One of the more awkward situations that a prosecutor can find themselves in at any time is when a friend, or someone they know is charged with a criminal offense. Depending on how long you stay at the Office, it is just something that is bound to happen. If it isn't the situation where you have a friend or family member charged, you will most certainly have someone call you at some point because a "friend of a friend" is charged.
It is an interesting situation because of how many times prosecutors have listened to a friend or family member of a Defendant when they are trying insist that their loved one didn't do it. Prosecutors are confronted routinely by the zealous family members who will say everything from "How do you sleep at night?" all the way to down to wishing them (and sometimes their family) death.
Ah yes, you never feel more popular than when you are a prosecutor in the proximity of the Defendant's family and friends.
DA Texan wrote a good illustration over how it works in the juvenile system with his post "He's a Good Kid." I would imagine that the situation is even more magnified if the person charged is a juvenile.
Sometimes, it is difficult to refrain from being a smart-ass and respond, "Oh, I'm sorry, should I not be concerned that your son shot this kid eleven times? Am I really just being an asshole by proceeding?"
It's moments like today when I read about Craig Washington's indictment in the Chronicle that a prosecutor understands, maybe a little bit where those family members are coming from.
It is a very conflicting situation. On the one hand, Craig Washington is a friend of mine. I consider him to be someone I like very much. He is an honest and sincere man who follows his own code of ethics in a way that most people wouldn't have the courage to. He is one of those people that when I see him at the elevator banks around the CJC, I can't help but smile and just want to talk to him. He re-defines charismatic and its just always great to talk to him.
I had read about the incident with which he is now charged when it first happened. And at that point, knowing how much I like Craig, I made it my active duty to avoid learning anything about the case to the best of my ability. I think I've pretty much limited it to what I've read in the papers.
I did that for two reasons.
The first being that I didn't want to ever run the risk of doing anything improper. I don't want to be the person out there yelling "He didn't do it!" when I know nothing of the facts.
But more importantly, I didn't want to run the risk of learning something that might potentially change my opinion of someone I respect and consider to be a friend. And I would never want to turn my back on that friend.
I know nothing about the charges other than what the Chronicle has written, and I don't want to know anything about them. I wish to remain blissfully ignorant and pray that everything turns out for the best.
But at the risk of giving Mark Bennett the opportunity to yell "I told you so!" on his premise that prosecutors should be more mindful of what Defendants' families and friends go through, I have to say that I'm feeling more empathy today than I did yesterday.
I'm thinking that in a situation like this all you can really do is have a compassionate heart and say a little prayer:
"May Justice be Done."