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Pride cometh before the fall
by chuck woolery at 11:21 AM on March 18, 2004
Over the past couple months Iíve been struggling with an issue related to my job. That is, how much should I be enjoying being in the press?
You see, I prosecute in a fairly small city (only 70Kish) and not too much happens here. Accordingly, the local papers, and occassionally the local TV and radio stations, feature things happening in the courts as their hard news. I am 1 of 7 prosecutors in my office, and as the youngest and most aggressive (as opposed to being happily coasting towards retirement of 3ish others) I tend to seek and get ahold of some of the more interesting files. By interesting I mean files like robberies, and deaths etc. As such I see my name in the paper on a fairly regular basis (about every 3rd day on average, on either page 1 or B1, occasionally farther back). I do find that interesting, especially as I usually donít do anything different, and the reporters just put in what I (and the other lawyers) say in court and what the judge did etcÖ Not too difficult or anything, and I have no real issue with that.
I have started amassing a collection of clippings related to cases I've done. I figure that I might as well have a collection of these things for later on in my life. I'm quite conscious that I have a fairly rare opportunty to have someone else chronicle my career, and would like to make the most of it.
Where this has become more of a conflicted issue is files that aren't your run of the mill crimes. I have recently took on a particular case with a more senior prosecutor. This file is a second degree murder, one 16 year old stabbing another at a bus stop.
Of course this is huge news in my small city. I donít recall another youth being charged with murder here, let along a stabbing in front of multiple witnesses, with blood in the snow by the bus stop etc. This is huge enough that all the press have been out for the court appearances, TV, radio, as well as the papers. In Canada no one is allowed to bring recording equipment into the courthouse, let alone into court, so they ask the lawyers to come outside and talk to them (yes, ask, this is the polite society concept in practice, small city Canada).
My departmentís current policy is to oblige, and accordingly I went and talked to them. As a minor procedural appearance there was little to say. Of course they managed to find a clip or two buried somewhere in there, and I found myself with people telling me that they heard me on the radio, or saw me on the news, for the next two weeks.
The conflicted part is thisÖ A 16 year old kid died. How should I feel about my voice being on the radio in connection with that? Proud? Not really. It just feels funny. I find myself laughing, in the uncomfortable way, when people bring it up to me.
I know that its part of my job, but I donít know how to feel about this. I would like to have an idea before the preliminary hearing on this file comes up in July, and the cameraís reappearÖ
"Character is doing the right thing when nobody is looking."
Whatís the right thing when everybody is looking?
well, shoot chuck. this website is about as "in the public eye" as i've ever been. (quick sidenote: am i the only one who half expects to be stopped on the street one day in the future and asked if i've ever been on a site called bad samaritan? just checking.)
i guess the question of who you are in public, is really rather simple. don't you already operate in a way that you deem professional and appropriate in court? why should it be any different in front of cameras? or, should you need lawerly paradigms to follow....are your trying hone your atticus finch or your johnny cockring...sorry, cochrane?
my two pesos...if you try and act the part, you'll only look back on it and cringe.
by lajo at March 18, 2004 12:43 PM
I say screw what everybody else thinks and act the way you feel. What's the right thing when everybody is looking? The right thing to be when nobody is looking--
by yen at March 18, 2004 2:26 PM
Ya know, it seems that people who do that WRONG thing when everybody is looking get put on the news (see any Cops, Entertainment Weekly, etc). So, if you keep doing the right thing (see Yen's & Lajo's commonts), you might stop being in the spotlight, and you won't have to deal with the media. Then again, that'll never happen with a case like this, so it's good to start thinking about it now.
by Leaffin at March 18, 2004 2:44 PM
Well... how I act with the Media isn't really the issue. I act how I act, much like I do in court.
The issue is really that I'm in the spotlight because of someone else's misfortune. If I was in the spotlight because I saved a kid from being run or by a steamroller or something that would be one thing... Then I could relax, enjoy it and be myself.
As it is I'm in the spotlight because I'm dealing with a murderer. I certainly deal with the case seriously, but I see some comic humour (Canadian spelling) in the mini press conference, and have to stifle a grin at the absurdity of it... Anyway
by chuckwoolery at March 18, 2004 3:28 PM
If people bring it up in the context of "Wow, I just saw you on TV last night, and that was really cool!" I'd suggest you take the focus back to the trial and say something about it instead, like "Yeah, it was a really brutal incident and we're all just really shocked that it happened here," or "It's been a lot of hard work, but I think we're making progress." I think you have the right instinct: this should not be about you. It's about a 16-year-old kid that died. If people around you are forgetting this, gently remind them.
by jean at March 18, 2004 5:11 PM
by jean at March 18, 2004 5:12 PM
Chuck I know you're in a relationship now but if it ends, what's a better chick magnet than being on TC, radio or in the papers all the time. You're like, a rock star.
by anna at March 18, 2004 6:29 PM
does TC have good programs too?
by lajo at March 18, 2004 6:35 PM
Perhaps you should carry a picture of the victims body with you, and whenever someone heaps innapropriate attention on you (rather than the case), than you should whip out the picture and force them to look at it. Especially during meals.
by mg at March 18, 2004 6:38 PM
i'm kind of partial to that trick where you force insensitive people to place their hands on your tormented flesh so they can hear all of the screaming souls of hell.
by lajo at March 18, 2004 8:26 PM
I am aware of prosecutors who keep copies of pictures from files, usually after they're closed.
I've always thought that was kind of strange, especially those that keep autopsy photos and the like. I think I'll let those stay in the files...
Photos of hot chicks showing off injuries to parts of their bodies not normally seen in public... well that's a different story...
by chuck woolery at March 18, 2004 10:22 PM
I'm going to be ill.
by annaa at March 19, 2004 7:59 AM
"Whatís the right thing when everybody is looking?" I think the answer is obvious. Do the right thing. Aren't you like the Superhero of personal responsibility? When someone wants to get away with a crime - you swoop in to show them and society that choices matter, that there is morality, that acting to the detriment of society or others is punishable. Aren't you also like the avenger for the wronged or for those who no longer exist (like the dead 16 year old)? And as such, you are their harbinger. You are the voice of morality - pointing out the value of human life, pointing out the importance and value of making good choices. Lawerly professions are all about what "should" be. When the spotlight is on, someone with character doesn't lose focus, but rather brings focus where it is required.
by Chris at March 21, 2004 5:12 PM
Classic Chris! Once in a while I too get to play this role. Like when we got film of a "total invalid" hauling her adult, paralyzed daughter down the stairs, putting her in the wheelchair and then loading her into the car. Great, except the judge too was a single mom with a disabled daughter. Oops.
by anna at March 22, 2004 7:36 PM