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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

 

Confessions of a Public Defender

I am a public defender in a large southern metropolitan area. Fewer than ten percent of the people in the area I serve are black but over 90 percent of my clients are black. The remaining ten percent are mainly Hispanics but there are a few whites.

I have no explanation for why this is, but crime has racial patterns. Hispanics usually commit two kinds of crime: sexual assault on children and driving under the influence. Blacks commit many violent crimes but very few sex crimes. The handful of whites I see commit all kinds of crimes. In my many years as a public defender I have represented only three Asians, and one was half black.

As a young lawyer, I believed the official story that blacks are law abiding, intelligent, family-oriented people, but are so poor they must turn to crime to survive. Actual black behavior was a shock to me.

The media invariably sugarcoat black behavior. Even the news reports of the very crimes I dealt with in court were slanted. Television news intentionally leaves out unflattering facts about the accused, and sometimes omits names that are obviously black. All this rocked my liberal, tolerant beliefs, but it took me years to set aside my illusions and accept the reality of what I see every day. I have now served thousands of blacks and their families, protecting their rights and defending them in court. What follow are my observations.

Although blacks are only a small percentage of our community, the courthouse is filled with them: the halls and gallery benches are overflowing with black defendants, families, and crime victims. Most whites with business in court arrive quietly, dress appropriately, and keep their heads down. They get in and get out–if they can–as fast as they can. For blacks, the courthouse is like a carnival. They all seem to know each other: hundreds and hundreds each day, gossiping, laughing loudly, waving, and crowding the halls.

When I am appointed to represent a client I introduce myself and explain that I am his lawyer. I explain the court process and my role in it, and I ask the client some basic questions about himself. At this stage, I can tell with great accuracy how people will react. Hispanics are extremely polite and deferential. An Hispanic will never call me by my first name and will answer my questions directly and with appropriate respect for my position. Whites are similarly respectful.

A black man will never call me Mr. Smith; I am always “Mike.” It is not unusual for a 19-year-old black to refer to me as “dog.” A black may mumble complaints about everything I say, and roll his eyes when I politely interrupt so I can continue with my explanation. Also, everything I say to blacks must be at about the third-grade level. If I slip and use adult language, they get angry because they think I am flaunting my superiority.
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Many black defendants don’t even have mothers who care about them. Many are raised by grandmothers after the state removes the children from an incompetent teenaged mother. Many of these mothers and grandmothers are mentally unstable, and are completely disconnected from the realities they face in court and in life. A 47-year-old grandmother will deny that her grandson has gang ties even though his forehead is tattooed with a gang sign or slogan. When I point this out in as kind and understanding way as I can, she screams at me. When black women start screaming, they invoke the name of Jesus and shout swear words in the same breath.

Black women have great faith in God, but they have a twisted understanding of His role. They do not pray for strength or courage. They pray for results: the satisfaction of immediate needs. One of my clients was a black woman who prayed in a circle with her accomplices for God’s protection from the police before they would set out to commit a robbery.

The mothers and grandmothers pray in the hallways–not for justice, but for acquittal. When I explain that the evidence that their beloved child murdered the shop keeper is overwhelming, and that he should accept the very fair plea bargain I have negotiated, they will tell me that he is going to trial and will “ride with the Lord.” They tell me they speak to God every day and He assures them that the young man will be acquitted.

Read the whole thing.  It's depressing.

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