Yesterday was an all-around shit day in an all-around shit week. Everything I’m working on right now is 1) crazy busy, and 2) headed for a disaster. Things have been deteriorating all week, with yesterday far exceeding the previous days. And my fraying nerves were starting to show. I snapped at interns, yelled at multiple people on the phone, and nearly took out the lady at the diner I went to for lunch.
[Folks, in case you’re wondering, a patty melt comes with – yes, COMES WITH – grilled onions. Without the grilled onions, all you have is a cheeseburger on toast. Which could be the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.]
Around 6:45p, I realized that the work day wasn’t close to being over and hunkered down for several hours of more work when I saw an email from a former colleague of mine from the firm. She had forwarded me an email that said, “Thought you’d be interested in this.” The email that she forwarded me was from a partner at my former firm who headed up the death penalty appeal case I worked during my 2 and 1/2 years there.
About six months before I left, I spent a week in Butts County, Georgia with our litigation team for a hearing. Everything about this case, the client, the team was amazing. And the professional and personal satisfaction I got from working on the case far exceeds any other professional experience I’ve had. Even though we never thought we’d win. Even though we knew that our guy confessed to killing the victim. The point was that his constitutional rights had been violated, making his death penalty conviction unjustifiable. But as with everything in life, just because something was unfair or a miscarriage of justice does not mean that you will win your argument. I think we all learned this lesson by the third grade.
Until this time.
Yup, the Superior Court of Butts County, Georgia agreed with our team – yes, I said AGREED with those fast talking New York City attorneys in their fancy suits – that our client’s constitutional rights were violated, causing the court to grant a reduction in sentencing from death to life without possibility of parole.
You may be thinking, Big deal, he went from death row to the prospect of living the rest of his life without any hope of seeing the light of day. I sorta see your point. But I also wholeheartedly disagree. I could say that it’s because the death penalty is not workable or working in our justice system for more reasons than I care to recount here. I could say that it’s because the death penalty eliminates any hope for rehabilitation and strikes against our other stated goals in the justice system. I could say that it’s because ensuring that the constitution remains a respected document no matter what a defendant is accused of doing is – and has always been – one of the greatest responsibilities of any generation of American citizens. I could that it’s because, through death, there’s no hope for something different, something better to come out of a bad situation. I could say that it’s because my mother always taught me that two wrongs don’t make a right. I believe all of this, but I save those flowery, philosophical musings for HC when he’s watching TV and barely listening to me.
Instead, I’ll just leave it at this – I know that this decision changed our client’s life for the better. That’s enough for me.