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Defending America

Posted by Rick · May 25th, 2004 · 8 Comments

Occasionally, people say to me, “Why would you want to be a defense attorney?” There’s a kind of ambivalence — which I share with them — over the idea of “protecting child molesters and murderers.”

Offering a rare public apology, the FBI admitted mistakenly linking an American lawyer’s fingerprint to one found near the scene of a terrorist bombing in Spain, a blunder that led to his imprisonment for two weeks.“FBI Erred Linking Lawyer to Terror,” CBS News Online.

The truth of the matter is that if I become a criminal defense attorney, I don’t want to “protect” child molesters and murderers. In all seriousness, who does? Not any sane people whom I know.

Karin J. Immergut, the U.S. attorney in Oregon, denied Mayfield had been a target because of his religion and maintained that the FBI had followed all laws in the case. Ibid.

Mayfield, of course, would have been treated exactly the same way if the fingerprint match by the FBI had turned up a non-Muslim white woman. If you believe that, I’ve got some swampland just outside of Abu Ghraib to sell you.

Why would I want to defend child molesters, rapists, murders, or other criminals? I wouldn’t.

The FBI was doing exactly what the FBI is supposed to do. The agents who zeroed in on Mayfield were doing their jobs. And for the most part, they were doing their jobs well. Yet in the normal course of things, if you’re desperately looking for criminals, you’ll find them — even where they don’t exist. People tend to see what they wish to see; this is human nature.

In order for our system of justice to work, we need a few people who are not just looking for criminals. These people need to stand up to those who are seeking criminals and say, “Prove it. Prove that this person deserves to have the full force of the law come down upon them.”

In this way, we avoid the kind of world where shoving flourescent lightbulbs up someone’s *ss waived off because “they do colonoscopies in the United States every day.” In this way, we avoid living in a world where people are arrested simply because they happen to fit a suspect profile closely enough for the police, like disoriented bloodhounds, to tree the wrong person.

I don’t want to defend child molesters, rapists, murders, or other criminals.

I want to defend America.

Categories: Law and Legal Issues


8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Nat // May 25, 2004 at 8:52 am

    Wake up, Rick.


    Before it’s too late.

  • 2 Mark // May 25, 2004 at 9:32 am

    There should be plenty of work for defense attorneys in the years ahead, Rick. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner told the graduating class of a law school in the Spring of 2002 that we are in period of time in our country during which which rights will be shrinking. And O’Conner said when rights shrink, the need for attorneys increases.

    Also — have you noticed that a lot of people don’t seem to like attorneys, until they need one?

  • 3 Rick // May 25, 2004 at 9:38 am

    Fringe elements, such as you, Nat, in any party are problems for that party. And to the extent that an entire party begins to move in that direction, it becomes problematic for a large segment of the United States.

    Proof, however, that this problem impacts both principal parties in our so-called “two-party system” is easy to find.

    Democracy is too vulnerable a system to withstand an entrenched and determined hostility, serving no higher purpose than itself. Whether or not you call this treachery hardly matters. The end result is the same ? conflict, not compromise. — from the article Nat linked above.

    Frankly, this is pure hogwash. Particular parties may be unable “to withstand an entrenched and determined hostility,” and such political parties will, as they have since the early days of our country, come and go.

    The United States of America — a republic, by the way, and not a democracy (which transforms it from mob rule and adds to its strength and stability) — has withstood “entrenched hostility” and “treachery” since before its birth. In fact, during the birthing stages of the country, there were people living right here, in the original colonies, who fought to keep us from coming into existence. They didn’t just live right next door to people who fought just as hard to create this country, either; they sometimes shared their very homes. Fathers and sons turned against one another. John Randolph, a Loyalist, fought against America; his son, Edmund, was aide-de-camp to George Washington. Hardly the type of environment in which compromise might be found.

    And, yet, the Founders of this country resisted the impulses that are driving politicians, legislators and ordinary Americans today towards the idea of a police state enforcing obedience, slathering or merely grudging, to an Administration with which so many disagree.

    The disagreements didn’t stop after the birth of the country, either. For $14.95, you can buy a copy of Jefferson vs. Hamilton: Confrontations That Shaped A Nation from Amazon. As one reader review there notes,

    This book really gives the reader a sense of what Hamilton and Jefferson were REALLY like. They had disputes and were mistrustful of each other. There wasn’t any school-boy stuff going on here. — Amazon page about the book.

    Lest you think this was just two men duking it out in the political arena, they essentially founded the two-party political system we still adhere to today, over the advice of George Washington who, upon leaving office essentially said, “Do not form political parties.” And yet, miraculously, the country survived.

    Each consistently described the other as “dangerous” to the future of the country. Each was convinced the other would destroy America.

    Not only did we survive, but the debate that raged under the protection of the Constitution of the United States made us the world power we are today.

    Disagreement will not be the destruction of either America, or Israel. The squelching of disagreement will be. We should not fear dissent or heated debate. On the contrary, we should embrace that and listen to the views of others, as I have done with you. I disagree with your views, but I can discuss those with you and I can learn something from you. The problem I have with you, Nat, is not that you express your views — it’s that you more often shift away from discussing your views — probably because you cannot well defend them — to talk about semen-stained dresses, thirty-year-old drunk-driving accidents, and youthful dalliances with disgusting organizations. Ironically, all the while you do this, you take people to task for discussing much more recent failures of people you like. (This, by the way, is exactly why ad hominem is a useless form of illogic for defeating another’s argument. People, regardless of political persuasion, make mistakes in their lives, even serious ones. This doesn’t abrogate every good thing they’ve ever done or stand for; one has to look at what relevance that failing might have to whatever challenge you’re making. Otherwise, it’s just ad hominem. To defeat an argument, you must argue against the ideas, not the people presenting them. Think of it like this: Upon receiving news you don’t like, you can shoot the messenger, but the news won’t change because of it.)

