what do you do with the bad guys when you want to be a good guy?

My lawyer friend came over today. We hadn’t seen each other in a very long time. The last time I saw her she had just barely started practicing law. and I mean barely.

I’ve known her for a very long time. One of the amazing thing she did was take a break between high school and college to go work with underprivileged Mexicans. In Mexico. For a year.

That’s not what people do. People run off to college as soon as possible to start being a grown up and having fun. But she put her own pleasure second to help other people.

And then after college, she started working on some social-worky kinda stuff. Being basically a genius, she was bored. She figured out that the real power to effect change was with the lawyers.

She became a lawyer. Because, remember, she is a genius.

And now she’s in criminal law. This is the opposite of how I imagine ‘making the world a better place’ works. Aren’t we supposed to fight against the bad guys and win for truth justice and the American way?

I asked her, “how do you do it? How do you defend bad guys?”

Earlier this week, I had watched an episode of a TV show about a small town that lost all reason when it was suspected that the tax auditors were visiting. Every one of them had something to hide by the end.

“Everyone deserves to be heard. Everyone deserves a defense, no matter what they’ve done.” She told me how she’d spent some time in a prison, speaking with inmates who were jailed for murder.  And she saw their humanity.

But I had to ask, “What if you know that the person you are defending is guilty? Aren’t you afraid they will go free?”

“That is incredibly unlikely. Even in the case of someone like O.J. Simpson, when the supposedly guilty person got off, the laws were immediately adjusted to keep that sort of thing from happening again.And,” she went on, “afterwards, he was under so much scrutiny that he is in prison now.”

She believes in the system, and knows how very harsh it is.There are a lot of criminals. And most of them do not have much money to get good legal counsel. Add that up, and that means there are not a lot of criminal defense lawyers and law firms.

One has to look hard to find a place to do the kind of work she’s chosen to do.  I am humbled and impressed by her compassion for the people who society would condemn, and her work on their behalf.

I think I’m gonna go try to clear out my closet of the judgey-pants I usually put on. After all, everyone of us has something we are ashamed of. Love and compassion ought to be closer at hand.


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