A few years ago, I was in a restaurant with my family when a man came up to the table. I had known the man for year and we always got along well. That night, (although he may have been a little “overserved” at the bar) he was ready to chat about some things. He pulled up a chair and asked me, “Jason, you are a pretty decent guy. But, I cannot understand why you represent criminals and ‘those’ type of people.”
I have been asked this question many times, although mostly with a little more tact. But, the answer was easy. I simply responded that I chose a career where I could put my conservative values into action every day while helping people at the same time. I say “conservative” because protecting people from government defines conservatism. The most intrusive way for a government to affect the people is to take liberty or life from a citizen.
He didn’t seem to agree. So, I just ask him to refresh his memory regarding the many protections the Constitution affords all people; particularly Amendments 1-14. With that, he left and went back to the bar.
As chance would have it, this same man showed up in my office 9 weeks later. His son had been arrested and accused of a heinous criminal offense. The man was angry and told me that his son had been wrongfully accused and that his rights had been violated in the process.
Later, we determined that his son had been wrongfully accused. The alleged victim had been less than truthful with police when we showed that the son had been out of state when the crime occurred. A few months later, the charge was dismissed and the man and his son were very grateful for the rights that the son enjoyed during the grueling process.
I don’t know if this experience ever changed this man’s perspective about what I do. But, I do know that when trouble hits close to home, attitudes about criminal justice can change in a hurry.
The above illustration is just one example of how all of us judge “other people.” While it is part of human nature to judge others by the way they look, speak, and many other factors, it is harmful to all when we place people in groups like “those” rich people, “those” poor people, “those” blacks, “those” whites, “those” Republicans, “those” Democrats, and “those” people accused of crimes.
It is also almost impossible to understand or judge a man unless you have “walked in his shoes.”
So, I am grateful that God put me in a position to represent “those” people who have been accused of crimes. Yes, many of these folks are guilty of the charged offenses or perhaps less serious offenses. Many of them are given the opportunity to change their behavior by accepting responsibility and/or being receptive to drug/alcohol treatment. (Which is the underlying factor in about 85 percent of crimes in America.)
People who are guilty of more serious crimes are rightfully punished by prison sentences or death.
But, there are plenty of people who are not guilty of the accusations made against them. Thankfully, God gave our Founding Fathers the courage and resilience to ensure that Americans would not be treated like the millions of people throughout world who do not have rights such as jury trials, the presumption of innocence, or the right to a lawyer.
Today, some people even have to prove their own innocence at a trial. This happens in some countries after the defendant has been beaten and abused for weeks before trial.
What if we were born and lived in one of these countries? What would have happened to the man’s son?
My conservative values and my strong belief in the plain, original meaning of the Constitution is why I represent “those” people, who are actually people just like me or you.
I am honored, grateful, and humbled to have this opportunity every single day.