Posts Tagged ‘Justice’

A Look at Spontaneity and Anxiety

December 4, 2012

It did not surprise me to learn that anxiety disorders are the most prevalent disorders in our society. Further, when I think about my life, it did not surprise me to hear that it is not anxiety disorders that are most often treated by therapists. This lack of attention can have detrimental effects on our society. Problems or consequences of untreated anxiety, specifically, untreated social phobia disorder and avoidant personality disorder, can be profound. There are ways to prevent or overcome anxiety disorders.

Anxiety is defined as “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it” Anxiety. 2012. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anxiety. Anxiety is believed to be unique to humans and unlike other animals, we are able to use our memory and imagination. Anxiety. 2012. In The Free Dictionary.com. Retrieved from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/anxiety. Since we have that ability, it will take more effort to live “in the moment” for most of us. During a personal interview, Kathy St. Clair, a psychodramatist from Roanoke, Virginia, noted that “fear is always “future” related.” (St.Clair, 2012) Fear about the future probably involves memory of the past and imagination of the future. Of course, some anxiety is normal and probably natural and necessary. (Morrison, 1995, p. 247) Anxiety is an element of almost all mental disorders and it can rise to a level that requires treatment. (Morrison, 1995, p. 247) Fear, and the anxiety associated with it, seems to be the main component of Social Anxiety Disorder and Avoidant Personality Disorder. Some of the criteria for social phobia are “…persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations…” (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (4th ed. text rev.), 2000, p. 456) Some people with a social phobia may also have an Avoidant Personality Disorder, which is more severe than a Social Phobia. (American Psychiatric Association, 2000, p. 455) It involves a pattern of social inhibitions and abnormal sensitivity to feeling inadequate and possible criticism. (American Psychiatric Association, 2000, p. 721) Regardless of the level of anxiety, it has the likely potential to affect our ability to be present and in the moment at any given time in our life.

J.L. Moreno has said that there is an inverse relationship between anxiety and spontaneity. As we become more spontaneous, the anxiety will decrease. Moreno defines spontaneity as “an adequate response to a present situation.” (J.L. Moreno, 1953, p. 336) But he also takes into consideration the novelty of the situation. (Moreno, 1955, p. 108) Are we talking about a new situation or an old situation? As an example, I’m walking down the hall and a friend says, “How are you doing?” As many of us usually and automatically do, I respond, “Fine, how are you”. I would call that an unnovel response to an unnovel comment and not very spontaneous or creative.

When I first began looking at this issue, I focused on anxiety as being very negative and initially thought that if I had less anxiety, I would be more spontaneous. But, Moreno says to look at the cause of the problem. “Anxiety sets in because there is spontaneity missing, not because “there is anxiety” and spontaneity dwindles because anxiety rises.” (J.L. Moreno, 1953, p. 338) Moreno originated the “twin concept” of spontaneity and creativity as a part of all human beings and their relationships to others. (Moreno, 1955, p. 105) Moreno views creativity, not as a talent, but as a “spontaneous-creative process”. (Nolte, 2008, p. 106) Creativity is the potential we have had and will have. Spontaneity is what makes being creative possible. (Nolte, 2008, pp. 107-108) Moreno believes that creativity applies to all things that have been created, will be created, and those that might be created, but will not be. (Nolte, 2008, p. 108) If we are not reaching our potential because we lack spontaneity, how do we get it?

Even if we are generally spontaneous, there are many times in our life when we go through the routine and use very little, if any spontaneity. I think of growing up in our church as a child listening to the long winded men saying the prayer only so they could hear themselves talk. Those types of prayers meant nothing to me. Moreno gives an example of repeating a prayer that has been recited many times. The speaker can choose to merely repeat it or give it life with his own spontaneity. (Nolte, 2008, pp. 112-113) Spontaneity cannot be stored up like some forms of energy. It is available in the moment and the “here and now”. (Nolte, 2008, p. 114) The warm up process is a part of the creative process and essential to being able to be spontaneous. Warming up is similar to an athlete preparing or warming up for an event. (Nolte, 2008, p. 128) Moreno uses the word “conserve” to refer to a product of spontaneity and creativity. (Nolte, 2008, p. 120)

