’ve also been involved in the local chapter of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and trying to figure out a way to get Virginia to stop killing people. So there’s been that. And all of that leads me to think about things like god and more than that, what I think about the idea of god and the notion of my soul.
Let me say this in case you cared – I don’t believe there is a hell. There is no place after this where the clients will get punished if our criminal justice system doesn’t get to them. I don’t think there is a heaven either, but I am not so quick to give up that thought because, well, it’s just nice to think I’ll be with all my friends and family and Sappho and Mocha Java once all of this is said and done. But I don’t know. And, to be honest I rarely think about it. Does it make a difference if I believe in gravity or oxygen or unicorns? No. They either exist or they don’t despite my useless belief in any or all of them. God, heaven and hell either are or aren’t and it doesn’t matter one bit what I say about it. Can I convince you that Great Falls, Virginia is as perfect a place to find god as a church sanctuary? Can I make you see that a five lane highway during rush hour with no fender benders is a miracle? If I tell you I’m not saved or don’t believe Mohammad is his messenger then I probably will not get very far in convincing you that the fact that we get up every day and continue the struggle is nothing short of spectacular.
But Mirriam, really? This is supposed to be a blog about the law. Where is the law?
Here – Jerry Sandusky was convicted a few weeks ago of terrible crimes. Lest anyone say we criminal lawyers are unfeeling bastards and want everyone to go free (well it’s mostly true) let me say that theoretically I believe that if he committed the crimes and they were proven beyond a reasonable doubt he should be convicted and a fitting punishment should be imposed. I say if only because I did not follow any of the trial and I’m not sure what the evidence was. But the jury spoke their verdict and guilty it was. So that’s where we start. On that day, the day of the dreaded TV verdict, people rejoiced in this thing called ‘justice’ being served. There were statements made by people who consider themselves ‘good’ that they hoped he would be raped in jail. They hoped he would be murdered. They hoped he would suffer in every circle of Dante’s inferno. Ok, no one ever said that because the people calling for his rape and death have never read the Inferno. But that’s beside the point. The point is that I mentioned on that day, that there should be no celebration, no joy over the conviction because the children he molested were victims forever. That his wife and children would be left holding the bag, as they say. His kids would forever have to say “my father is a convicted child molester” and that instead of cheering, there should be sadness and grief for the destruction Sandusky caused. Needless to say, this was not received well by my audience. It turns out, as a criminal defense lawyer we are only allowed to say what we believe to other criminal defense lawyers. Other people are offended by the idea of compassion.
And I ask you, does it matter you, defense lawyer, if you believe in god? Your compassion is proof of humankind’s essential goodness. Compassion to those that these ‘good’ people feel should get none.
Today, Texas is scheduled to execute Yokamon Hearn. There is no doubt as to his guilt, they say. There is ample proof that he is mentally retarded. And tomorrow he will cease to exist on this earth. They will laud this event and take pride in it. Justice is being served, they say. May god be with they. Since they need it most.