Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Clive Stafford Smith

Most of us have used the Internet at one time or another to track down whatever became of people they went to school with. It's been very cool to see how successful many of my friends and classmates from college have become and to renew acquaintances with some old mates. But there is probably no one that I'm prouder of having downed a few pints with and gotten slaughtered at "301" by than Clive Stafford Smith. It was only recently that I found out that Clive (awarded an OBE a few years ago) has been one of the world's foremost legal opponents of the death penalty for the past 20 years. It's worth a google to find some of his writings and interviews - he has been amazingly effective in defending poor and indigent people, the ones that can't afford the lawyers that are often able to keep wealthier defendants off of death row. I can't imagine a more thankless calling, but - if you believe that the state has no more right to kill people than anyone else does - I also can't imagine a more necessary one. With the increasing evidence that - through bad or inexperienced lawyers, tainted juries and evidence withheld (sometimes illegally) by prosecutors - we have put innocent people to death, Clive's work should be seen as even more vital.

During one alcohol-fueled night of silliness, we assigned each other ministry posts for the government we were sure we would collectively form one day - as I recall, Clive became the Minister for Double-Barreled Unhyphenated Last Names. So to Minister Stafford "No hyphen" Smith - we raise a glass to you! You get my vote as the best of us!

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