Members of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys (WACDL) are all buzzing over an article in the Seattle Times today that the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the Seattle Police Department regarding their “use of force” policies and treatment of minorities. “About time!” is the comment that pretty much sums up the opinion of most experienced Seattle criminal defense attorneys.
I could not agree more.
Not long ago I was in Island County Superior supervising the felony caseload when an African American defendant had the audacity to appear in court. He and his family were the only people of color in the room. His public defender was making a brilliant argument for his client’s release from jail pending his jury trial.
Never mind that this particular defendant had a ton of prior felony convictions and was looking at serious prison time if convicted. That is not the point. The point is that his lawyer was doing an exemplary job advocating and protecting his client’s constitutional rights, including, above all, the right to be presumed innocent. (After all, it is far more likely that an African American citizen in Island County with a criminal record will be falsely arrested and prosecuted than a white guy like me with no criminal record… it is the other side of the coin when it comes to who is likely to become a suspect.)