I never really thought about the victims.
As a lawyer representing Death Row inmates for almost 25 years, I focused on the trial - whether the judge and jury acted properly, whether the prosecutor tried the case fairly, and whether defense counsel investigated and presented a constitutionally adequate defense. Mostly, I focused on my clients - the men and women who were found guilty of committing terribly brutal crimes - and tried to figure out and then explain the myriad life circumstances that led them to the death sentence.
I have known many people convicted of murder and sentenced to death. I had never known anyone who was killed.
* * *
One of our own - someone from my professional family - had been killed by one of those people we have long defended. Killed by someone who, in any other circumstance, I would have warded off others' attempts to demonize. "You can't define someone by the worst thing they have ever done," I would say.
It isn't that I don't still believe those things. I do.
But that doesn't matter now.
The perpetrator has receded into the background. I don't care about his history or life struggles, his impairments or his vulnerabilities. I don't feel anger or hatred. I don't have feelings of vengeance. I don't want him dead. I don't feel anything for him at all.
This isn't about him.
This is about the horror, shock, pain and overwhelming sadness at the loss of a remarkable person. For the first time in 25 years, my focus has shifted from perpetrator to victim.
I commend Mr. Love for his candor. He gives us some valuable insight into how the folks on the other side of this debate think.
I have never had trouble understanding defense lawyers who are dedicated to the idea that the adversary system of justice requires that the defendant have a vigorous advocate regardless of what he has done. I get that. I agree with it.
What I don't get is the attitude of some of the crusaders that goes way beyond vigorous advocacy, way beyond testing the prosecution's case. I don't get the people who think that preventing the execution of a thoroughly deserved sentence is some kind of imperative that overrides every other consideration. It justifies burying the courts in frivolous claims. It justifies withholding a known claim to spring it at the last minute and ask for a stay. In the most extreme case, an investigator for a government defense agency forged jurors' names to affidavits and, when caught, asserted she had done the right thing.
What do these folks think about the families of the victims, who may have waited decades for justice? Do they think about them at all? In Mr. Love's case, until now, no, not at all.