I’d always wanted to be a lawyer, but unlike Travis Williams — the subject of this Op-Doc video — I never wanted to be a public defender. I didn’t understand how anyone could represent people who did terrible things. “Criminals” were not people I wanted to help.
Then, in 2009, while working in the legal department at A&E Television, I met Jonathan Rapping, the founder of what’s now Gideon’s Promise. He invited me to his client-centered legal training program in Alabama. At the start of training, Mr. Rapping asked each lawyer to articulate why he or she chose to become a public defender. One young man said he had a brother with Down syndrome, so he wanted to help people who could not navigate the legal system for themselves. Another said he had been arrested as a teenager, so he wanted to help kids like him who didn’t know their rights. Their stories moved me. I learned more about the true state of the criminal justice system during that week than I knew from all my years practicing law. I wanted other people to learn about what they were doing and so I decided to make this film.