William and Mary Law School

The Importance of Criminal Defense

    Last week IBJ hosted a lawyer/forensic pathologist from Sri Lanka.  He gave a presentation about identifying and representing victims of torture.  He explained many of the difficulties lawyers face when defending victims of torture in the developing world.  The presentation was quite shocking and hard to watch.  The most moving part was an interview with a man who had just been released from police custody.  The police had taken him from his house in the middle of the night without giving him any reason for the arrest. The police beat him mercilessly and left him in a cell for days without access to medical treatment.  They released him in horrible condition without ever formally charging him with a crime.  He could barely talk and his body was covered with bruises and deep scars. 
    The lawyer went into great detail about the physical and mental suffering that his clients are often forced to endure.  Even though the images, videos and information were disturbing, I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation because I saw how passionate the lawyer was.  In spite of the many challenges he faces in Sri Lanka, he stays motivated and dedicated to the cause of justice.  The experience gave me a greater appreciation for public defenders and the work that they do.