I confess....I'm not sure if I'm more disturbed by the recent result in a local court case or by the fact that I completely understand it.
A man was charged with sending pictures of his genitals to an undercover cop, whom he believed was a fifteen year old girl. He was brought to trial. He was convicted. The conviction was tossed out because the Judge instructed the jury to apply the standards of their county to the conduct in deciding whether it was wrong. The law actually required him to instruct them to apply the standards of a different county because of the details of the crime. Thus the conviction was tossed on appeal.
Okay, this is ridiculous. Really, I highly doubt a grown man sending a picture of his penis to what he thought was a young girl would be any more acceptable fifteen miles away. But, the lawyer in me gets it. The statute is clear on what standards applied and the instruction was wrong. It violated the defendant's rights. And we give rights to defendants for a reason....because there's the chance we'll be wrongly put in that chair one day and we want rights then. We can't change the game just because this defendant is utterly despicable. Darn presumption of innocence and all that.
I haven't been a practicing attorney for over three and a half years. But I really think that attorney-brain never goes away. The dirty little secret of the legal world is that you learn pretty much nothing about practicing law in law school. Oddly, this is even more true for the "elite" schools (yeah, like the one I went to). You do, however, learn to think differently. I felt this most clearly in Contracts class. There truly was one moment when I was befuddled and then the next moment when a cartoon light bulb went off and I just "got it." I remember a classmate turning to me first year and remarking how he now totally understood the remark "It depends on what your definition of 'is' is." Lawyer-think isn't always something that jives with emotional think, or even with what's "right," but once it is there, it's there for life.