Part of my job duties involve me driving into the most violent parts of Chicago. From meeting clients, to interviewing witnesses, to investigating crime scenes I am in the hood several times per week.
I don't spook easily. I grew up in the inner city and learned how to grow eyes in the back of my head. Maybe it's a survival skill. People that know me will tell you I never sit with my back to the door. Anywhere.
I never noticed this either. A friend picked up on it. No matter where we went to eat, I always took the seat at the table that allowed me to see the front door. I always thought I just liked to people watch. I guess I like to watch and make sure trouble isn't headed my way.
Fighter pilots talk about situational awareness. Knowing what's going on around you in the air may save your life. It's always the missile up your tailpipe from the unseen bandit on your six that gets you.
When I was a kid my neighborhood wasn't full of gangs and guns. But you never wanted to get jumped and have your bike stolen. I knew other kids that went through this. Although my bike did get stolen a few times, it was never taken from me physically. I am a pretty careful person. Most of the time, anyway.
I have tried to keep from driving into the hot spots at night whenever possible. I have this perception that most violent crime happens when the sun is down. A few months ago I was in Roseland one morning. My car window was smashed and my GPS unit stolen.
That was my fault. It was the first time I ever left it out when I parked anywhere. It was a mistake and I got caught slipping. The loss of the $200 GPS wasn't what made me mad. Having a busted window and glass all over the inside of my car really bothered me. It was chilly fall morning. I was able to get the window replaced later that day for the low, low price of $189. And the glass company came to my house to do the work.
The kid that took my GPS probably rode his bike straight to his fence and got $25 for it. And the fence probably sold it for $75. That is the redistribution of wealth. And it stimulated the economy since I had to buy a new window. But the money I used to buy that window came from the same neighborhood my GPS ended up in.
100% of the money I make comes from fees I am paid to represent people in Chicago criminal courts. Most of my clients are from neighborhoods where GPS units can be had on the street for $75
My GPS incident could have and should have been avoided. By leaving it out on the dashboard, I was careless. And by being careless in the wrong neighborhood, I was asking for trouble. Trouble found me.
Sometimes good people end up with police troubles. It can just find you.
I had a client last year that spent 3 hours a day on public transportation to make $9.00 an hour with no benefits. He had 10 years on the job. He had 4 children. They all lived with him. He provided. He sacrificed.
Then one day last summer the police locked him up. His bond was $32,000 to walk. His family didn't have the money. And so he sat. He youngest child was only 8 days old when he was arrested. For 5 months he couldn't touch any of his children. For 5 months, once a week, he got to look at his loved ones through plastic glass. And speak to them through a speaker system that often doesn't work.
When the jury's verdict of not guilty was read, he broke into tears. So did his mother. So did I. A little. It was early December. He wouldn't miss his baby's 1st Christmas. But he lost his job.
Sometimes being careful isn't enough. Having the wrong skin color, last name, or address can cause problems. I didn't need this client's case that bad. In his case the system worked. But how just is a system that takes a law abiding man from his family for 5 months and offers no apologies?
What about the folks who have been wrongfully convicted only to be freed 10-15-20 years later? Some of them get a check. But can money replace lost time? Can money buy back memories you lost out on? Will money restore bonds with loved ones that were severed or severely tarnished?
No. It won't. Nothing will. I wish the government would think more before they act. I can't be the only attorney in the city with a number of cases that shouldn't have been charged. Could I be the only one graced with innocent clients? No. Impossible.
Lawyers are taught objectivity in law school. It's the most valuable skill we ever learn and use. I have looked at enough cases objectively and determined my client was likely guilty. But I have seen too many where it's not even close. And it seems like the more serious the case, the more monkey business is behind it.
If government officials, i.e. police and prosecutors, will stop at nothing to convict the defendant, then the system is broken. Make sure this defendant is the right defendant. That's easy to understand, but it's not being done. Instead they get a defendant that will work and close the case.
By the time I have been doing this for a couple of decades, I am going to have enough sad stories to fill a library. Are innocent people convicted? All the time. Are innocent people convicted by way of the underhanded acts of those attempting to convict? Sometimes, yes.
I am going to go out on a limb here, but I imagine if you read the story behind every person exonerated by DNA, you will find police and/or prosecutorial misconduct on some level.
I think we all need to be a little more careful.