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Enough

“Sitting down across from my client doesn't mean we don't care about the people of this community, the people of this state and the people of this country.”  Criticized by some for putting her hand on Cruz' shoulder, she also characterized him as a “broken human being, a broken child.” 
People who knew nothing attacked him in the strongest terms.
 
The President called him a “sicko,” and referred to him as a “sicko shooter.”   https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/22/health/trump-mental-illness-comments-bn/index.html?sr=twCNN022218trump-mental-illness-comments-bn0747PMVODtop.
 
NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch called him “an insane monster” who is “nuts” and “crazy.”  https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/22/health/trump-mental-illness-comments-bn/index.html?sr=twCNN022218trump-mental-illness-comments-bn0747PMVODtop
 
Enough.  Enough of the tribal reactions to this incident.  Enough of the insults.  Enough of the demonizing, the otherizing. 
 
I have never been so proud of being a public defender as I was watching Gordon Weekes and Melissa McNeil of the Broward County Public Defender's Office in their initial representation of Nikolas Cruz in the days following the horrific school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Weekes stated that Cruz had “significant mental illness.”  “He is deeply troubled and emotionally he has gone through a lot in a short period of time with the loss of this mother,” he said. “This young man is deeply disturbed.”  http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/02/16/defense-attorneys-nikolas-cruz-is-deeply-disturbed-child-who-fell-through-cracks.html.  “He feels between the cracks…”
 
Co-counsel Melissa McNeil brought empathy and wisdom in her comments.  She addressed the community, saying she “feels [the] pain” the community is feeling.  “I have tremendous compassion for the families,” she said. “Sitting down across from my client doesn't mean we don't care about the people of this community, the people of this state and the people of this country.”  Criticized by some for putting her hand on Cruz' shoulder, she also characterized him as a “broken human being, a broken child.” 
 
Both Weekes and McNeil brought the judgment and insight of years of experience as public defenders, years that allowed them to see the human and the child as more than just a “killer.”  They saw a boy, a child, a fellow human who had stumbled and was broken.  They knew that the death of a father, the death of a mother, a developing brain, the presence of autism or depression, growing up, always being alone, had to be considered before judging this young man.  They knew that there was more to him than just being a “sicko.”  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/14/us/nikolas-cruz-florida-shooting.html?action=click&contentCollection=U.S.&module=RelatedCoverage®ion=EndOfArticle&pgtype=article
 
It did not take long for prosecutors to gravitate toward using the incident as a time for revenge, calling the case “certainly the type of case the death penalty was designed for.”  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/24/us/nikolas-cruz-parkland-florida.html.
This despite the fact that prosecutors certainly did not have the time to hear the evidence in mitigation, to weigh whether this was the rare case (if ever) in which the death penalty should be sought. 
 
Enough of the quick judgments.  Now is the time for wisdom, wisdom that comes from these public defenders.
People who knew nothing attacked him in the strongest terms.
 
The President called him a “sicko,” and referred to him as a “sicko shooter.”   https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/22/health/trump-mental-illness-comments-bn/index.html?sr=twCNN022218trump-mental-illness-comments-bn0747PMVODtop.
 
NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch called him “an insane monster” who is “nuts” and “crazy.”  https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/22/health/trump-mental-illness-comments-bn/index.html?sr=twCNN022218trump-mental-illness-comments-bn0747PMVODtop
 
Enough.  Enough of the tribal reactions to this incident.  Enough of the insults.  Enough of the demonizing, the otherizing. 
 
I have never been so proud of being a public defender as I was watching Gordon Weekes and Melissa McNeil of the Broward County Public Defender's Office in their initial representation of Nikolas Cruz in the days following the horrific school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Weekes stated that Cruz had “significant mental illness.”  “He is deeply troubled and emotionally he has gone through a lot in a short period of time with the loss of this mother,” he said. “This young man is deeply disturbed.”  http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/02/16/defense-attorneys-nikolas-cruz-is-deeply-disturbed-child-who-fell-through-cracks.html.  “He feels between the cracks…”
 
Co-counsel Melissa McNeil brought empathy and wisdom in her comments.  She addressed the community, saying she “feels [the] pain” the community is feeling.  “I have tremendous compassion for the families,” she said. “Sitting down across from my client doesn't mean we don't care about the people of this community, the people of this state and the people of this country.”  Criticized by some for putting her hand on Cruz' shoulder, she also characterized him as a “broken human being, a broken child.” 
 
Both Weekes and McNeil brought the judgment and insight of years of experience as public defenders, years that allowed them to see the human and the child as more than just a “killer.”  They saw a boy, a child, a fellow human who had stumbled and was broken.  They knew that the death of a father, the death of a mother, a developing brain, the presence of autism or depression, growing up, always being alone, had to be considered before judging this young man.  They knew that there was more to him than just being a “sicko.”  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/14/us/nikolas-cruz-florida-shooting.html?action=click&contentCollection=U.S.&module=RelatedCoverage®ion=EndOfArticle&pgtype=article
 
It did not take long for prosecutors to gravitate toward using the incident as a time for revenge, calling the case “certainly the type of case the death penalty was designed for.”  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/24/us/nikolas-cruz-parkland-florida.html.
This despite the fact that prosecutors certainly did not have the time to hear the evidence in mitigation, to weigh whether this was the rare case (if ever) in which the death penalty should be sought. 
 
Enough of the quick judgments.  Now is the time for wisdom, wisdom that comes from these public defenders.

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NAPD News

July 1, 2018: General Registration opens for the “WE THE DEFENDERS” TRAINING CONFERENCE,  November 26-29, 2018, Indianapolis, IN

Due to overwhelming demand, NAPD will again offer this comprehensive Investigator and Social Worker/Sentencing Advocate training experience! The program will include one track for Investigators and a separate track for Social Worker/Sentencing Advocates.  Hear from nationally recognized experts who will share their knowledge on a wide range of topics relevant to the work you do each and every day.  Network with other criminal defense practitioners from around the country and find your tribe. Registration closes Septemebr 3.
This one of a kind conference is developed through surveys of the registrants.   You have a say in what sessions are offered and will have multiple options during the conference.
Click here to watch as the schedule develops based on your suggestions.
Click here to see the faculty list. 
Click here to register for the Investigator Conference Track.
Click here to register for the Social Worker/Sentencing Advocate Conference Track.
Click here to make a hotel reservation at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown.

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January 23, 2018: In response to US Attorney General Jeff Session's reversal of prior policy on the imposition of fines and fees for criminal defendants, NAPD submitted the following letter on behalf of the public defender community. You can read the letter HERE
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January 17, 2018: The 2018 NAPD Investigators Conference and 2018 Social Workers & Sentencing Advocates Institute (March 26-29, 2018 in Denver, CO) are now at full capacity and closed for registration. A wait list is being developed.
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November 28, 2017: NAPD has uploaded videos of the presentations from the 2017 NAPD Workloads Conference in St. Louis (held November 17-18). Members can access these valuable presentations on MyGideon by logging into their NAPD account.
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