About Allison Jackson

Allison Jackson is an attorney who represents indigent people accused of crimes in Fort Bend County, Texas. She is also a book snob, a wine equal-opportunist, a good cook and a bad singer. She collects teapots, witty intellectuals, and mugshots of famous people. Before she was a lawyer, she was a cake decorator, aspiring literary critic, and superlative diner waitress. She has practiced law in Texas and Micronesia. Her favorite historical figure is Julius Caesar.

“Out of the Wreck I Rise”

The way I met Larry* is part of the story itself.

I had just passed the bar and started a practice with my best friend since high school and all-around awesome guy, Nick. As an aside, you wish you had a friend like Nick. He’s always got a harmonica with him and sometimes he just busts it out and plays a bluesy chord. He also knows the best Chinese buffets in Houston and the surrounding areas. The decision to start our practice was easy- I browbeat Nick over a series of increasingly tasteless cocktails and finally he submitted. Figuring out what to do next was pretty hard. Neither of us really knew anyone in criminal defense, and the world of practice is wide and wild for two mewling young lawyers set on fighting injustice and looking cool doing it.

I contacted one of the only professors in law school I liked and trusted, Ray Moses. Let me pause here to say something about Ray Moses: Ray Moses is the kind of law school professor you remember for the rest of your life, whether you loved him or hated him. I loved him. He would roll into class, whistling softly through his teeth, with a utility cart containing a huge bucket marked “OFFICIAL US MAIL “ and a mason jar full of water, and then he would blow my tiny mind.

I contrasted him favorably with Gerald Treece, another professor at that school who frequently made his administrative assistant come to class with him just to carry his soda and call attendance for him, and then held forth on irrelevant personal bests for the better part of a class period while I sat, furiously calculating how many dollars an hour I was paying this laughable toad to extoll his own virtue through his ill-fitting dentures.

I took every class Moses offered and still frequently utilize both his vast website and the invaluable materials he provided us during those classes- including hundreds of template motions that saved my skin when I was practicing in a tiny place very far from home with few resources several years later. Also, if any of my dear readers ever come across one of the rare copies of Moses’ out-of-print criminal law handbook, “Guns and Moses,” please contact me post haste. But I digress.

Nick and I went to see Moses. “I haven’t practiced in a long time,” he said, looking out over the patio where we sat on top of the school. “But I was a prosecutor with a man who is now a judge, Michael McSpadden. He is a good guy. You might want to reach out to him and one of the attorneys who works in his court a lot, Chuck Hinton.”

I had not much idea what to do with this information. I felt too strange just showing up in court and introducing myself, everything still seemed too mysterious for that.  I sat down and, with my lovely penmanship, perfected by hours of tedious practice while pretending to listen to Gerald Treece, I wrote the judge a letter. I told him that I had been Moses’ student, and that my law partner and I were at something of a loss. We would love to come and observe in his court one day, and would love to make his acquaintance. I wrote on girly, floral paper and hoped the note would look enough like personal correspondence that it might get to the judge himself.

Two days later, Judge McSpadden called my cell phone. “Anyone Ray Moses sends my way is alright with me,” he said, and invited Nick and I to meet with him and Chuck Hinton in chambers the next week.

If you’ve never appeared before Judge Michael McSpadden, you are missing out. I like and admire him very much, and feel like he tries his best to mete out true justice, though he and I might disagree about what that means sometimes. His courtroom is one of the more formal ones, and he expects attorneys practicing before him to show an old-fashioned respect for the institution and the serious nature of proceedings. Personally, he is warm and kind, and anyone in his courtroom will notice his affection for Native American artifacts and paintings.

Judge McSpadden welcomed us into his chambers and, after we chatted amicably for a few minutes, he called in Chuck Hinton and asked Chuck to let us sit with him on an upcoming trial. Chuck walks and talks fast, and Nick and I liked him instantly. He told us he had an upcoming  Aggravated Sex Assault of a Child trial, and we were welcome to participate in as much of it as we’d like.

And that, dear readers, is how I got to meet Larry, the defendant in Chuck’s trial. Chuck asked us to meet with him at the courthouse on his next setting. “This case has been pending for over six years,” Chuck confided. “Sometimes that’s the best you can do for your clients. He’s out on bond and living with his family and putting this off was the best thing for him. But now we’re really going to have to go to trial.”