Many of our conserves have served us well, but the way we relate to our conserves can be positive and negative. The repeated prayer or song, like the Star Spangled Banner, may be good products of the originator’s creativity, but if they are not repeated with the individual’s own spontaneity, they will probably come out dull, lifeless, and meaningless. (Nolte, 2008, pp. 122-123) If we become controlled by the conserves, we risk becoming dull, boring, and mechanical people. (Nolte, 2008, p. 126)

Looking back, I remember struggling with anxiety in my early teens. I suppose that I knew it was excessive, but was either too embarrassed to ask for help or did not think it would make a difference. Initially, I tried to control it with alcohol. Later, I began to combat it by facing it, but it was not until I began to participate in psychodrama workshops that I was able to overcome it.

For many, psychodrama is a big part of the solution. Psychodrama was developed by Jacob L. Moreno. He defined it as exploring the truth by dramatic methods. We live in the same world with each other, but we all experience it differently. My truth or perception of this world is different than yours and anyone else’s. Psychodrama explores an individual’s perception of the world or universe (Nolte, Guide to Training, 2009, p. 1). Some people are leery. If we can get people past the name, “psychodrama”, and into the action of a drama, potential critics will soon see the benefits. After all, we do not have a problem with the word, “psychology”, even though it begins with “psycho”. Getting past the closed minds in this world is important, but it is possible if we begin earlier in the life process. For a lot of people, the older we get, the more closed minded we become. Many may be content living a controlled conserved life rather than a more spontaneous one. (Nolte, The Psychodrama Papers, 2008, p. 126) Psychodrama is therapeutic and uses parts of many therapy theories. To me, psychodrama uses concepts of Person-Centered, Existential, and Gestalt therapies because it promotes genuineness, empathetic listening, non-judgmental sharing, and the premise that most people have it in them to find the solutions to their issues. It could be the best way to become more self-aware of who we are, and why. When we become more self-aware of the unconscious awareness, or the dark side, or shadow, we are able to make better choices in life (Ken Wilber, 2008, p. 43). Using psychodrama techniques early would help people understand themselves and others better in the developmental process. Carl Rogers’ three conditions to creating a growth promoting climate for our children might be key for causing change and growth earlier in life (Rogers, 1980, pp. 115-116). Imagine if we taught children that it is safe to be genuine with each other? What if our children had less of a desire to put up fronts or facades with each other? What if our children learned to accept and care for each other unconditionally? What if our children are taught to listen without judgment and really understand their classmates? I am thinking back about the possibility of feeling free to share my feelings of inadequacy and anxiety without fear. I am sure I would not have been the only one with those feelings. Instead, I kept them inside and felt alone in my struggles. If we are free to express and share these issues, the process would build self-esteem and self-confidence, which would go a long way in preventing drug use and other destructive actions of youth and adults. With psychodrama, we are able to free ourselves from blocks to our spontaneity and creativity. (Nolte, 2008, pp. 127-128) When we are more spontaneous and creative, our lives become more enjoyable.

Our society has it backwards. We are not preventative; we are, instead, more punitive. Money is not an issue when we jump on the punishment wagon. Put a bandage on it and go on with our lives. Our society does not have the “we” attitude. It is more of the “me” and “mine” attitude. A more preventative society is extremely necessary, especially with identifying and treating anxiety. To do that, we have to be informed and educated in the mental health field. We have to be a more empathetic society. Teachers and educators have to be those that genuinely care about our students and be more aware of the harmful effects of anxiety and the possible dangers of strict compliance with our societal conserves. Educators are in prime positions to influence our youth and should be valued by our society. When we help others to be more spontaneous and creative, they will be more able to overcome anxiety and reach their potential and live more enjoyable lives.

References

(n.d.). Retrieved October 30, 2012, from Merrium-Webster Web site: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anxiety

(n.d.). Retrieved October 29, 2012, from Free Dictionary Web site: http://www.medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/anxiety

American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Arlington: American Psychiatric Association.

St.Clair, K. (2012, October 26). M.S.W. (T. Vitz, Interviewer)

J.L. Moreno, M. (1953). Who Shall Survive?, 2nd Edition. Beacon, New York.

