The Bear loves being a criminal defense lawyer. It is a very Catholic thing to do.
Catholics get sin. The Bear can't help but see beyond the crime to the sin, and beyond the sin to the wounded person.
Yeah, the Bear really talks like that. Out loud. Ursus arctos isn't a solitary creature entirely by preference. Frankly, people think he's weird. How can you represent a person like that? is the question everyone asks, or, rather, the accusation everybody makes.
The Bear understands. Once he saw an accused child-killer on the evening news, and had the same reaction you would have (or did; the Bear has been involved in a couple of cases that received national attention). Instant, visceral condemnation. The following day, he was called upon to defend the very same man. With no more information than a news segment presents, it is easy to condemn the person along with the crime. But the more you get to know a person, the less easy it is to judge them.
Of course, the crime becomes all the more horrible the more you learn, and see. What is seen cannot be unseen. Ironically, a criminal defense lawyer comes to know, and (usually) care for the victims far more than someone seeing their smiling picture flashed on a television screen. He sees them in their ultimate humiliation. Dead and naked on the slab. It is probably psychologically damaging to have to push that empathy for the victims aside to get through the autopsy photographs, and trial preparation, but the Bear does not know.
Evidence is evidence and it has to be that way. It is not a job for the squeamish.
We can agree that a crime is terrible, and leave room, perhaps, for the person behind the crime. This is a lesson that hardly anyone but the criminal defense lawyer is privileged to learn. That is why it is such a great Catholic job.
Criminals are losers, most of the time. Poor, badly educated, unemployed, their lives the sum of a thousand bad choices, not all of them theirs. Most criminals stumble into crimes drunk and stupid, with no thought for tomorrow. (That, incidentally, is why the death penalty does not serve as a deterrence.) In fact, it is a characteristic of criminals that they are incapable of thinking beyond a few hours into the future. The Bear speculates this is a real defect of cognition: the horizon of the future ends in front of their noses.
Perhaps being caught in the moment is a characteristic of sin. If we all hoped for the future and remembered our end, all the time, perhaps we would sin less. The Bear frequently must step before the imposing judgment seat of a federal judge when his client is sentenced. This never fails to awaken a sense of dread about his own judgment. See what a great Catholic job being a criminal defense lawyer is?
The Bear can remember only one case where the State could point to evidence that murders were intricately planned ahead of time. Who kills someone with no idea of how to get rid of the body? This would seem to be a serious oversight, but time and time again the Bear has seen murderers fail to carry out the most basic planning.
Most murderers are not the stone cold killers or masterminds portrayed in dramas. They are complex human beings, a mix of good and evil. They are very much like us. To know murderers is to be struck not by how different they are from us, but how similar we are to them. Their bad deed is a matter of degree, not kind.
This is why Jesus said that everyone who hates his brother is a murderer. See what a great Catholic job being a criminal defense lawyer is?
Murderers can be forgiven, too. They can repent, go to confession, and receive absolution just like we can. Then they are in the same state of grace as we are after confession. What an amazing sacrament! How great is our God! See what a great Catholic job being a criminal defense lawyer is?
If a person kisses the sores of a leper, he is called a saint. If a person kisses the moral wounds of a killer, he is a criminal defense lawyer. The first is praised, the latter is reviled.
The Bear wishes he could do more, because the law's tribunal is nothing compared to falling into the hands of the living God. But his professional duties do not admit that sort of counsel and closeness. Perhaps by showing simple dedication and compassion, he may awaken a path to grace.
The best criminal defense lawyers the Bear knows are Catholic. Oddly, they all, without exception, say the rosary.
That can't be a coincidence.
See what a great Catholic job being a criminal defense lawyer is?
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