The allegations were horrible. As we paged through discovery prior to meeting with Larry, I started to draw conclusions despite my bleeding-heart sympathies. Larry’s three stepchildren accused him of brutal, violent rapes. Their mother, a struggling alcoholic, had divorced Larry in the years since. We ran through pages of words. “Rectal tear.” “Behavioral difficulty.” “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

Larry was charged only with the assault on the oldest child, who was five when the alleged assault took place, and was now fourteen and living in a punitive juvenile facility after he had burglarized several homes. The little boy had the same name as one of my cousins, Caleb*, and I imagined him as the same kid: Caleb in the back yard of my grandparents’ house, teaching the other cousins dirty words;  Caleb with a long, dirty “rat-tail” hairstyle and bare feet in the trailer his parents lived in, with holes in the floor and taxidermied raccoons on the walls; Caleb looking stricken and defiant when his young harpy mom, my aunt, bellowed his name across the grocery store too loud and too many times, out of irritation more than concern. And now, in my mind, little Caleb with snot dripping out of his nose, running away from a monster who I knew would catch him and rape him.

We looked through the papers quietly, and put them away before Larry came in. I was struck by how big he was. His neck was huge and red, like a tree-trunk on an itchy tree.  I shook his hand and felt like I couldn’t grasp all the way around his knuckles, like my hand disappeared into his giant paw. Had I just shaken hands with a child molester? Had these fingers pried into the genitalia of small children? How do I process this? How do we smile and pretend like this is a business meeting, same as if we were meeting to discuss a contract to buy wallpaper or a bank loan.

As we started talking to Larry I started to believe him. He told us the story of the years of hell with his crazy ex-wife. The troubled kids. The ex-husband, the father of the kids, who took them every weekend and hated Larry. Larry’s own adult children, who loved him and showed up to all of his court appearances. Larry’s trim and bright new wife, an adult-education specialist with two kids of her own and a clear love for Larry.

I thought about how rare the inclination to sexually assault very small children really is.  Assaults on adolescent children, or post-adolescent teens, are much more common than the infant/small child full-on assaults. Reread the reports. “Rectal tear consistent with constipation.” Don’t kids with alcoholic moms often have behavioral problems? Wait…biological dad had the kids every weekend? And never noticed a mark or a bruise on them after they’d been violently penetrative-ly raped by a huge man days before? Everything is always so complicated, dear friends.

Things did not add up.

Chuck did all the heavy lifting at trial. Nick and I sat next to Larry, talked to his family, tried to answer their questions, but we were really too green to do much other than watch and learn. Larry’s pretty wife sat in the back of the courtroom, and so did his adult children. They watched urgently, fervently, as if their will alone could push the jury into returning a not-guilty verdict. Finally, the jury went out to deliberate.

“Sometimes, when there’s not much to do at times like this, I just go back and read through the Code of Criminal Procedure,” Chuck said. “Lawyers don’t do that enough, really.”

Hours passed. Finally they called us in. I felt sure that the jury would see through it all- even through the crocodile tears of the prosecutors who wept during their closing arguments in a dramatic display of outrage and call to arms. Judge McSpadden asked Larry to please stand. With all of the noise and testimony and argument over, behind us now, it felt like such a huge thing. Out of the wreck I rise.  Nick and I stood on either side of him, and I remember the feeling of that moment with my hand on his broad back. I could feel his legs shaking, his shirt sticking to his clammy skin. There is not much anyone can do for someone in that situation. The verdict was Larry’s alone. But no one should have to hear news of such gravity, whether bad or good, without another person standing with them.

I stood next to him when he was pronounced guilty, and again two days later, as he was sentenced to life in prison. I remember the long, slow breath that he exhaled in those moments, and the ragged, choked sob that came from his pretty wife in the gallery. I held her later that day on the courthouse steps, as she sobbed to me that she was pregnant.

I still believe that Larry is innocent, and so does Nick. Chuck appealed the conviction and Larry was granted a new trial, on grounds too complex to really get into here, but doubtless stemming from Chuck’s constant perusal of the Code of Criminal Procedure over the last many years. The grounds were righteous, and, from what I understand, Larry, still incarcerated, awaits his second chance.

I think of him often. I wonder how old his baby is now, and how his wife is doing.  Nick and I talk about it from time to time, even several years later. I think of him when I start to develop conclusions about my clients based on offense reports and medical records and things that other people have written. I hope that he is doing as well as could be expected. I hope that his pretty wife stood by him through this horrible season of life. And I hope that the next lawyer who stands next to him on that last day of trial walks out of the courtroom with him and into the sunshine. Out of the wreck.