Ken Wilber, T. P. (2008). Integral Life Practice. Boston & London: Integral Books.

Moreno, J. (1955). Theory of Spontaneity-Creativity. Sociometry, Vol. 18, No. 4, Sociometry and the Science of Man, 105-118.

Morrison, J. (1995). DSM-IV Made Easy. New York: The Guilford Press.

Nolte, J. (2008). The Psychodrama Papers. Hartford: Encounter Publications.

Nolte, J. (2009). Guide to Training. Retrieved February 14, 2012, from National Psychodrama Training Center: http://www.nationalpsychodramatrainingcenter.com

Rogers, C. R. (1980). A Way of Being. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

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It might be a million dollar case

July 19, 2012

          What is a person’s job worth, especially in this economy?   When Walter was arrested for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), he knew he was in jeopardy of losing his job as a salesman even though he was the top salesman in the company.  This arrest was not only about Walter and his job, it was about his ability to support his wife and their (3) children.   There was no doubt that a conviction for this type of offense would mean termination of his employment and a major detour in this family’s life path. 

           Walter trusted the breath test and the officer to get it right, but he and the jury found out that the officer and the machine were on a different team and it wasn’t a team for Justice.   Walter’s breath specimen produced an alcohol concentration result of .149 on the Intoxilyzer 5000 about an hour and twenty minutes after the officer stopped him.  (A .08 or higher is considered intoxicated)  Walter admitted to (7) drinks and that “maybe he had two too many”.  His field sobriety tests weren’t too bad, but he hopped a bit to retain his balance and wasn’t able to stand in place with one foot in front of the other.  The bottom line is that Walter’s actions on the video could be explained and they were not the result of being intoxicated.

            We always want to know how another lawyer won a big case.  We get questions like, “How did you overcome the presumption of intoxication?” or “Who was your expert?” and others.   I can share some of how we won this one, but there isn’t any one reason.  Many lawyers don’t understand what it takes to win.  We go into the courtroom with the culmination of life experiences that we use.   It is caring about our clients, and being genuine that make the difference, not how much law or science we know.  I think trials are like football games.  While they aren’t games at all to most of us, every inch can be the difference.  Momentum is also very important.  We’ve got to grab it and keep it as much as we can until the trial is over.  We begin with ourselves in jury selection.      

Jury Selection

             As I sat there while the prosecutor was attempting to conform the jury to his way of thinking, I was, as usual, trying to blow it off and act like I didn’t care what he said.  Reality is that I was a little bothered by all the tactics the prosecutor used to try to win.   Sometimes, I have a difficult time coming up with words to describe my feelings.  I have to be able to slow down and find the feeling because I know I’m prone to skip right over the feelings and the reasons for them and run to anger.  So, I asked the jurors, “What is going on with me right now?”  They knew it.   Ms. White said, “It’s written all over your face”.   I responded, “You must have been talking to my wife because that is what she says”.   “What do you see on my face?”  “You look irritated”.   “Yes. Anyone else?”   The word, “Frustrated”, comes out.  “Yes, I get frustrated”.  “Why am I irritated and frustrated?”   If they don’t answer, I give them some examples to assist them a little.  “It bothers me when I constantly hear the words, “this defendant” or “the defendant” from the prosecutor”.  “This man has a name and it is Walter….”  “Phrases like “Police officers let people go all the time that aren’t intoxicated”, and “we aren’t talking about drunk; we are talking about intoxicated”.  These comments make me feel helpless to help Walter because I want to win for him.    

            The biggest issue in this case was the breath test result, but there are several sub-issues that are also important.  I have a list and try to cover them during the Voir Dire process and trial.  i.e.  Not performing perfectly on the field sobriety tests.   I used something I stole from a lawyer, named Stuart Kinard.  Years ago, I would use a thick poster board with the words, “If the government bought it…” with the answer hidden behind some butcher paper taped below it.  After the jurors would come up with answers like, “it cost too much” to finish the sentence, I would rip the butcher paper away to reveal the answer- “It must be O.K.”.  Well, I admit that I used it again, but with power point this time.   But, I did tell them the story about the butcher paper so it didn’t come off as being too slick, corny or tricky.   All I wanted them to know is that Walter is not guilty even if there is a breath test result above the legal limit.                                                              

Opening Statement 

            I knew Walter’s story and I told them everything and more.   “This is a case about being exhausted, not intoxicated”.  “It is about the war on drinking and driving and the innocent casualties that always come with war”.    

