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The Pain of Knowing

Last night, after a conversation with another attorney about politics, the direction the country is taking, and how the attitudes developing drive law enforcement and the distortions we see in the criminal “justice” system, I published a blog post.

Don’t look for it: I’ve de-published it.

The post was a wonderfully fulfilling piece of venting.

I woke several times in the night, however, thinking about it and considering that it might not be what I wanted for my blog.

What I want for my blog is to use it to explain and to show that what is happening in the world of criminal “justice” is not at all what you — and I’m hoping by “you” that I’m targeting ordinary people; not just attorneys; not just the choir — really want.

I think I have some idea of what you want because, believe it or not, I’m a human being. I really do want the same thing. I’m no different from other human beings when it comes to my desire to feel safe, to have my family be safe, and to have the world we live in be a better place.

The real difference between us is that I’m not the manager at Sears, Roebuck. I’m don’t stock shelves at Target. I’m not the Human Resources Manager at Valley Yellow Pages. I don’t work as the cashier at the Von’s down the street. I spend part of my day in a Prius; none on a tractor. I don’t greet people at the door of the AT&T store on Blackstone. And I’m not a forklift driver at any of the many companies, large and small, scattered throughout the Central San Joaquin Valley.

These are all fine jobs. You are all good people. As am I.

But I am a criminal defense attorney.

As a criminal defense attorney, I see things you never see. I see things you don’t want to see.

Believe me.

Believe me also when I say that I didn’t become a criminal defense attorney because I thought it would be really cool to defend some guy accused of committing “hot burglaries” and — well, let me first explain that phrase.

For those who don’t know, a “hot burglary” is similar to a home invasion robbery, with a little less violence. It’s similar to an “ordinary” burglary, except that the people who own the place being burgled are usually sleeping in the burgled place while it happens.

Sometimes, if you believe the accusations, things other than burglaring happen to those who sleep.

Even if they are only 10 years old.

But I see other things, too, that you do not see. I see that sometimes, after these things I just mentioned have happened, the police are eager to arrest someone.

Anyone.

It might be the guy who did it. It might not be.

There is an old saying that there are two things you do not want to see being made. One relates to the law.

If you work at the local 7-Eleven — and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that; I use it as an example because it’s hopefully “normal” — you probably don’t see a lot that is really, truly odd. If, on the other hand, you are a police officer, a social worker, or a criminal defense attorney, the “odds” that what you see are just that — odd — go up astronomically.

Criminal defense attorneys, though….

You might pity us because of our clients. “Oh, god!,” I hear more often than not. “How could you defend that person? How hard that must be!”

The truth is, though, that sometimes our clients are not guilty. Even those who have committed some crime have often not committed the crime of which they are accused. And even when they have — yes, please think about this! — even when they have, it was an accident. A one-off incident that will never recur again.

That’s not at all to say that it’s okay. It’s not to say that all should be forgiven. However much it might actually be as effective in preventing future crimes, I know of no one who will say, “Go, and sin no more.”

Well, okay. Maybe I’ve heard of One. But we know what happened to Him.

Regardless of our reaction, though, most of the time the person who committed a crime is never going to commit another. It’s true. So I have no real problem fighting to ameliorate the destruction the rest of society wishes to visit upon them and their families.

(And please remember that some of my clients will actually be innocent; arrested by accident, because the police honed in on the wrong “suspect”. Suspect, suspect, suspect! The word doesn’t even rhyme with “guilty.”)

But you know what’s harder to stomach? The people who commit crimes — and they are crimes, however much many of you might approve them — on a daily basis. We see it. We the criminal defense attorneys. We know about these crimes.

I’m talking about planted evidence. I’m talking about dishonest police reports. I’m talking about lies.

I’m talking about cops.

The police, like us, they see these really nasty things happening every day. Unlike us — I don’t know why — they adapt by seeing the world as black and white.

More often than not, if you’re black, you’re on the losing side.

But whether you’re black or white, the point is that once the cops hone in on you, you’re going down. You’re guilty. You did it. They know it.

And so they lie.

We defense attorneys see this.

I don’t know what makes me different from some of them. (Not all of them succumb. Not all of them are liars.) I know, though, that I am different. It’s not that I’m necessarily smarter. I’m not going to tell you my IQ. For one thing, I’m not sure how much that matters. But there are people who think it does. I’ll just tell you that the average IQ of lawyers has been trending downwards and isn’t that much different from the average police officer these days.

I do know that, on average, they would rather err on the side of putting an innocent man in jail. They don’t do it on purpose. Hell, I seriously wonder if they even think about that as a possibility. Do they stop and wonder about how many innocents they lock up by lying? I don’t know. Maybe. If you ask them, they’re all about the safety.

Like Benjamin Franklin.

I couldn’t live with myself if my desire to be safe meant innocent people had to spend their lives in cages. But maybe they comfort themselves by thinking that sometimes the innocent have to go to prison, to make sure other innocents (like 10-year-old girls caught up in hot burglaries) don’t suffer. I understand it, but I couldn’t do that. I don’t see that the 10-year-old, already traumatized, is made better by wrongfully convicting someone who the police focused in upon for all the wrong reasons.

A bird in the hand may be worth two in the bush, but two wrongs do not make a right.

In a way, though, this has been a huge digression. I started off telling you about a post I made last night, but deleted in the wee hours of this morning. I didn’t tell you the rest of the story. I didn’t show you the post.

And I’m not going to now. Maybe that will bother you. I don’t know.

But I hope you will stop to realize, there are things I know, about our police officers, that you will never know.

Those things drive much of what I write.

What you can know is this: that now-de-published post was born — and was borne — out of the pain of knowing.

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