Eric Zorn, writing smartly in Thursday's Tribune about Kevin Davis's new book, Defending the Damned: Inside Chicago's Cook County Public Defender's Office: "Idealists may be shocked at how much like a game criminal justice is to those entrusted to protect its principles at the horrific margins, and how much they really enjoy playing it."
Zorn was trying to explain how lawyers who defend the worst of the worst function, but it takes two sides to play a game, and the other team's the prosecution. The prosecution is supposed to be doing God's work on earth--separating evil from good and sending it packing. But a job that big might overwhelm someone who doesn't also approach it as a game: "I'll assume everyone's guilty and you assume everyone's innocent. Anything goes, and the jury picks the winner." I thought a little less of Jim Thompson in 1991, when he was leaving the office of governor, and the Sun-Times asked him about Gary Dotson, the convicted rapist cleared first by the supposed victim's recantation and then by DNA evidence. Said ex-prosecutor Thompson, who'd conducted a hearing on TV and reduced Dotson's sentence to time served (six years), "I still feel he did it."
Sometimes the game needs to be over.