Monday, April 20, 2009

Hate the sin, love the sinner

In the comments section of an online newspaper today, a commenter defended those attorneys who represent really bad guys by assuring the readers that we defense attorneys probably despise our clients. I can't think of a comment that could have made me crazier. The comment implied that we defenders really aren't such bad people. We might be bad people if we liked our clients, but, of course, we don't.

Well, anonymous commenter, I personally don't need you to defend me if that's the defense I'm going to get. Contrary to popular opinion, I don't despise my clients. I don't hate them. My skin doesn't crawl when I sit next to them or talk to them.

The truth is I generally like my clients. Yes, the rapists, the murderers, the child sex offenders, the dope sellers, the robbers and thieves. I like them. They're not monsters; they're just people. In many cases, they are people who have done terrible, even monstrous, things. In most cases, they are deeply flawed people who have done bad things. And I still like them. The few I haven't liked, it hasn't had anything to do with the crimes they were charged with.

People are so much more than the one or two worst things they've ever done. Even if those worst things are murder. Even murderers love their mothers and enjoy watching sports or reading books. I hardly see it as a character-flaw on my part that I can recognize and connect with the humanity in my clients. It probably makes me better able to do my job well. It's harder to zealously advocate for people you despise. But I get the feeling that online commenter would think better of me if I could find it in myself to hate my clients.


Unknown said...

I love what you wrote. You really are well suited for the work. I agree totally that criminals are more complex than being just bad people. They're more complex, just like everybody else. One of the main problems I have with the law-and-order crowd is they seem to see things as black an white, but there's a big gray area when you're talking about criminals.

BellsforStacy said...

I dunno ... I would have a real hard time liking someone that hurt a child.

They deserve a defense and a good def lawyer, but I would have a hard time liking them.

S said...

You might be surprised. It's really not that hard to like them, at least in the context of my interactions with them. There's always small talk and before you know it, you're both chuckling over some movie scene.

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