A Boston Criminal Defense Attorney Recalls His Days As A Prosecutor (Part One)

Confessions Of A Former Prosecutor – Introduction

…And so I sit to grab a moment of rest as I get home to my apartment after a day starting another trial. This time it is a rape case. Sex crimes cases are how I actually began in this work. My first year as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn was in the Sex Crimes and Special Victms Bureau.

I remember back to one night, looking around my Brooklyn Heights apartment, papers and chineese food scattered, mid-trial, taking note of my surroundings. Then I looked into a mirror, seeing Mr. Prosecutor..red-eyed, sweaty and dressed…well, let’s just say not at my best.

This is when I began thinking, “If people only knew…!”

There I was, mere months out of law school in Boston and now juggling around one hundred sex crimes cases…..all of which seemed bound for trial.

I had always loved performing, and so being a student prosecutor at Boston University Law School had been fun…but this was the real stuff. And there I lay on my couch, too tired to review a rape case that was mid-trial, yet knowing that I had to do so. All those “all nighters at school tended to pay off at such moments.

If people only knew…this is the picture of that scary prosecutor who had the power to send people to jail.

I suppose that this was the start of the realization that the participants in the criminal justice system are simply people. Trained, yes. Biasd, absolutely. But mere humans nonetheless, with weaknesses, foibles and issues.

Once I realized this fact, court appearences became easier.

Each time I reached a higher level in the DA’s office, I learned that, no matter said level, the participants were all human underneath. Even those senior prosecutors who prosecuted murder cases, who scared the heck out of us newer prosectuors, became human and falliable once we got to their level.

Along with that realization came the acceptance of the realities behind the prosecutorial side of the criminal courts. Namely, the staff was inundated with work, received little by way of payment or resources and dealt daily with support staff who had been at the office many years more than the attorneys and had certain resentments at being told what to do by these
“newbie” lawyers. On the other hand, there were the learned supervisors who lost little sleep if a “newbie” was humiliated by a public “dressing down”. That surpervisor’s responsibility was to protect his or her supervisor’s behind and so on up the chain to the District Attorney herself.

You see, this was 1985 and the crack epidemic was just beginning to take an already overburdend justice system and do its level best to knock it off its hinges.

Some would say that it was successful in doing so.

In the meantime, people of influence were, of course, doing their best to address the situation. Ronald Reagan had declared a war against drugs, only to cut funds previously allocated to do so. Al Sharpton, a local agitator and self-proclaimed representative of the African-American community, took advantage of the failing system of justice to demonstrate that the drug epidemic, like most causes of human suffering, was the fault of the white racist society. President George Bush played with a bag of crack on T.V. to make a point.

Former Congresswoman and Brooklyn District Attorney, my boss, Elizabeth Holtzman was trying to find a way out of law enforcement.

Different times and different place? Sure. But if you look closely, you will see some of the same realities facing the prosecutors. The only thing, though, is that if you are not a part of the office, you will not be able to really scratch the interior and witness it.

But I was and I did.

This week, I plan to share some of these views with you.

Will you learn anything? Will it entertain you? I hope it will do both. I know that Boston in 2010 is not the same as Brooklyn in 1985…but I think you will notice some similarities as the week goes on.

In the meantime, if you have a criminal matter which you wish to discuss with me, please feel free to contact me at (617) 206-1942.

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