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October 30, 2008 - Image 73

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2008-10-30

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Q: Do you believe that Patsy Kelly
Jarrett's case is a unique example of
failure in our justice system?
A: Unfortunately, Patsy Kelly
Jarrett's case is not unique. She is
likely one of many wrongly convict-
ed prisoners anonymously serving
time in prisons all over the country.
I say "likely" because three-fourths
of the 222 (as of today's date) U.S.
exonerations due to DNA evidence
were the product of mistaken eye-
witness identification. Since DNA
evidence exists in only a tiny frac-
tion of cases — usually sexual
assaults or rape/homicides — this
means those exonerations are the tip
of the iceberg.
Although our criminal justice
system holds great promise — the
accused have a right to counsel, to a
jury of one's peers, to a unanimous
jury verdict and, at least in most
states, to confront and call witnesses
and to not incriminate oneself
— much of that promise remains
unmet. One of my chief concerns, an
ethical as well as policy concern, is

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For The Defense
In Case of a Lifetime: A Criminal
Defense Lawyer's Story, Abbe Smith
recounts her triumph in helping free
Patsy Kelly Jarrett, wrongly impris-
oned for 30 years, and offers insight
into the criminal justice system:


"Intelligent, subtle, and honest. I couldn't put thc bunk down—.
It is a testament to what can happen when one per du
reaches out to another in need."
—Sister Helen Prejeun, author of Dead 3Ia n Walk :

Orchard l ake Road !

A: I certainly get a more direct
form of expression in my writing,
but my work as an actor reaches
— so far, anyway — many more
people. I do find it easier to reach
levels of honesty and bravery sitting
alone with the written word than I
do using my own physical image,
in front of 20 or so crew members
while shooting and sprayed into mil-
lions of homes afterward.
But much of the material from each
of my books has been read aloud in
various forums before publication.
Reading the material to audiences is a
tool I like to use and that I think offers
great confirmation of the success or
failure of the writing.

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the quality of court-appointed coun-
sel. Too many poor people accused
of crime in this country are poorly
represented because of a lack of
commitment — financial and oth-
erwise — to provide high-quality
counsel to criminal defendants.

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Q: What is the most essential qual-
ity of a great defense attorney?
A: Ah, this is a tough question. A
lot of things make a great defense
lawyer: a genuine interest in or curios-
ity about people; the recognition that
good people sometimes do bad things;
a peculiar mix of idealism and skepti-
cism; courage. Of course, great defense
lawyers are usually great storytellers.

Evan Handler speaks 8:15 at
Thursday, Nov. 13 (WB).
Abbe Smith speaks at 1 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 13 (OP) and at
7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 13 (WB).

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Q: Ifyou could become the attor-
ney in any case ever tried (but well
known to the public) where the
accused was most unfairly convicted,
what case would that be?
A: The Scottsboro Boys and Leo
Max Frank.


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October 30 • 2008


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