Likelihood of Success

Ron Coleman’s pretty good blog

The prosecutor

Posted by Ron Coleman on October 2, 2008

Downtown

"Downtown"

Today I went “downtown” for the first time — representing the victim of a crime, I accompanied him to a visit to a special prosecutor for the Manhattan District Attorney, where we discussed coordinating our criminal and civil legal strategies.

So what was it like?

It was actually kind of cool.  I have a friend who decided to go to law school about 15 years after I did, and he went to work there, but I had never visited him “inside.”  So as someone who grew up entirely in business law, but also a litigator and trial attorney, I have always been fascinated by the prosecutor’s job.

Plus, I look the part, right?

Plus, I look the part, right?

I think I really would have liked it, except for a couple of things.   I would have liked the “public service” piece.  Eventually I concluded, in my business law career, that I was pretty much going to have be on the side of the angels in any given legal cause in order to be motivated.   Now most business disputes don’t really have a good guy or a bad guy, but amazingly in all my cases I represent the good guy!

I would have liked being the G-man, the government’s enforcer, to some extent, too.  I am no libertarian, but even libertarians agree with the concept of law enforcement.

No, my objection to be a prosecutor would not have come with respect to the issue of prosecuting people for crimes I would personally find objectionable.  I believe in representative democracy, by and large, and if chewing gum on Wednesday or smoking spliff in an elevator is against the law, so be it.  Call your congressman.

There are two things I wouldn’t like, though, from what I’ve seen.

One is that, well, it’s not so simple.  There’s no question there are prosecutors who are assigned with the task, or who undertake it themselves, of prosecuting people for crimes they probably didn’t commit.  I don’t think I could stand even being around that.

The other one is an image I will never get past, and would it implies.  It was during my first trial, in fact.  We were in federal court in New Jersey, and the judge asked us to recess so he could handle a criminal arraignment.

The jumpsuit-clad defendant, a stocky black man, was brought in a special doorway in the side of the courtroom, out of which had two burly United States Marshals had preceded him.  Two more brought him, bringing him into the room by virtue of two hands each gripped on an arm.  He was cuffed.

And he was manacled.

He looked pretty fierce.  And he looked pretty broken, at the same time.

Maybe this man was guilty of what he was charged with.  Maybe he was guilty of a lot more.  Maybe I am really glad he was put away.

But at the moment I knew I could not be one of those charged with doing it.

A man may turn himself into an animal, or treat others bestially.  Such a person forfeits the right to free and unfettered association with those who retain their humanity, or who are entitled merely not to be his prospective victims.  Someone has to tame that man, and divest him of the privileges of human society and, if need be, to shackle him at the wrists and ankles, to make him resemble the captured beast he has become.

I am not the one to do it, however.  And as extreme as that vision was, as unusual, and as many prosecutors actually have very little to do with violent crime, that image, that personification of the role of the prosecuted never left me, and I knew that as long as there was someone else who could, and would, do the job, it was never going to be a job for me.

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2 Responses to “The prosecutor”

  1. mary said

    I think I’d be okay with putting people away if I knew they were really, really bad. It would be better to see a bad person in chains than to see them sitting next to an old lady in an otherwise empty subway car.

    But as far as ‘Law and Order’ jobs go, I’d rather be one a detective. The whole investigative process, finding inconsistencies in their stories, asking questions that expose their lies, would always be a challenge. The thrill of the hunt.

    I’d be pretty bad at subduing homicidal meth-crazed addicts, though.

  2. Jack said

    Few things in life are as really satisfying as putting down a raving beast. And when you got a really dangerous beast I have no problem with putting them down in the bone-breaking fashion. And few things in life are as truly sweet as a manhunt, when what you’re hunting is something well short of a real man.

    Even the smell of it is sweet. Dirty, and rainsoaked, and tiring, and slow. But sweet.
    Something you can sit by the fire when you’re old and laugh to yourself about and be satisfied with.

    As for being fierce, well, a lot of criminals are really fierce, when they’re raping ten year old kids, executing other pushers through ambush or a sloppy drive-by, invading old men and women in their homes, and gang raping come-lately punks in prison.

    But if you really know how to hit most fellas like that, and just as important when to hit em, well fierce becomes frightened pretty quick. Most mooks certainly don’t become criminals because they’re fearless, but because they’re scared as hell of the fights of regular life. They got no real patience and no real guts for a stand-up fight with anyone who bothers biting back.

    If they did they’d be cops or soldiers.
    Or even bankers and breadmakers.

    Still, wolves are dangerous enough when they get all riled up. But if you knife em just right, well, they whimper and moan and bleed like any other stuck dog. You just have to remember that while many animals got fangs, then again, you got brains and experience. And most of the time that’s not really a fair fight at all. And most of the time most animals aren’t smart enough to realize that til it’s too late. You just gotta get used to looking beyond the facade of the fierceness, and instead look in the eyes for the fear. After awhile, if you know what you’re looking for, it’s all you’ll see.

    As for being a Dick, that’s a lot of fun too.
    I’ll agree on that score.

    Shame we gotta have em though.
    Shame we gotta have em.

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