Cross Examination

            I was just having fun with it.  Sometimes we get too serious and can’t be ourselves or we think that we can’t say certain things in the supposed solemn courtroom.   Thanks to psychodrama and other personal work, I’m beginning to know myself and not afraid to be human.  The cross was simply telling our story with the state’s witnesses.  

            We know what we need to win the case and we know what the state’s witness wants the jury to believe.  I can’t control the state’s technical supervisor or the police officer.  The sooner we learn that we can’t control anyone else, the better we will be.  I know they want to win and that they believe that the breath machine and their opinions are absolutely correct.  The state’s technical supervisor is a strong, good looking female.   I know I’m not going to beat her with her science, but I have to constantly remind myself not to fight and argue with her answers.   The first question/statement to her is something like, “You’re pretty good at this”  and “I’m certainly not going to fight with you”  I hope I didn’t, but I think I might have said, “You’re better looking than me or not bad looking either”.  Sometimes, she would go into a long narrative about how great the machine is.  Instead of objecting and looking like she was hurting us, I might acknowledge her narrative with a question.  “It’s hard to answer questions with a simple yes or no, isn’t it?”   “By the way, did you know we can go to eBay and buy one of those intoxilyzers for about $250.00?”   “If I buy one, can I hire you to come set it up and get it going so I can use it at my party?”   Just be yourself and have fun with it.        

            Walter’s story came out and the jury knew that it would take a lot of alcohol for a person to really have a .149 alcohol concentration.   At a minimum, the jurors had doubts about the accuracy of the machine and they didn’t want to hurt him.    

Closing

            We’ve learned that we can’t win it in closing and I believe it.  We started winning this case at the beginning when the jurors were telling me how I was feeling and why.  At the same time, we never really know what the jurors are thinking and we certainly don’t want to lose it in closing. 

            I always like to repeat our “power statement” or theme as much as possible without wearing it out.   I just talked to them about what I’ve been thinking about lately.  “It seems that our world has become so competitive.  We’ve got all these teams that want to win.  We’ve got the Republicans vs. the Democrats; neither wanting to agree or say anything positive about the other for fear that they might lose some edge.  We’ve got the police team, the prosecutor team, and we’ve got our team.  This isn’t a game to us.  It isn’t about winning or losing, it is about Walter’s life.  Why can’t John (the prosecutor) say the name, Walter, especially when he knows his duty “is not to convict, but to see that justice is done”?  They’ve got their white board in their office that lists all the cases going to trial that will display the results for everyone in the office to see.  What they need is a column entitled, “Justice was done” with a place for yes or no.”       

 Conclusion   

            Sometimes we become numb to consequences of convictions or marks on our clients.  We are sometimes sucked into the money man’s propaganda.  We don’t think about what it is really like to spend (5) years in prison or be under a probation officer’s thumb for even a year.  What would it feel like to be required to give a urine specimen while someone is watching it fall from your urethra to a cup?   How does it feel to be under that thumb?  We might not allow ourselves to think about our client’s struggle to keep or get a job and support their family.  Think about your law license and what you might do if it is taken away.  We are the only ones who have the ability to fight, teach, and educate the people about what is going on.  If we can’t see what is happening, we will not be able to get the people to see.  Is it really all about the money for you?

Overcoming Tough Issues in Trial, Our Story

January 6, 2012

Our Story-One Size Doesn’t Fit All

The story has already been told in jury selection and opening statement. And really, the jurors already know what they will do or at least know what they want to do. Now, I just need to tell it again in cross examination and in direct with Carolynn. This was a case about a young girl who was drinking and driving in the middle of a war, a case about a girl who trusted a machine to tell the truth. Tim Evans told us at Rusty Duncan and few years ago about how practicing law has changed over the years. Apparently, lawyers didn’t have to deal with all the wars years ago. This war on drinking and driving is unfair to the people because in war innocent civilians are sometimes injured or killed. To win consistently, we need themes, theories, power statements, and our story. One size doesn’t fit all though.

