Day 73 – My journey to find reasons to vote for Hillary rather than just against Trump.
She is not as heartless as she’s made out to be.
I had another topic planned for today, but someone else’s Facebook post diverted me. There’s been a lot of talk lately about the rapist she defended in Arkansas and her supposed laughter talking about it and how she harmed the 12-year-old victim. I’ve been arguing for truth and context throughout this election, and this blog has been my contribution to that effort.
First off – she was a public defender. She was put on the rape case against her will. It was her job to defend the rapist. She could have been disbarred if she didn’t do her best. Her best is good. But the FB post below talks about this better than I ever could and was my inspiration for today’s post. I’ve posted it in its entirety below. It’s long, but worth the read.
In addition, once this case was over, she founded the first rape crisis center in Arkansas, at a time when those were a rare commodity in more progressive states. She also worked to fix legislation that created one of the loopholes in the prosecution’s case. And then, she compiled three editions of the Handbook on Legal Rights for Arkansas Women.
One would be hard-pressed to say she took this case – or its aftermath – lightly.
Gail Webb West
Yesterday at 8:55am ·
This is not a political post. This might be considered a professional post. But the truth is – it’s one of the most personal posts I’ve ever put on Facebook. Here it is: Before you run that misleading, disgusting video about Hillary Clinton representing the piece of scum who violated Kathy Shelton or repeat the blatant lies about Hillary Clinton laughing about “getting him off” you might want to think about who, and more importantly what, your mud slinging is hitting. It’s hitting me, my husband, and every other attorney who has ever been appointed to represent an indigent criminal defendant. It’s hitting the United States Constitution and the constitutions of every state, including the Tennessee State Constitution.
I woke up to that b***s*** this morning and that’s when the whole thing got way too personal and, just to be frank, way too ignorant, for me. Until you’ve been in the position of being REQUIRED by your professional oath and license to represent to the best of your capabilities the CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS of an individual charged with a crime, you don’t have a clue. I’ve been there. In a big way. Step into my shoes. Walk with me . . .
Just a small town lawyer, growing a general practice of law, trying to make a living to support your family, and doing the best you can for your clients, you get a call (while on vacation no less) from the local court clerk saying that your name (or my husband’s name) has come up next on the list to represent a defendant who can’t afford an attorney. Then the “other shoe falls”, the defendant is charged in one of the most heinous crimes that your little county has ever known. There’s no choice. There’s no question being asked. You accept the appointment unless you have a valid and real conflict of interest that would be a detriment to the CLIENT . . . the detriment to you and your livelihood and your family can’t even be a consideration.
You represent that client aggressively to the full extent the law will allow. You do it because you took an oath to do that for EVERY client. How they became your client is irrelevant. But you also do that because the Constitution REQUIRES that every person charged with a crime be given DUE PROCESS and EQUAL PROTECTION under the law and it’s your job, defense attorney, to be sure that burden is met BY THE STATE. You also do the very best job you can because 1.) If this defendant is denied due process and equal protection, the precedent is set for any person, even those who may be falsely accused, to be denied those fundamental rights; 2.) If you don’t do this job you’ve been appointed to right, everyone may have to go through this process again based on the appeal process. Everyone means the victim, the victim’s family, the defendant’s family, law enforcement who investigated the crime, the community and the defendant; and 3.) If you don’t do this job, NO INDIGENT DEFENDANT COULD EVER BE CONVICTED OF A CRIME because an indigent defendant is ENTITLED by law to a court-appointed attorney.
Another perhaps less noble, but very real, reason you do this job is that failure to do it and do it right could result in being sued for malpractice and loss of your law license = your ability to provide for your family.
Which brings us to the realities for the defense attorney in an appointed case:
1.) You’re going to be paid approximately 1/5 of what your normal hourly rate is. But your overhead is going to stay the same. And the time required for that appointed case is going to mean there are cases (that would pay your normal rate) that you won’t be able to take while the appointed case is ongoing. Bottom line is you’re going to lose money. The reality is that you may come to the brink of financial ruin because of this one case and what it does to your cash flow situation and your client base in the community.