We don’t win all the battles, friends, but you never get two scars in the same place.

 

 

 

*Of course, names have been changed.

The Parable of the Sower: Why We Can’t Kill Dylann Roof

Once, according to the book of Matthew, Jesus stood in a boat and spoke to a crowd of people who had gathered on the shore. He told them of a farmer, a sower, who had gone to plant seeds. “As he went out and sowed, some of the seeds fell to the wayside, and were eaten by birds. Some of the seeds fell on rocks and stony places, where they didn’t have any room for roots to grow, so the plants sprung up quickly and promisingly, but then withered away because they had no roots. Some of the seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns choked out the small young plants. But some seeds fell on good ground, and the plants grew up to yield thirty, sixty, even a hundredfold of what was planted.”

The people who gathered to hear him speak were confused. That’s it? A story about crops? The crowd wandered off, wondering if there was a cryptic meaning to this or whether it was just some solid, if obvious, advice about where to plant your flowerbed. Undeterred, the disciples followed Jesus and pestered him about it, which they were generally pretty good about doing. “What are you talking about? Why do you have to make things so difficult?” they whined (the disciples were always whining it seems). “Just say what you mean.” But Jesus did say what he meant, is the thing, and the parable of the sower was actually a meta-parable, to borrow a term from the hip. Christ’s message was for certain ears. Ears that were ready to hear it. Ground that was good. Because the message stayed the same no matter who received it, but the reception changed the outcome.

On the evening of June 17, 2015, the small bible study class at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church sat together, reading and praying, and thinking about the meaning of the Parable of the Sower, the text that they were discussing that day. I don’t need to tell you that Dylann Roof, a gangly white 19 year-old, sat quietly in that room with them, after they’d welcomed him as a guest. I don’t need to go through the details of the horrible and infamous shooting that took place minutes later. And I don’t need to tell you, dear Reader, that Dylann Roof was sentenced last week to die for his terrible crime. And I won’t go through these things again. Not here.

Dylann’s crime is truly unspeakable. We’ve reserved the death penalty for “the worst of the worst” and it’s hard to imagine something worse than this, someone worse than this, with worse motives than this. So why should we talk about sparing his life?

Because just because someone deserves the worst doesn’t mean we treat them that way, dear friends. And there are repercussions to our actions, even when meting out justice.

As the NAACP and several other activists and organizations have pointed out, killing Dylann Roof lends a false sense of legitimacy to the death penalty. We’ve long been aware that the death penalty is used disproportionately in cases where defendants are not white, and most extensively when defendants are black and victims are white. Sentencing a white boy who killed nine black people to death is a talking point for pro-death advocates who seek to prove that the system is not racist, that the results are not unjust.

I think refusing to justify the appearance of the death penalty is enough to warrant Roof’s life being spared and his sentence commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole, but there are a lot of other reasons, as well.

We struggle, you and I, with how we separate the violence of the criminal from the violence of the State. By this I mean we know somewhere, deep down, that what repulses us is the inclination to violence, and whether that violence is meted out by some twisted, drug-addled teenager with a host of inter-personal issues or by the Government, we don’t really like it.

The Government knows that about us, and it’s gone a long way to try and keep us from realizing that the death penalty is legal violence. It doesn’t seem the same as the out-of-control cops who shoot civilians, or responses in riot gear to protests. It doesn’t seem the same as guards who assault inmates or soldiers fighting in war-torn places.

The reason it doesn’t seem the same is because, unlike those other instances of State-Sponsored Violence, in the courtroom of a death penalty trial the State has to make it seem like its violence is not the same as the violence of the defendant. We’ve done that by moving away from public and messy executions. No more drawing and quartering for us.  We’ve medicalized and sanitized executions (at least in public perception). We don’t show juries pictures of the execution chamber- but we show them pictures of frenzied, chaotic crime scenes. We show them pictures of dead victims with graphic wounds and blood spatter, representing a type of death that jurors, and most of us, don’t often see and are then, by nature, forced to compare with the peaceful repose of the dead bodies we’ve seen previously- grandma in a Sunday dress, carefully made up to look like she’s sleeping.

“No,” says the State. “Our violence is not violence at all. Just a…quick procedure.”

But you and I don’t trust the State.  Not with things like this. Not with things done in grey light.

