Troy Davis is a name you probably recognize because of the international movement to free him as an innocent man, wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death by the State of Georgia. We’ve posted about Troy Davis here, and support the efforts to free him.
Who is Tom Dunn?
The name Tom Dunn probably isn’t one you recognize, however. Tom Dunn is a criminal defense lawyer with over 20 years experience in the defense of capital/death penalty cases — and Mr. Dunn acted as defense counsel for Troy Davis.
As the head of the Georgia Resource Center, Tom Dunn worked tirelessly as the nonprofit group sought justice for Troy Davis and many others. Now, Tom Dunn has apparently had enough.
Tom Dunn isn’t going to be a lawyer anymore.
Beginning this year, Mr. Dunn is a middle school teacher. Specifically, he’s teaching students at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School — an Atlanta school within walking distance from his old law firm, and where 97& of the student body qualifies for free/reduced lunches.
Why the career change?
You might be thinking burn out, or disillusionment with the current system of justice in this country. Who could blame Tom Dunn if these were his reasons? Death Penalty defense is the hardest job for a defense attorney — you’ve literally got someone’s life in your hands. Passion, tenacity, and a strong moral commitment are just three necessary components to doing this work. With Troy Davis being stonewalled time and again, it would be easy to understand throwing up your hands, throwing in the towel in frustration….
However, none of that applies. Tom Dunn changed careers for health reasons: he’s got heart problems and the stress of Death Penalty defense doesn’t jive with a condition that has left him with the heart of an elderly man.
Death Penalty Defense Work Doesn’t Lend Itself to “Gone Fishin'”
Obviously, Mr. Dunn could have retired and just “gone fishing.” Many do when faced with health crises like his. And that’s fine. But what does one do with all the zeal, the knowledge and compassion, with the warrior that still has the need to right wrongs?
It’s one thing to resign your position, but being a Death Penalty defense attorney isn’t something that you can just quit. It’s a field of work where the boundaries get blurry, and part of what you do becomes part of what you are.
Today, Tom Dunn is taking all those years of experience and the wisdom culled from a Death Penalty Defense career, and he’s helping young people see their potential, teaching them things that are not just in textbooks. Tom Dunn is still in the fight, just on a different battlefield.
And our hats are off to brother Tom Dunn.