2.) People in the community who either don’t understand all this or who don’t give a flip or are just ignorant or mean are going to treat you and your family like crap. In the grocery line behind you and your two small children, they’re going to say that the defendant deserves public hanging and any attorney who represents that defendant deserves to be hung, too. They’re going to tell your five year old (at school, no less) that her daddy works for the Devil. Under the cover of night, they’re going to hang a gutted, black cat from your office door to “greet” your office staff the next morning.
3.) And when it’s over for the community, it’s not over for you. You get to go through the appeal process and even post-conviction relief. Post-conviction relief is where the defendant you represented gets another lawyer appointed whose job requires him/her to go through everything you did in representing that defendant with a fine tooth comb to try to find anything you did wrong or not well enough to use to say the defendant should get another trial because you didn’t do your job. So, in a sense, you go on trial.
But enough about the appointed defense attorney, what about the prosecution? The Constitution requires the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in every criminal case. The prosecution carries that burden. The defense does not have to prove anything except that the prosecution did not meet it’s burden of proof for the result (theoretically) to be a not guilty verdict. And long before a trial, that burden of proof is being weighed in the minds of the prosecution. If the prosecution believes that the evidence is not strong enough, or the witnesses are not credible enough, or that the process of testifying or going through the trial is too much to ask of the victim and would victimize the victim all over again, or that there were problems/mistakes made in the investigation or in handling the physical evidence that would make that evidence less convincing to a jury, or that there are any other number of reasons that a guilty plea to a plea agreement would better serve the community they represent or justice as a principle, then they negotiate and extend a plea offer to the defendant. None of that is an easy process for the prosecution. There are factors the prosecutor and law enforcement officers involved know that the general community does not know. So when you hear about a “plea deal”, don’t be so quick to judge the prosecution for making the offer. You don’t know what he/she knows.
Now about the tape. Have you seen the whole thing? I have. I’m not talking about the put together commercial video that’s going around. I’m talking about the full footage of the actual interview. It is an interview in which HIllary Clinton goes through a discussion of the role of the appointed defense attorney. Taken in context, her “laughter” (which is really just what I, myself, use as a “shaking my head, you can’t make this shit up” sarcastic chuckle) is in terms of what her client claimed had happened and the role in it all that she was forced to play as the appointed attorney required to do her job. There is no way anyone with sound mind and reasonable judgment could view that tape in its entirety and say she was laughing about what happened to that victim or about “getting off” the defendant.
In fact, Hillary Clinton didn’t get the defendant “off”. Her client accepted a plea offer made to him by the Prosecutor on the case. A prosecutor employed by the State of Arkansas hired by someone that the voters of Arkansas elected. Have you seen the recent interview with that prosecutor? I have. He says that Hillary Clinton did her job and did it well. He says there were problems with the investigative part of the case concerning mistakes made and mishandling of physical evidence. Those issues rest with law enforcement employed by the State of Arkansas hired by someone that the voters of Arkansas elected. So if you have a problem with the result on the case, you need to look to the voters of Arkansas.
You STILL don’t like the part Hillary Clinton had in this case? That’s understandable, you may have no frame of reference. But if ever, you (or someone you care about) stand accused of any crime, whether you’re guilty or innocent, you’ll get frame of reference real quick. And you’ll want someone who’ll do just what Hillary Clinton did in that case standing on that wall defending you and your constitutional rights.
You’re probably saying “this is waaaay tooooo long” and you’re right. But my response is that you were “waaaaay toooo wrong” to just let you have a pass. Let’s all take some responsibility here. Don’t just click “share” and post crap. Look at the source. Google to find the original film footage before you just put the edited campaign version out into the digital world again and again. Educate yourself on the context of the words you’re repeating and, thereby, adopting in that meme before you “share” it.
I’m sure no one made it to the end of this post. That’s okay. I didn’t do it for anyone but me. And other attorneys who have been and will be appointed to represent indigent clients. I needed to put some truth out there. Just my one little candle against the darkness. And I was pissed. Still am. This was personal.