The origins of the death penalty hail from a time when incarceration was not feasible. Jail did not exist. The punishment didn’t fit the crime very well. The punishment for almost everything was death or dismemberment. We didn’t have time to lock anyone up. We didn’t have enough extra people to spare from gathering or hunting or, later, farming to guard anyone forever. We didn’t have facilities to put criminals in, and we had no police to prevent crime in the first place. We had to send a graphic, public message to others that if you got caught, you would be punished severely. That’s not the case anymore, we have the time and the guards and the facility. We have these resources. We don’t have the excuse.

We also understand more about people. We understand that normal, socially-adjusted, psychologically healthy people don’t do things like Dylann Roof did. We understand that a bad childhood and maladjustment to society don’t necessarily work as excuses for heinous acts, but help explain why the person is so flawed and broken, and studying them might help us understand how to prevent other sick and struggling young people from hurting others in the future. We understand that we don’t kill people who are sick. Sometimes, the best we can do for now is to take them out of society because we don’t want them to hurt anyone else, but we don’t just put them down.

In “The Merchant of Venice,” Portia, disguised as a young attorney, argues for the life of Antonio:

 

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…

 

Though justice be thy plea, consider this,

That, in the course of justice, none of us

Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;

And that same prayer doth teach us all to render

The deeds of mercy.

 

Because the truth, dear friend, that you and I both know is that it’s all the Parable of the Sower.  That Christ, and the thousands of other holy and wise men before and since his time that we look up to without regard to flavor of faith, were speaking of mercy and kindness and our duty to be ecstatically and radically merciful. Sometimes there is ground that is rocky or covered in thorns and unable to bring forward fruit. It’s up to the good ground, the ground that happened to be free of rocks and thorns and away from hungry birds, to grow enough for us all. Even when we don’t think it’s fair. Even when we don’t want to.  Even when we fear the thorns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Character and Suspicion (Harris County ADAs Under Suspicion)

In 63 BCE, during his rise to power, Julius Caesar was appointed to the powerful and sacred office of “Pontifex Maximus,” the chief priest of the Roman state religion. As part of his new role, according to custom, his wife, Pompeia, was required to hostess a religious festival of the “Good Goddess.” The Good Goddess festival was pretty unique, even by strange pagan standards. It was only for women, and was one of the few times women were allowed to drink strong wine, perform animal sacrifices, and stay out late at night. All in all, it was a great, albeit a bit bloody, time.

Problematically if not predictably, a cocky young man named Publius allegedly disguised himself as a woman and snuck into the festivities in order to seduce Pompeia. Rumor spread that Pompeia was having an affair with Publius, and the city was abuzz with the worst kind of gossip. Publius was charged with Sacrilege, a criminal offense back in those pre-separation-of-church-and-state days, and to the credit of the ancient Roman legal system, was entirely acquitted- probably rightfully.

It became apparent that Publius probably didn’t sneak into the festivities at all, and it was certain that he had never had any kind of contact with Pompeia, let alone any conduct that might…besmirch her virtue, so to speak.

Still, Caesar divorced Pompeia immediately, in spite of knowing that she was innocent. When asked why he would divorce his wife for doing nothing wrong, Caesar said, “Caesar’s wife must be beyond suspicion.” (We forgive darling Julius for referring to himself in the third person. Sometimes even your dearest Allison is guilty of such.)

At first, it seems pretty wildly unfair for ol’ Julius to divorce the luckless Pompeia, who was summarily kicked into the ash-heap (or perhaps ash-hole?) of history with this one disappointing little story. But if you think about it, really, shouldn’t she have been beyond suspicion? Don’t we all want to be the kind of people who, when someone whispers a filthy little rumor about us, the listener says, “Wait, actually I know her, and there’s no way she would do that. Don’t come around here spreading lies about the most honest person I know. Good day, sir.”

I think that as attorneys, and especially as attorneys who practice criminal law, we have to be the kind of people who are beyond suspicion. We are ethically bound to be honest to the tribunals before which we appear, and to other officers of the court, including opposing counsel. While we are not obligated to tip our hands to the adversary, we should endeavor to play fair.

While an accused enjoys “innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” we, as attorneys, from an ethical and moral standpoint at least, do not.

