Wanted: Innocence Project for Misdemeanor Offenders
The success of the Innocence Project in exonerating people on death row and those serving life sentences is well-known. Prison wardens often say they fill more requests for stationery by prisoners to write to the Innocence Project than any other commissary request. The reputation of the project is well-earned. From the moment the project won the first DNAexoneration in 1989, the organization has spread its gospel to 37 other states where 215 African Americans, 105 Caucasians, 25 Latinos, and two Asian Americans have regained their freedom. My call in this piece is a demand for similar freedom for those serving life sentences in our county and municipal jails in increments of thirty days or ninety days at a time.
I am a public defender that takes special pride in winning cases at trial. I love trials! Did I say I love trials? I meant the ones I win! It's why I went to law school. I enjoy crushing my opponent, even when I get bruises (losses) here and there. I assume it's due to the fact that my clients did not tell me the whole truth or the jurors were biased. It is never my fault. Call it hubris, ego, or chutzpah, I am guilty as charged. When I go to trial I wear the white hat. I am the only one with that hat. I fight for freedom for my client. It's war to me. I know my client’s freedom totally depends on me. I am the only thing standing between them and the governmental machinery set in motion when the 911 call is made or when the officer informs my client he cannot leave the scene of the incident.
This is where I was six years ago, after 15 years of misdemeanor criminal practice. I had won some, and lost some; I was literally having the time of my life. Yes, I don't get paid much and I have a huge caseload, but at least I thought of myself as the last frontier for freedom for the masses and the hoi polloi from “the pernicious government prosecutors who are all out to persecute, but not prosecute, my clients.”
To be continued