A few weeks back I had the privilege of attending the 11th annual State Criminal Justice Network Conference in San Fransisco. For those who don’t know, SCJN is under the umbrella of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers which is the organization for, well, criminal defense lawyers. They put on conferences and have listservs and books and well, just a general network for criminal defense lawyers to make sure they are up to date on the current law (because it changes every day) and to make sure we have other folks to talk to on days when we feel no one understands us (oh boohoo woe is us and all that other crap.)
NACDL is also responsible for filing amicus briefs in the Supreme Court of the United States. So, basically the lawyers put together a brief to the Supreme Court saying here is this entire network of criminal defense lawyers who think you should rule X way. We don’t each sign off on it, but it’s generally known that we are pro-defendant, pro expanding civil liberties and well, anti- government. So, NACDL can draft a brief that coincides with what the defendant says and you can pretty much guarantee that about 92% of us will say yeah, that’s what we think too. The other 8% are not true believers and probably couldn’t get a real job so that’s why they do this and could not give a shit. And, you know what, good for them. Or not.
The SCJN does even more than that, their goal is to actually reform our criminal justice system. And, I have to tell you that of all the CLE’s I’ve attended in my life, save the National Criminal Defense College, this one was the most inspiring.
Think about it, my friends – I am in a room with other people who want nothing more than to see the end of the death penalty. I got to hear from the folks who are fighting against the three-strikes law in California (Proposition 36 on this year’s ballot) and who have defeated the death penalty in other states. We spoke about the penal system as a method of disenfranchising minorities, and juveniles going directly from the schoolhouse to the jailhouse. There were people who taught us how to use social media to expound our causes, and the public defenders who taught us to do things they say can’t be done. Oh, and did I tell you I was seated at Barry Scheck’s table during the Gideon Gala dinner?
I was eager, am eager, am anxious to keep going back for more. To keep writing about ending the death penalty and changing our system of justice. But, you know what? I can’t do it alone. Each and every one of you has to take part in this cause and you must do it by talking and talking and talking and talking. Talk in church and to your neighbors. I had deactivated my dumb facebook but then realized I couldn’t keep doing my death penalty page (www.facebook/nvadp) without a personal page, so now I use it to share information on the death penalty (and post pics of my super cute kids). This shit is real, folks. This isn’t made for tv stuff. There are real people being sent to jail and prison for relatively minor crimes (did you know it was a federal crime to send cigarettes in the mail? I didn’t until yesterday). And people are being put to death for major crimes they might not have committed.
It’s time folks. It really is just time.