Carolynn’s story didn’t just come to me on the morning of trial. You’ve heard them say, “C’mon, it is just a DWI case”. No, Carolynn’s story and her case, like a fingerprint, is different than any other DWI you’ve seen. While there can be similarities, Carolynn’s story includes her life experiences, up to the time she walked in my office. It includes what she has been through and what she is going through in her life. We’ve got to spend many hours outside the courtroom to get to know our clients and their stories and the issues that concern us about their case. The concerning issues are key in jury selection. I begin making my list when I meet clients for the first time.

If someone can tell you what happened, they can also show you. By using psychodrama techniques, Carolynn can show us scenes from her life and from the day of her arrest. Through this process, we get to know and care about our clients. We are able to find the “bad guy” that Dan Hurley has told us about. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a particular person; it can be society, the government, or anything. We learn how the propaganda war may have affected Carolynn. She felt guilty about drinking and driving and being arrested. We see what really happened after the video was turned off. We see that she is telling the truth about the Trooper not being in her presence for 15 minutes prior to the test. Also, her memory of the events in the jail, are relevant to her mental and physical faculties. We are able to see the inside of the jail. We see the colors, we hear the sounds, and we can smell it. “We” is everyone in the courtroom. If we don’t care about our clients, why would a jury? If we don’t know our client’s story, how can we tell it?

The worst thing we can do in a trial is to bore the jury. From time to time, I entertain the possibility of becoming a judge one day. I quickly change my mind after thinking about being trapped up there on the thrown every day. Usually we don’t realize it or care about being boring because we are too busy asking our next great question. I understand that none of us will ever be David Guinn funny, but that is alright because we have to be ourselves to be genuine. We can only dream about the possibility. I’ve learned over the years, and still have to constantly remind myself, not to fight with the witnesses. Again, I have to resist the urge to lose control of myself. I make my points and move on. Since I knew the issues in this case, I didn’t waste time arguing about the angle of the stimulus and the speed in which it passed and other irrelevant matters. I tell my story in cross knowing that the witness’s answer will often be disagreeable. Sit in the Trooper’s shoes and feel what it is like to be in his position. What is behind the standard testimony that comes out so freely on direct examination by the prosecutor? What is true about him that he doesn’t want to admit or say?

I didn’t want to fight with the technical supervisor or show him how smart I was either. When we fight with the state’s experts, we will lose with the jury even if we win a point or two in the process. I simply got what I needed that was relevant to win this case and got out.

Closing and Conclusion

If the case isn’t won by closing argument, it’s probably too late, but I believe it certainly can be lost there. It is again time to give the control to the jury. We give them the power and reason to help our clients. It isn’t really about Carolynn anyway, it is about the jury. How can their decision help Carolynn and them at the same time? Maybe they don’t want the “bad guy” to get them or their family. Maybe they don’t like betrayal. After a few days in trial, the jury found Carolynn Not Guilty of DWI despite strong breath test evidence. Several of the jurors wanted to hug her. Why? You could call it love, but they cared about her.

The jury changed when I gave up my control and shared a part of me. By being genuine and acknowledging them and their beliefs, we became a group for justice.

Justice Does Not Always Come For All

November 25, 2011

Justice does not always come for all.  Maybe justice just takes time.  A jury convicted Judge Suzanne Wooten of bribery last Friday and I believe wrongfully.  This was a trial involving politics and the constant struggle for power.  