The recent shake-up at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is an example of the failure of attorneys to be beyond suspicion. The allegations that at least three prosecutors who were recently “asked not to return” to the office under the incoming Ogg administration have contacted crime victims and their families and spread false information and panic are truly horrifying. I hope, for the sake of the victims, for the honor of this profession, and for the future careers of those attorneys, that those allegations are not true. I will not speculate on the professionalism of the three ADA’s named, other than to say that one of them, Nick Socias, was the ADA who recently made news for jailing a rape victim to ensure she testified against an attacker, and was defended by Devon Anderson in an odd and ill-advised YouTube video.

I hope (though I’m afraid that this is hope trumping experience in this case) that these prosecutors have worked hard throughout their careers to develop a shining and honorable reputation. That they will be beyond suspicion, that the allegations are not only false, but that the people who know these individual prosecutors will refuse to believe it anyway.

Unfortunately, the solitary fact that these prosecutors worked under outgoing DA Devon Anderson may make any protestations harder to believe. Anderson has proved herself, time and again, to be untrustworthy and deceptive. Even now, at the twilight of her tenure, rumors are swirling about the odd circumstances of her recent, personally-signed dismissal of a misdemeanor DWI for a prominent Houston attorney who also happens to be a former campaign donor to Anderson. Maybe Anderson’s dismissal was reasoned and just. I hope that it was. But whatever the facts of the situation may be, it’s fair to say that the public doesn’t think her character is above the suspicion that she would engage in such blatant cronyism and a trade-off of favors. Attorneys who worked under Anderson and had her favor, especially those who were promoted by her and were protected by her, have a bit of a fetid tang that is going to be hard to wash off.

Kim Ogg’s recently publicized decision to refuse to renew the contracts of 37 prosecutors, many of them in senior and supervisory roles, has come under a considerable amount of fire in the past days. The continued circus of the Anderson administration and the constant, dripping faucet of indications of a culture of unethical (at best) behavior by attorneys who not only should know better but are obligated to do better shows that Ogg’s massive layoff was not only acceptable but necessary. I have great hope that Ogg will find people to fill the empty positions who have earned reputations that are not only above suspicion but also beyond reproach.

As for Devon Anderson, kick her in the ash-hole.

Eulogy for Rick “i love you” Johnson

“He was one who owned no common soul.” –William Wordsworth

I don’t think you ever knew my name, but I was going to be your wife. Our relationship was unusual, to say the least. I was a young(ish) law student, hurrying from the parking garage I could barely afford into my hellacious unpaid internship at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. You were a mid-50’s shade-tree M&M salesman on the street corner outside the Harris County Criminal Courthouse. But it was love.

Usually, I could hear you yelling as soon as I stepped onto the sidewalk on Franklin. “HAPPY WED-NS-DAY! ILOVEYAILOVEYAILOVEYAILOVEYA! WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBOR-HOOOOOD!” I still don’t understand how you never seemed to get hoarse. Your constant stream of well-wishes echoed throughout the streets, through crowds of people flocking to their court dates or their offices. Even though you stood with a cane, it didn’t seem to bother you to be on your feet all day. You boiled over with love and energy.

As I got closer to you, you would spot me and point with an umbrella. “HEY THERE, BEAUTIFUL! WILL YOU MARRRRRRRY ME???” I always accepted. “I’M THE HAPPIEST MAN IN THE WORLD!”

Oh, I admit. I wasn’t your only fiancée, not by a lot- but I liked to think that I was special. Once, you even offered to ferry me to my car on your back. Being a lady of somewhat…generous proportion, I declined, but I’ve always sort of regretted it.

The thing about the Harris County Criminal Courthouse is that a lot of people going there are having one of the worst days of their life. When I interned there, I often sat on the benches in front of the building and talked to the people who sat near me. One day, I shared a pack of Oreos with a woman who told me she had been there all morning watching her son’s felony drug trial. It was not going well, and she wept softly as she talked about how her son would probably never come home.   You looked over and saw her there, slumped over, her face in her hands. “DON’T CRY, YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL! I LOVE YOU! DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY!” You shouted from a few yards away. She laughed. She blushed. She sniffed and wiped her cheeks. She took a ragged breath. It’s ok. It’s ok. Fear cannot live where love is.

There is nothing more worthy in this world, dear friend, than to ease the suffering of our fellow human beings. Even if that decrease in suffering is only as much as a bag of M&M’s and a kind word might purchase. You did not care who it was, what they had done, or even how many times they had walked by you, dismissively, without acknowledging that you were there. Your love was selfless and complete and ferocious. You shouted your great love with your whole body all day every day (or at least 9 am to 2 pm, Monday through Friday). I have never met another person so charismatic, or a person who was so intensely good, in such a brief moment, at making every single passing stranger feel that they were really, truly special. You made me feel like someone saw me, singled out from the massive crowd.

