Welcome to my new blog.
I’ve been practicing criminal law for a long time, and my schedule has been so busy that it’s been a while since I took time to think about why I do what I do. Launching this blog is an opportunity for such reflection.
Why DO I defend what some call “the worst of the worst”?
Just why is it that I defend those people that have been described on more than one occasion (and by more than one prosecutor) as the worst of the worst?
First, a word about what I do. I’m a criminal defense attorney who focuses upon death penalty cases. In Florida, where I live and do most of my work, death penalty cases have two lawyers, known as first chair and second chair. As first chair in a death penalty case, my job is concerned with the guilt finding of the defendant. As second chair, my job is to convince the jury to spare the life of the person if they are convicted. This job is known as “mitigation,” a specialized area that I will talk more about in a later post. I have further specialized in mental health aspects. More on that later, too.
“How can you represent those people?”
There are all the usual stock answers. “I am defending the Constitution.” “The death penalty is not a cost effective solution.” “There is no deterrent value.” “As for retribution, is a life in a cage worse than death?” “The system is not perfect, and innocent people have been sentenced to death.” “Death row is overwhelmingly populated by the poor and disadvantaged.”
And all of these answers are true, but they don’t tell you the whole story.
Fundamentally, I do this because I want to understand. Why did this happen? How did this person arrive at my figurative doorstep, accused of a horrendous crime? What are the factors, the background, the events that led this person here?
Every person has a story. There is always some underlying common humanity in even those convicted of the most brutal crimes. It is my job to bring these mitigating factors to the jury, to shed light on the darkest heart and most disturbed mind.
And I’m publishing this blog, devoted to the topic of capital punishment, i.e., the death penalty, because I think that you may share the same core need that I have: the need to know WHY.