“Mr.” John R. Roach, Sr. probably didn’t appreciate the fact that Suzanne ran against and beat incumbent, Charles Sandoval.  Everyone involved in Collin County politics knew that while, John Roach, Sr. was in charge, “if you fight, he will indict”  (from my friend Montgomery).  Mr. Roach enjoyed instilling fear in everyone.  I feel sorry for his wife and family because I don’t think you can turn off the need for power when you go home.   It tells you a lot about the man, when he insists on being called “Judge” by his friends at informal settings and by his employees after he left the bench to become the District Attorney.  Judge Suzanne Wooten was just one of his many targets.   Fortunately, his efforts to prevent Judge Greg Willis from becoming the Collin County District Attorney were unsuccessful.   Greg will bring back some respect and integrity to our County.  Greg doesn’t need to demand respect.  He gets it because we want to give it.  We got lucky this time folks.   The John Roach, Sr. and Charles Sandoval’s will be back.  Who will be left to fight?  Who will have Suzanne’s guts and courage?

Charles Sandoval should never have been a judge anywhere.  He was and is, in my opinion, a very bad lawyer and judge.  Yet, the people, through our partisan politics, voted him into office.  He was the kind of judge, like many others, who would more than likely make you pay if you did not support him.  Suzanne knew the probable consequences when she decided to run against him.  She was given money by people who had been the recipients of his authority and wanted him out.  Many lawyers would not support Suzanne publicly for fear of retaliation by Sandoval if she lost the election.  Suzanne had the courage to take on the bully and beat him soundly in his bid for reelection.  Since the controversial donor to her campaign had a case pending in her court, she had a visiting judge hear his case to avoid any conflict of interest.  Now, think about all the donations given to campaigns from law firms, PACs, etc.   Why do they do it?  Do they enjoy giving money away?  Where is their Indictment?   Suzanne wasn’t bribed by anyone.  She did what most of us didn’t have the courage to do. 

As my good friend, Matt, put it, “A judge is now a convicted felon.  Suzanne will be disbarred, her law license and a lifetime of work is taken away in the blink of an eye.  An assistant attorney general will receive a hero’s welcome upon his arrival back to Austin.  The public will undoubtedly rejoice in the downfall and destruction of a lawyer.  An awful day for our profession…”  Is that how we are supposed to treat others?  I believe the prosecution violated their duty.  Their primary duty is not to convict, but to see that justice is done.  How does the Golden Rule fit in with all of this?  Is it really justice to ruin Judge Suzanne Wooten’s life?   I don’t think so. 

The assistant attorney general, John Roach, Sr., Chris Milner, Greg Davis and anyone else who had a part in this prosecution ought to be ashamed, not proud.  Judge Suzanne Wooten is the hero. 

I thank Judge Suzanne Wooten for standing up to a bad judge and the self-proclaimed Daddy of Collin County, Mr. John Roach, Sr.  I thank her for showing us what it means to be courageous.  This fight for justice is never ending.  Sometimes, we feel defeated, but we sleep and get up to fight some more.   I hope Suzanne will get back up and keep fighting in her journey.   I pray for peace for Suzanne and her family.   

Note- while I’m here:

 There has to be a better way to select our judges.  Although we’ve been fortunate lately (for the most part) in Collin County, partisan politics causes people to support and vote blindly.  It isn’t about getting the best person for public office; it is about picking teams and trying to win.  It is merely a game and unfortunately, most voters are simply, uninformed or affected by the propaganda that is constantly pushed in our faces.  The people that are starved for power will do what it takes and play the silly games to get what they desire.  If our local group of lawyers were to anonymously choose lawyers, who would be great judges, the list would include lawyers who would never choose to run because they would have to bite their tongues and maybe even lie to satisfy the “right” thinking, gullible individuals.   The list would surely exclude some judges currently sitting in our courts. 

The more I think and write about this, the more I blame myself for not having Suzanne’s courage years ago.  We humans are weak, scared, and selfish at times.  Doing the right thing is not always easy and usually involves risk.   I wish I had all the answers.  This world is not, and will never be, perfect.

Ready for Trial

November 7, 2011

We were ready and willing to try Kyle’s DWI case today and had a good chance for a Not Guilty. The state made a great offer that would prevent the possibility of a DWI conviction. Offers like that aren’t given to “plea lawyers”. Prosecutors know which lawyers will “Tee it up” and the ones that never will.

Some of the ones that “never will” say things like, “Everything will be O.K.” or “I’ve got it under control”

Who is Timothy Cole?