    Consistent complaints that we need to eliminate or silence this or that person, group, or political party is not just antithetical to the Constitution. I don’t defend the Constitution because I like the paper it’s written on. There’s nothing particularly special about the words on the paper. It’s the ideas that those words ingrained into our institutions. That is what has made us free. That is what has made us great.

    That is what has made us America — land of the free; home of the brave.

  • 4 Bob // May 25, 2004 at 11:06 am

    There appears to be a spirit and a letter to any law. In regards to the Constitution, the spirit of the document was to give freedom of speech to anyone who had something meaningful to say.

    I’m sure the Founding Fathers would have told Nat’s relatives to sit down and shut up if they tried the same immature, attention getting tactics that Nat uses on this blog. Distracting the arguments with unrelated facts and topics destroys the spirit of that disucssion. It’s intentional and designed to get negative attention (since attention cannot be gained any other way).

  • 5 Rick // May 25, 2004 at 11:53 am

    Well, they would probably apply a more modern constitutional concept to Nat: “Time, place, manner.”

    The Constitution actually contains a freedom of speech clause specifically for the purpose of preventing any analysis of “who had something meaningful to say.” Why? Restricting speech to that which is “meaningful to say means” judging what kind of ideas are going to be allowed into the marketplace of ideas. This is just what the First Amendment is intended to forbid the government from doing.

    An important distinction should be drawn, by the way. This blog is not the product of a governmental function. It’s a blog built and maintained by a private citizen: Me. Consequently, there’s no legal — arguably not even a moral — requirement that I follow the First Amendment in maintaining this blog.

    However, I have chosen to do so. Partly, this is because I believe in the First Amendment as a controlling factor in the healthy daily life of citizens, like myself and (yes, even) Nat.

    There are times when this creates problems. Nat is demonstrative of one. In essence, he has hijacked this blog. We have allowed him to do so, because we constantly respond to every illicit rhetorical device he employs.

    And although I’ve mentally struggled with this, it points out the second reason I’ve chosen to follow the dictates of the First Amendment: Nat may not learn much from this blog, but I will. And part of what I will learn is how the First Amendment can be made to function. It’s a difficult thing. “Time, place and manner” restrictions, for example, were evolved because someone like Nat can completely derail progress. It’s impossible to get anything done with someone standing in the middle of your meeting schizophrenically blathering about issues that are irrelevant to those with which the group is trying to educate itself, or with problems it may be trying to solve.

    Yet the simplistic application of First Amendment principles to which I’ve adhered so far mean that we have to tolerate exactly that on the blog today.

    (And lest anyone think I’m being unfair to Nat in comparing him to a blathering schizophrenic, just go back and re-read his posts for a bit. As administrator of this blog, I have the ability to do a simple search and call up all his posts, minus everyone else’s, if I so desire. His frequent shifts and twists are mind-numbing when you do that.)

    Since I am maintaining a simplistic First Amendment approach here, I have not relegated him to a backwater, by deleting his posts; I have been tempted to insert editorial comments directly into his posts, but I have not done that. I have not throttled his prattle, so that only so much gets through. Instead, I ask that we be as civil as possible with him and in disputing with him, try to address any of the few substantive comments he may make which are germane to the discussion.

    Just as Nat has the freedom I’ve allowed him to blather here, so we have the freedom to ignore it.

    But if I can adhere to the simple view of the First Amendment, as I wish, I won’t tell him to sit down and shut up. I will ignore him. And now that I’ve decided that he’s actually dishonest in his approach — a belief I reached partly after reviewing the multitude of comments he made here — I’ll also point that out whenever it shows itself again.

    At any rate, the unaldulterated (e.g., simplistic) view of the First Amendment I apply here is still the “core concept.” The “sit down and shut up” or “meaningful to say” variations do have a place in constitutional law. I just wanted to be sure people understand that those are variational adaptations to the needs of a functioning group and not part of the core concept.

  • 6 Mark // May 25, 2004 at 11:56 am


    I respectfully disagree with your thesis. I don’t think the Founding Fathers would attempt to quiet those who speak very loudly with nothing to say. I believe these wise men would have thought it best to let everyone’s words and actions speak for themselves.

    Even the feeble-minded and easily-led among us can eventually come around to seeing the true measure of a man who puts himself in the arena, whether that arena be large or small. All of us can instinctively tell when a person’s words and actions don’t match. We can smell duplicity, hypocrisy, and a bankruptcy of ideas just as surely as we can smell an open sewer on a hot summer day.

    The latest approval numbers (the lowest ever) for a certain person in Washington demonstrate this, and those very numbers are bolstering my faith in the American public.

  • 7 Bob // May 25, 2004 at 2:35 pm

    Oh, I see Mark.

    You subscribe to the “give them enough rope and they’ll hang themselves” theory.

    The problem with that is that those who all that rope may take others with them, but I guess that is a risk in a democracy. I guess some fools would just follow some other dead end if it wasn’t this one. You can’t save them all.

    I must admit, however, that your theory IS playing out. Approval numbers are down as is respect for the country internationally. Just today I read where terrorists are actually multiplying in Iraq because of our ill advised invasion and lack of exit strategy.

    The five points to Iraq’s independence is getting dismissed by most of the world and our unlilateral action had scared off any country even thinking about helping us.

    Yup, there certainly is enough rope there for a hanging…for a certain person in Washington and many of his lemming followers.

  • 8 Rick // May 25, 2004 at 2:42 pm

    Well, it’s not just a matter of a “give them enough rope” theory.

    It’s the way the First Amendment works.

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