justice is just us
Her father had been a bad man. In every sense of the word. When she met him he was behind bars and as she grew her only memories of him were those few minutes they spent together in a small room under the watchful eye of prison guards.
She decided to go into law to help him. He had confided in her that he wasn’t guilty of the charge that had landed him in jail. He was careful never to use the word innocent in front of her. The only reason she knew he didn’t commit the murder he was accused of was because he was across town at that very moment committing a different murder.
He told her all he wanted was another opportunity to be a good man. A good husband. A good father.
When she graduated from law school he became her first client and six months later he stepped out of the penitentiary a free man.
He ended up staying a bad man.
But it made no difference to her. Within a year she had set up a foundation to help wrongly convicted men get released from prison.
She was careful never to use the word innocent.
In the years that followed she had successfully freed ten men from jail cells across the country and became a celebrity of sorts. While it was true that most people were fatigued with bleeding heart liberals wanting to throw open the doors to prisons and let society face the wrath of countless villains running amok, there was still something inside the public consciousness that identified with the idea of a truly innocent man having the misfortune of being wrongly imprisoned. She was careful not to treat her line of work as an indictment against the legal systems as a whole, instead she always came at it as minor repairs so as not to ruffle too many feathers in the law enforcement community.
She only had one rule. The people she represented truly had to be victims of some real miscarriage of justice. It made no difference the charge or their monetary situation. If they had perpetrated the crime that they were accused of she would walk away.
Shortly before taking on the biggest case of her career her father was gunned down in a shootout with police. They had been called in to settle a domestic dispute with one of his children’s mothers and he had reached for a weapon when approached by the responding officers.
She did not attend his funeral.
Whether that helped to create the media frenzy around her latest case or just added fuel to the fire was irrelevant. The man she was working for had killed a woman in cold blood and had been locked up primarily on the testimony of an eye witness. The murder was cold-blooded and had been splashed across the front of newspapers and had led off the news across the country.
A year later all the wounds were reopened when she agreed to take the case after meeting with the convicted man on several occasions. It was shortly after that the state agreed to a new trial. As a media figure she now wielded that kind of influence.
In the weeks leading up to the trial she had aggressively questioned the credibility of the eye witness and appeared on numerous talk shows to create doubt about the veracity of eye witness testimony in general. She provided statistic after statistic about how dubious human memory can be and detailed a shocking number of cases where people believed what they were saying only to have their testimony be proven to be inaccurate.
With the whole country eagerly watching, on the eve of opening statements, the eye witness to the murder withdrew their testimony and prosecutors scrambled to ask for an extension in order to find a way to rebuild their case.
That night she went to visit her client in jail to give him the good news.
He was overjoyed and expressed to her a sincere to desire to, upon his release, become a better man.
She took his hands in hers and asked him a final time if he was innocent of the charges. She explained that he could tell her the truth, that attorney-client privilege guaranteed that nothing he said to her could ever be used against him. It was just important to her that she knew the truth.
He smiled and told her that he had killed the woman.
But that was his old self. He insisted that he was going to be a better man.
Her stomach tightened as she stood up. He looked up at her expectantly but she couldn’t find any words so she turned and told the guard she was finished.
She made her way out of the prison and approached the throng of media that was waiting outside. A dozen microphones awaiting her.
She composed herself and waded into the reporters.
She opened her mouth and found the words.
Later, alone in her office, she took a marker to an old poster she had hanging on the back of her door. Afterwards she closed it behind her and headed home. With the words “is paved with good intentions” blacked out, the poster now simply read “The road to hell”.
Two weeks later her client walked out of the facility a free man.