April 10, 2009

Timothy Cole is the name of a man who once lived on this earth. Tim spent the last 13 years of his life in prison for a crime that he did not commit. When he was 25 years old, he was wrongfully convicted of raping a white woman and spent the next 13 years of his life in prison. I said white woman didn’t I? Does it matter? Well, it shouldn’t matter, but I believe everything matters when you are the one sitting in that chair with (12) jurors staring at you while the witnesses point at you and say, “He is the one, the black man wearing the black suit with the white shirt”.

We could say, “Well, our system isn’t perfect” or “that is just the way it goes sometimes”. But, we won’t do that when it is happening to “one of our own”.

Let’s think about what we are doing between the ages of 25 and 38. I’m leaving Texas Tech about a year before Tim was accused of rape. Tim is enjoying his life as a Tech student. Maybe he is thinking, “Life is good”. He has already served in the military. His parents, a Bell Helicopter manager and a schoolteacher, are proud of their son. Tim has no idea, or thought, that he will ever be accused of rape and be locked up for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, I’ve just experienced one of the best times of my life at Tech. I’m not thinking about the Tim Coles among us because it is all about me, and my life.

Tim is sitting in prison, and I am in Houston going to law school. My purpose is to go get a law degree so I can get out and make some money. Isn’t the money, the reason we live on this earth? The thought of defending Tim or anyone like him doesn’t enter my mind. Tim sits in his cell today as he does everyday, and I’m going to the beach in Galveston; riding my bicycle down the seawall; throwing bread at the seagulls; fishing in Baytown; catching a lot of shrimp; going out with my friends; and spending time with my family. Tim is spending time with his family too. He has a phone at his ear and a glass barrier in between him and his mother. He can see her tears slip down her face. My time with my family is more than a telephone call and I take it for granted. I don’t realize how special it is to be able to hug someone.

We are playing cards and board games at the lake house with my family while Tim is playing cards with other men in prison. The floor is a cold concrete floor with a drain in the middle of it. There is a stainless steel commode without a seat or a privacy door. The toilet paper is worse than what we get at a roadside park, like the one near Benjamin, Texas. Of course, there are no girlfriends or wives as God intended for us.

Well, I’m 29 years old now and have met the girl I’ve hoped for and we are getting married. A few years of living life go by and we have all three of our children now. Time is flying by for me, but Tim’s time is moving slower.

It is 1999 and I’m in Wyoming attending the Trial Lawyer’s College. It is beautiful out here and I’m learning things that I wish I learned in law school. Tim is in prison dying today from being locked up for 13 years, but the prison officials are calling it asthma complications.

On April 7, 2009, Judge Charlie Baird exonerates Timothy Cole. Judge Baird cited poor police work that destroyed, “downplayed or deliberately ignored” evidence showing that Cole did not abduct and rape a fellow Tech student. “The evidence is crystal clear that Timothy Cole died in prison an innocent man, and I find to a 100 percent moral certainty that he did not commit the crime of which he was convicted.” Judge Baird called for reforms to eye-witness identification, prisoner access to scientific evidence that could prove their innocence and compensation for the exonerated. What can money do for Tim and his family now?

Jerry Wayne Johnson, the actual rapist, confessed to the crime by sending letters to prosecutors and judges in 1994, but they were ignored. The innocence project attempted to be heard at a hearing in Lubbock where the case was originally prosecuted, but the judge refused their request. Tim’s family knew they had the rapist’s admission and DNA evidence that proved Tim’s innocence, but couldn’t understand why they couldn’t just say that “Tim is innocent”.

Texas leads the nation with 36 exonerations. Why? How can that be, with all the rights provided by our State and Federal Constitutions? We have the right not to testify; the Presumption of Innocence; the requirement on the Government to prove guilt Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. These words and phrases sound pretty good, but mean very little in our world. Many of us will go to church this Sunday and will be reminded of the unselfish gift of forgiveness. Yet, we live our lives during the week and forget the big picture. We live our selfish lives; we judge others, we hate, and don’t think about what our brothers, like Timothy Cole, are going through. Tim could have accepted the probation offer like many innocent people before him, but he was a man that would not give in to the pressures applied by our “justice system”. I will not forget Timothy Cole.