It has come to my attention that our criminal justice system is broken. Did you know it might also be racist? And justice isn’t blind? I know, I know, I was just as shocked to hear about it as you were. It absolutely devastated me, considering all the equality there is and that I see every day in my job. Considering this blog, and so many others that I link to frequently, and that are over there on the blogroll have never mentioned it. Ever. We’ve never once mentioned that our system is atrocious and doesn’t actually work as it should, that we imprison black men at rates that may rival slavery.
Nah, no one has ever said that.
Okay, we did.
If you notice, all of those posts that I linked to above are not from last year, they were written years ago. That’s because Trayvon Martin was not the first.
Nor was Eric Garner.
Or Michael Brown.
Or Tamir Rice.
Dear friends, our system has been broken for as long as I have known it, and long before I knew it even existed. I first learned it was broken in my own terrible way, after 9/11 when I realized that I was wanted, my brother and my father and my future children would be looked at with some measure of fear and scorn because we were muslim. Hell, it had never occurred to me before. I was a prosecutor. I didn’t look at people’s skin color or ethnicity. I just cared that they did the BAD THINGS. And my job was to protect the whole world from THE BAD THINGS.
And one day I called bullshit on it all. And I’ve never looked back. I don’t even advertise “I used to be a prosecutor” even though we all know that’s what people look for in a criminal defense attorney. Someone who knows the other side. The problem is when you know the other side and then you truly come over to this one, you no longer understand what you could possibly have been thinking. How did I think that justice was blind? How did I think that we didn’t see race or religion or, or, or anything at all but THE BAD THING? How? I figured that since I couldn’t figure that out, I probably shouldn’t be bragging on my ”former prosecutor’ title.
Look, I’m glad you’ve decided to join us. I love the protests. In fact, I took my kids to one in DC because hell yeah, this is America and in America we protest the stuff we don’t like. That’s what I told them when they asked me why they were walking in the street with their hands up saying “don’t shoot.” Because you are lucky to be born here. You are lucky to be fair skinned, you are just lucky.
But as usual, I digress. The fact is that I’ve been waiting for you all. I would like it if there were some more of you on the right involved, maybe a few more white folks from smaller towns, but even now, this is a good showing. It makes me feel less alone, and less like I am just preaching to the choir. It’s a shame, though, that it took so many dead young men for you to pay attention to what was happening. It’s a shame that you didn’t pay attention and help us out before when we were screaming that the system is unfair. It’s not too late though, not for the others who may be in harm’s way.
Every day we get up and we fight this fight for our clients. We make the state and the federal government uphold the Constitution, we quote it and protect it. We argue for what we consider justice, since our job isn’t to seek justice (that’s what the prosecutor is ‘supposed’ to do) but there is justice in every plea we make. And we plead indeed. (The begging kind of plead, but we usually plead too, but that’s a post for another time.) We ask that every person who comes before the court is treated with fairness and is given the same opportunity as every other person. We explain the way in which the system has failed our clients, has failed their communities. But the truth it we know as we stand there and we argue and we fight that the system broke down long before we stepped foot into that courtroom. It broke down when the cops randomly stopped and frisked my client, or made him give a statement inculpating himself when he didn’t even know he was doing it. It broke down when my client was pulled over for driving while black and then the cop says there was no seatbelt (even though there is NO WAY the police could see through that dark tint.) It broke down when the police decided that two boys walking down the street at night must be up to no good, since they are black and young and maybe they have some weed. Ah look! They do. It broke down when we were looking the other way and not doing anything about it.
So, anyway, like I was saying. I am glad you decided to join us. Help us fix this thing, will you?