A lesson that I learned long ago, but which is easily forgotten, was brought back to me the other day. A young man I represent is charged with several very serious crimes. If convicted at trial, he faces the likelihood of spending most, if not all, of the rest of his life in prison. He just turned 19. The State has what appears to be substantial evidence. Last week, at the last moment, he balked at accepting a plea offer. It was not a remarkably generous plea offer, but it would have resulted in him getting out of prison while still being a few years younger than I am as I write this (and, contrary, to my son's opinion, I ain't old). The offer is now off the table. We go to trial next week.
My immediate reaction was a mixture of frustration and anger. Couldn't he see the choice he was making? Couldn't he see the logical, rational decision was to take the plea that I had fought long and hard to get? What am I going to do now? I'm going to get killed at trial. Several people came up to me afterward, all murmuring consoling phrases. After a bit, though, I stopped and thought about it. What the hell was I frustrated and angry about? This is not about me. It's about my client. He's made a choice. Whether I agree with it or not is no longer the point. He made it. And my job is to fight for him as hard as I possibly can. So there's no time to wallow about, criticizing my client's choices, bemoaning the task I have facing me. It's certainly not the time to go through the motions, put in a perfunctory performance, knowing the realities of what may likely happen. If you do that, everyone will pat you on the back and say, "hey, you had nothing to work with". Pardon the language: Bullshit. What it is time for is to focus on the fact that a young man has only me between him and perhaps a lifetime in prison. It's about him at this point, and it's my job to do everything I possibly can to help him.
So let's go. We're coming out, guns blazing. Every issue is going to be a fight, no matter what. No concessions, no quarter sought or given. Because I'm all he's got left.