the case

criminal law was so much better when it was just cases in a textbook. where a case is just a name and a holding. where the facts are disposed of in a paragraph or so. where the what happened is dramatically less important than the what did the court do. you can close a textbook when you’re done for the night; remember the holding, forget the facts.

what the textbooks fail to show is the human side of the cases. they don’t talk about the children who think that it’s normal for a dad to hit his daughter, for a mother to not feed her son because he misbehaved. law school taught me how to draft a memo. it didn’t teach me how to respond to a victim’s dad asking me for a tissue at the sentencing of his daughter’s killer.

i’m almost a lawyer. hopefully i’ll be practicing this time next year. i don’t yet know what i’ll be doing, but if i stick with criminal i’m going to need a hobby. something other than booze to drown out the police reports. something to make me stop seeing the victim’s tears when i close my eyes. something to help me revert back to my lockean view of the world, rather than the hobbsean i seem to be developing.

i’m working on this case right now. it’s set for trial in a few weeks. if we win, the mother will go to prison. a mother who has been abused by her husband for the past decade. a mother who nearly killed her son.

this case has taken over my life. i find it hard to go home and do anything else. my google reader is massive, my DVR is stacking up, and my gin bottle is emptying at a much faster rate than before. i’m trying to find a constructive way to handle the stress and emotions of this job, but i haven’t figured that out yet. any ideas are quite welcome.



Filed under law school

8 responses to “the case

  1. Wow. I don’t know what to say. Crim is already giving me nightmares, although one time I was the victim so that might be why. I guess it’s hard when the good guys and bad guys fall away and all you’re left with are a lot of complex individuals and mistakes. I’m sorry you’re going through this but it is amazing that you are pouring your whole self into something so important. Hugs ❤

  2. i did criminal work for awhile. the worst case was one where this poor woman was being abused by her cheating husband (of course he was a state trooper). one day, he comes home and flaunts his affair in her face and gets really nasty. in tears, she goes to the bed room and takes out his gun. in her struggle to figure out whether to kill herself or him, alternating between pointing the gun at her head and his, it went off and a ricochet got him in the shoulder. she’s in prison for assault with a deadly.

    some people deserve to be in jail for what they did and your job is just to get them a fair shake in the system. when it’s a case like yours, or mine, it’s much harder. at the end of the day, all you can do for them is your best.

    when the job is bothering me, i work out like a fiend. i’d rather take out a heavy bag than a bottle of booze any day of the week.

    people bake. read. run. drink. screw. cook. you’ll find what works for you.

  3. T

    Keep strong, missy. I think you may find that either crim isn’t for you, or you may have to talk to some people who have been in the biz (and stayed there) to see how they grip with reality. I’ve always wondered myself.

  4. I watched a lot of this from the gallery as a reporter. And, if I was in the courtroom, you can be sure someone was dead because newspapers usually don’t cover anything less outside of the police report. I’ve seen parents, children, husbands, wives, brothers and sisters all asking the same question: why? Why did this happen. Some will say it’s because the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short, but this is shortsighted.

    Taking a drink now and then to help ease the anxiety of the things you see and hear is understandable, but don’t make a habit of it. It doesn’t make things go away, it just makes them blurry. Like doctors and, yes, reporters, lawyers have to be able to build a wall around what they do for a living to keep it away from their life. The prosecutors I’ve met have been some of the most interesting people I’ve met, and all of them know they’re doing something that while it may seem painful, is for the betterment of everyone.

  5. jamie: i can’t even imagine going through this as a victim. you’re amazing. ❤ and you're right, it's really tough when it's not so black and white who is the good guy or bad guy.

    jaime: i think working out is my next plan of action. in the infamous words of elle woods, endorphins make you happy.

    T: hopefully i’ll figure it out soon. thank you.

    foggy dew: i’m really worried that hobbes encroaching on my life is going to bring out some nasty habits, so i’m trying to fight it before it becomes a problem. how did you handle it?

  6. wooee. criminal law is rough.

  7. Ouch. This one is tough, said from someone who saw it up close and much-too-personally when on the streets in teewee. Occasional cocktails supplemented by working out, fresh air and friends proved to be the only antidote.

  8. EH

    From someone who used to represent victims of sex abuse: there is a cost. Unless you are a certain type of crazy (narcissistic personality disorder), I don’t think it gets easier unless you maintain very, very good boundaries and have positive outlets for the angst, like Preppy Princess pointed out. I don’t think I could do it again without regular therapy.

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