See Rant #1 below for the angry, reactionary post. I have a few more thoughts.
It's easy to look at a defendant and think, they're guilty. And apparently, that's all they are, to anyone, ever. They are their crime. Once you sit down with these people, it's not difficult to see that they are people. They are smart, they are funny, they are angry, they are temperamental, they are demanding, they are friendly, they are compassionate, they tell jokes, they tell lies. They're worried about their kids and their family. They think about making their lives better.
For a lot of these people, rules just don't apply. Work hard and you will succeed. All men are created equal. If I can do it, you can do it. All of these things are easier said than done. Black children in Compton do not have the same opportunities as Donald Trump's children. People who grow up in poor, crime-ridden areas develop a different sense of community and a different sense of opportunity than do people who grow up in economically and physically safer environments. The rules of the game are different for different people.
For other people, the police have to knock before they enter a house. When I was discussing this with a community street law class, the participants were incredulous.
"What? Last week a whole SWAT team showed up around the corner and they had one of those big-ass pole things."
"Yeah! You saw that? They was bangin' right through the door. They ain't be knockin' first!"
"Knockin' with a telephone pole and they guns, maybe!"
Other people don't get randomly and baselessly searched.
"Man, every time the 5-0 come 'round the corner they do them jump-outs. Just cuz we teenagers. They ain't be sayin' that I'm free to leave. Get my ass shot if I start walkin' away."
I'm not a political reactionary. There are many PDs with whom I've brushed up against quite unpleasantly because of our differing politics. I didn't emerge from the womb as an anarchist. I've seen the individuals who find themselves in this crazy criminal system. There's a fine line between victim and defendant, and there are times when the line isn't clear. What reaches out, wraps around my soul and sucks me in is seeing that light, that positive energy that glows inside the person named in an indictment. I wish I could give you snapshots of moments with my clients. Every molecule in my body was energized when I was working this summer. My clients' smiles, their anguish, their laughter, their anger, their vanity (yo, Ms. WOTL, you know how to do locks?), their talent, their breathtaking insight into the world, their intellect, their compassion - There are some truly amazing human beings out there. And after you sit down and meet with them, and speak with them, and listen to them, it really burns you up that other people in the world aren't playing by the rules, and that your clients are getting stomped on day in and day out. Their stories deserve to be heard. Their voices deserve to be respected. They deserve better than what we're offering them.