In case you missed it, Chuck Rosenthal resigned today.
Somewhere, Lloyd Kelley is dancing a spiteful and tasteless jig.
Mark Bennett is already having a mini-celebration on his blog, and given the events of the past two months, I can't say that I blame him or the general public for their feelings. Chuck's resignation was overdue, and every day he stayed in office after the revelations of December 27th was a day too long.
He had told his staff that the idea of him having a problem with pain killers was insane, and then he tells the world the contrary in his letter of resignation.
That being said, I take no joy in his resignation. To me, Chuck's resignation today is very much akin to every time I tried a case and heard a jury pronounce sentence. I would be satisfied and happy that justice had been done, but I took no pleasure in the ruin of a person's life.
Justice can leave you feeling ambivalent at time.
I don't believe in absolutes.
No person is completely good. No person is completely evil.
In the blogs and postings I've read over the past two months, I've read people in a frenzy over Chuck's actions. One poster on the Chronicle's website said something along the line of "the worst person Chuck ever prosecuted can't be as bad as him."
Chuck did very bad things. He left an Office that he led for seven years in utter chaos and shambles. He left a distrust between the general public and the Criminal Justice System that will take years, if not decades, to repair.
But does that make him worse than a people who have killed children? I think not.
History won't be kind to Chuck Rosenthal.
But in his 30 years in public service, he wasn't all bad. He prosecuted some very bad and very dangerous people. In some ways, he made this community safer, albeit through one case at a time. The oft told legend of what Johnny Holmes once said about Chuck when asked why he didn't fire him was that Holmes stated: "He keeps doing the wrong thing, but for the right reasons."
I don't know if that story was true or not.
There is the tale of Chuck working with homicide detectives on a case where a suspect was in custody, but a possibility still existed that a kidnapped child was still alive. Chuck supposedly sent in Homicide Detectives to pose as the suspect's lawyers in an attempt to determine if the child could still be found alive -- an unquestionably illegal and unethical decision on his part.
And he knew that when he did it. He also knew the consequences for it would be most probable termination from the Office and disbarrment.
But he sent them in with the hopes of saving a life, anyway.
You can make your own call about whether or not that action was good or evil.
Don't get me wrong. Chuck's resignation today was a relief, and a hope that things can now begin to get back to normal (even though there is a long road ahead of us).
But, I can't help thinking of that one portion of Mark Antony's oration:
The evil that men do lives after them
The good is oft interred with their bones.