I wasn’t there when someone noticed that you had been absent from your street corner. It wasn’t me who found out you had been diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. I didn’t organize the incredible effort among the lawyers in our courthouse community to help you, or the articles and news stories making you, in those final days, a local celebrity. I did not hold your shaking hands as you lay in your small apartment, confessing your fears and faith to the people who gathered in your bedroom, holding vigil and providing as much comfort as they could to you, a man who had been so generous with your joy for so many years. I cried when I read the stories: that you were afraid of dying alone in your sleep. That you had stopped eating. That you raised your frightened, tear-stained face from the pillow when a reporter came to your house and you rasped, “Don’t worry, be happy.”

Please, please forgive me for not doing enough. I was undeserving of your love. We all were.

But oh, dear, sweet Rick, I hope you knew that the silence outside the courthouse will echo for all of us in these coming days. I hope you knew how grateful I was to have shared a moment with your bright spirit, to have been in the same space at the same time out of all of the spaces and all of the times that have been and could be. I hope you knew that I am richer for having known you, and that I will miss you. That we will all miss you. That the neighborhood will never be the same.

 

 

Ask Allison: October 19, 2016

Dear Allison,

I need tips to stop being such a sore loser.

Love,
Sour Samantha

 

Dear and Gentle Samantha,

I want to be honest with you, Samantha, because you are me. I needed to hear the answer to this question, and so I let my inner-Samantha ask it. Dear Reader, you are my heart, and I will always be straightforward with you- most intimate public: I lost a hearing last week, and the judge gave my client an unexpectedly harsh, but unfortunately legal, sentence. I am grieving and furious, and I am struggling to move on.

The feeling is terrible, because my pride is stung that I so misread the situation and went into the hearing confident that I would be able to convince the judge to see things my way. And then she did not. The ache inside me is only made worse by the fact that I know I wasn’t the one who went to prison. How can I care that my pride is hurt when someone else is suffering so much more than I am because of my failure? This man trusted me. He barely knew me, but he put the next years of his life in my hands because he had to. Because he was poor and stuck and frightened and powerless in the cage the State had put him in and I was the only one who showed up to help.

This is the fire that mocks the sun: the shame and anger and embarrassment and sorrow that are burning in me because of this. The judge’s words fell out of her mouth like something thick and strange and unreal, and her demeanor was so casual that at first I didn’t understand. It took me a minute to even put together what happened because her style was so flippant and it so mismatched the meaning of the actual words she was saying. Like someone announcing, “The cancer has spread to your brain” to the tune of “Happy Birthday.”

They teach you in law school to say “Thank you, Your Honor” after all rulings. F**k that. I will not. When the ruling is unjust and adverse, I will not stand there like a slack-jawed fool begging for another slap in the face. I respect the bench, the office, the court, but I don’t have to simper and fawn and respect the institutionalized biases and social control mechanisms that caused that person sitting on that bench to make that ruling.

I can go on and on all day about every aspect of what happened, but I won’t bore you with my heartache. The truth is I don’t know how to be a graceful loser when these things are at risk. We play for high stakes, you and I, Samantha. If it were only selfish, stupid pride on the line I would tell you to work to conquer ego, comfort yourself with thoughts of things that are bigger than you. But that’s not what we lose. Our losses are years of a person’s life, and I don’t know how we take that well.

I pictured the prosecutor going out that night to celebrate the win. I pictured the prosecutor raising a drink and telling friends about the surprisingly long sentence and cheering. I walked into the bathroom and I cried, my fingernails digging into my palms as I balled my fists in futile rage. I talked to my client’s anxious sister in another state. Over the phone, I told her what happened as she wept and prayed. I told her I was so angry, and so sorry. I pictured my client, lead back to his cell, dropping his head into his hands as he sat down. I thought about the judge, who probably will never think of my client and his life again, and barely thought of him during the hearing.

I don’t think I can ever be a good sport when this is the game. I think the best I can do is keep getting back up each day. I will make that choice today, to stay and fight. Wish me luck.

 

Love Always,
Allison

 

Every week attorney Allison Jackson answers a question sent in from our readers. Have a question for Allison? Write to her at askallison AT hcclatv.com.