Monday, November 24, 2008

We're doing the right thing, aren't we?

I think one of the first things you have to learn in this job is that you can't make a person's decisions for them. They are either going to do the right thing or they aren't. Oh sure, you can push them in one direction or another, but it is completely up to them whether or not they choose to head down the right path.

You see a lot of young people file in and out of the court room with possession of marijuana, DWI, and Assault cases and as a naïve young person, my first thought is that I wish I could just take this person outside and say:

"Look, your life doesn't have to be this way. You don't have to continue down this path. You can be anything you want to be. Just don't (insert offense here) anymore. Go to class, do your homework, work hard."

But I know that no amount of begging and pleading with someone can MAKE them do the right thing; I can't force them to make the right choices. Instead we give them their one year probations, their 6, 9, or 18 month deferred adjudications, or their jail time and we go on to the next person.

I think to some degree we all come into this job thinking we can help people. We come wanting to stand up for those people who are victims of crimes and to face down those individuals who have taken it upon themselves to break the laws that the rest of us choose to follow. And yet you look at those people who file out in the orange jumpsuits, or those people who come up from the audience (who thought it would be a good idea to wear shorts to court) and I think "These people need help too."

I want to do the right thing by all parties. I want the victims to get justice, I want criminals to accept responsibility for what they've done and pay the price for their actions, but I also want the defendants to get it through their heads that their actions are not acceptable. Unfortunately, I feel like very few defendants who stand there in front of the judge during their pleas understand and grasp the idea that what they've done is no acceptable. They may say they understand that it is wrong, or that they know they shouldn't have done it, but I'm not sure any of that is true.

I don't know what it is that sends some people down the path of a law abiding life versus a life where breaking laws is an acceptable way to make a living or pass the time. Nature vs. Nurture? Both? Neither? By the time they come to court and plead out their little possession and DWI cases is it too late for them to make things right? I know the answer to that last questions is "It is never to late", but for some people it just might be past the point of no return.

The point is, when I sign plea paperwork or have the opportunity to stand up and take a plea, one thing goes through my mind: "We're doing the right thing, aren't we?" Sometimes the answer is yes, but sometimes I feel like the answer is no.


PS - A grammarian I am not, so I apologize in advance. I tend to write in a very conversational manner. My commas are rarely in the right place (they tend to end up where I think the reader should take a breath), and I've yet to find anyone who can clearly explain to me the proper use of a semicolon, so if you read these posts expecting a lesson in grammar, syntax, or spelling I'm going to warn you right now you're in the wrong place.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A New Beginning

I've been working as a prosecutor for a short time now. I have to say that the experience has been phenomenal so far.

I am lucky to be working with great people. I feel like I could not have been assigned to a better court. The other 3 prosecutors in my court are hard working, incredibly smart, and deeply dedicated individuals. The only way I can describe working with these people is that it is like hanging out with junkies all addicted to the same drug. We all come in every morning looking for our next fix. We all share the same sickness.

The people are one of the main reasons I applied to be a prosecutor in this particular office. My experiences as an intern and now as a junior prosecutor have shown me that the people that do this job, almost without exception, are individuals genuinely interested and intensely dedicated to justice. These people aren't out for blood, their out to do the right thing; we work around the clock to make sure justice is done.

And it is not just my fellow prosecutors that make the job so much fun. The parade of defense attorneys that come into the courthouse everyday are, for the most part, great people who make it so that there is never a dull moment.

On a broader note, this is a very exciting time to be a prosecutor in this office. With a new District Attorney coming in, and with her new "upper" management means that the office is in for some changes. Some of the more senior prosecutors are a little more stressed out about their jobs, and as with all things change is difficult. I'm sure some very good prosecutors will be leaving the office either by choice or because they are encouraged to leave by the new administration.

Fresh blood may be exactly what this office needs. With new people come new ideas and new ways of doing things. I don't think anyone in the office would claim that things run perfectly, and the truth is there are several areas where a little change will be good.

I look forward to bringing you my thoughts in the days, months, and (hopefully) years ahead.