Public Defenders

'Defending the Damned' Isn't Pretty

A new book on the work being done by public defenders in and around Chicago doesn’t sugarcoat the aggressively adversarial nature of their practice.

But “Defending the Damned” does provide a fascinating in-your-face, fly-on-the-wall view of what actually happens in the Cook County Public Defender’s Office, as lawyers go about their daily work of representing often-guilty criminals, according to an Eric Zorn column in the Chicago Tribune today.

In a “a truly adversarial proceeding,” such as the trial of a man accused of murdering a Chicago police officer, “I hate the mother of the victim,” says Marijane Placek of the Cook County Public Defender’s Office, in the book by Kevin Davis. “I hate the father of the victim, I hate the children of the victim. I hate every part of it. It’s actually a terrible thing, but I can literally hate them when I’m fighting. I have to.”

Of course, she is sorry that the officer was murdered, Placek tells Zorn. “That goes without saying. But a courtroom is a battleground. … The one thing you never want is a lawyer who can see both sides. If I start sympathizing with the victim’s family, I might not be able to fight.”

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