It's been a long time since I've cried at work, which is great! And is attributable to several recent changes. But today almost broke that streak - almost.
I had a moment that shot right through the routine of my day, right through my professional wall, that grabbed me and pulled me under into the depths of despair and it left me unarmed for the remainder of the day.
Yesterday was a hard day. It was very busy and very, very, very long. Towards the end, there were a lot of cases that were the perfect storm - domestic cases, clients with prior records, weapons, blood. Cases that clients explained indignantly as, "It was a verbal argument" followed by "I haven't caught ANY cases in YEARS" (6 months ago = Years?) "I haven't caught a felony in a LONG time man, someone should be respectin' me for that!" I'm sorry, you have 15 convictions. I want to tell you that you're a good person for not picking up a felony in the past 8 months. I do think that is very good, and I commend you. However, I have to focus on what the judge wants to focus on, not whether you deserve a gold star. But hey, no felony! Bonus! You're right, the reason you aren't getting out is because I didn't fight for you. I mean, but for me, you totally would've walked. Why did you tell me it was a verbal argument if there was blood found all over the hallway to the door? That would've been good to know before we walked out here, really.
In the middle of a day of these tiring and ineffective conversations, one client asked very directly, "Am I getting out? Because I need an xray of my chest."
And then I died a little bit inside.
The idea that there are people being roughed around by "the law" and thrown to the ground, knees in their back, in a chokehold, tossed over the hood of a car - the very behavior being condemned when someone not in uniform does it - just drives me insane. This guy was banged up, and he was in pain, and I couldn't do a damn thing for him. Nothing. The cops will never be accountable for it, because my guy's just a criminal to them. I can't stop them from doing it to him again, which they will. All I can do is say, "I'm sure there's excellent medical care in the county jail" if I'm lying or, "I'll see what I can do" if I can't bring myself to tell the truth. I want to hold his hand and say, "I'm so sorry for your pain and injuries. We'll get you through this." But I can't bring myself to make empty promises, either.
So you think your public defender doesn't fight for you, doesn't care about you, doesn't want to beat the system. You are wrong. Your public defender fights for you until she's broken and scarred, cares for you and wants you to be successful, and rages against the system more than you know. And when your public defender goes home at night, she cries for you.