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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

December 15, 2018: Registration is now open for NAPD's Spring Events:
  • Executive Leadership Insitute (Frankfort, KY)
  • Train the Trainer (Frankfort, KY)
  • "We the Defenders" Investigators Conference (Biloxi, MS)
  • "We the Defenders" Social Workers/Sentencing AdvocatesConference (Biloxi, MS)
  • Team Mitigation Institute (Atlanta, GA)
Click on Events Tab for more info and to register.
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October 30, 2018: NAPD releases a video about its achievements over the 5 years since forming in November in 2013. This films was coordinated by NAPD Steering Committee Member and San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi and debuted at the Racial Justice Training and 5 Year Celebration in Baltimore, Maryland. You can watch the video HERE

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

You can watch a video about the event HERE 

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. 
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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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