Ms. Blume Won't Be the Last
Only a DA's office could threaten a defender with prosecution; with prison. Only a DA's office gets to have the full force of their jurisdiction's police officers, digging through every bit of a defender's background. Only a DA's office gets to use a challenge to a defender's integrity as a weapon.When I first read the headline that Taryn Blume's case had been dismissed, I felt relief and joy. Relief that Ms. Blume would be spared an unjustifiable prosecution and joy knowing that the DA, after two years, had finally made at least one right call.
Then I read the article. And then I was outraged.
Ms. Blume's case was not dismissed because the Orleans DA came to their senses, or something of the like. Ms. Blume's case was dismissed because, after two years of having a case reportedly involving a single witness, the state wanted more time to investigate Ms. Blume's evidence of innocence. The dismissal was a response to the judge's denial of the state's motion for continuance. The case is still being investigated and Ms. Blume could still be re-indicted.
When you get down to it, this result likely means one of three things: First, the prosecutors, who have had this case for TWO YEARS, failed to do adequate investigation into the only two (!!!) people involved and actually did such a poor job that they really need more time. Second, the state has done its investigation, knows what the facts are, and are choosing to accept this method of dismissal as a way to save face and avoid admitting the errors of their ways. Or, third: The state has done its investigation, knows what the facts are, and simply wants more time to keep Ms. Blume, her family, and her office in limbo before heading to trial or dismissing the case.
Either one of these scenarios is inexcusable. And the anger I feel at pondering these scenarios is doubled, tripled, when I realize that only the state could do this to defenders.
Only a DA's office could threaten a defender with prosecution; with prison. Only a DA's office gets to have the full force of their jurisdiction's police officers, digging through every bit of a defender's background. Only a DA's office gets to use a challenge to a defender's integrity as a weapon.
And that's why Ms. Blume's case is so important. Because it's not just about Ms. Blume; it's about all defenders. We don't have the luxury and the ability to use the power to prosecute to take down our enemies when we feel threatened or challenged. We fight incredible odds, every day. And in between trying to keep our clients out of prison, or get them into adequate housing, or keep them from being deported, we're also having to fight battles about our own integrity.
That is why we need each other. Ms. Blume's case is not the beginning and it is certainly not the end of prosecutors using pumped up criminal charges in an attempt to silence our work. To make us afraid. Now and always we MUST stick together. The power we have as a group of defenders is greater than the sum of our parts.
When Ms. Blume's case has concluded, another one of us will be targeted. So love your team. Love your office mates. Love your support staff and your office assistants and your investigators and everyone who supports the defender way. We need each other.