Tuesday, January 17, 2017


Memoir of MLK Day

For about the last four years or so, I have spent the MLK holiday the same way: At work, working on a clemency issue.

On my way home, I heard about various speeches and events, and realized that I had done the same thing again. For a moment, I felt bad, as if I hadn't marked the holiday in an appropriate way. I really did not think about Dr. King all day, until I heard people talking about him on the drive home.

But then again, what I am doing is working to correct what is largely a racial injustice. Almost all of my clients and the people who call me are black. That shouldn't surprise anyone; it was black defendants who tended to get the worst sentences in the first place. It wasn't because they were the worst criminals, though. It was because they were dealing the drug that was penalized the harshest (crack) or had the worst lawyer (two of my clients had lawyers who pled them guilty to a crime that had a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole-- meaning they had nothing to lose by going to trial), or got slammed by a judge in a place like Louisiana who seemed not to think too hard about it.

At the end of a day dealing with that, it doesn't feel much like a holiday. But maybe this isn't that kind of holiday.

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