Stories from Sarah Roland
I have now been the editor of The Voice for one year. What a privilege it has been, what an opportunity. I have been fortunate to work with regular prominent contributors like Buck Files, Stephen Gustitis, and Robert Pelton, and TCDLA’s behind-the-scenes man, Craig Hattersley. We have added a standing Fourth Amendment column, published more from experts, and have heralded in a new SDR author, Michael Mowla.
Law lags science. Forensic sciences are a regular and reoccurring part of criminal cases. Jurors overwhelmingly tend to give scientific evidence more weight than other evidence presented in court. Our system is about seeking justice and finding the truth. With the passage of Article 11.073 back in 2013, our legislature recognized this, too. However, that 11.073 exists is never an excuse for bad and/or outdated science to be presented in a courtroom.
The holidays are over. All has returned to normal. Almost. There is a new presence and a new voice in the heart of many homes. An instantly recognizable, mundanely pleasant voice that responds to anything and seemingly knows everything. A voice that is always listening. Alexa.
Indeed, Alexa’s presence inside our homes is growing: Many of us may have given, or received, the Echo or Echo Dot (the physical embodiment of Alexa) this Christmas, and Amazon lists the Echo as one of the best-selling products of the holiday season.
It’s an understatement to say that a lot has happened in the last month. There’s been a lot to absorb no matter your walk in life. A tremendous Fall Classic and a jaw-dropping presidential election. History has been made, but to call either event groundbreaking doesn’t come close to estimating their impacts or importance in the world of sports and around the world. Whatever the allegiance—whether Cub or Indian, Trump or Clinton—people have been instantly divided. Either a new dawn is breaking or the sun is setting.
Kid cases—whether they be allegations of physical or sexual abuse—are the hardest cases to defend. Jurors, understandably, come in with an inherent prejudice against our client and wanting to save the child. It is an uphill battle from the start.
It’s that time of year again—Fall Ball, postseason baseball, the Fall Classic. I’ve always loved baseball. I still love to play catch and burnout and have a whole baseball collection. My brothers and I grew up in a baseball family. Our dad introduced us to baseball early on. He coached and sponsored our little league teams, and when it was clear we loved baseball as much as he did, he built us our own field of dreams . . . complete with a real cornfield in the outfield and wooden bleachers.
In a statewide act of solidarity and reverence, we all read the Declaration of Independence this Independence Day. Indeed, it is the very words of the Declaration of Independence that tell us why the Fourth Amendment was so important to our founders and remains of utmost importance today:
School is back in session. College campuses are crawling again with students, fresh back from summer break. Dorm rooms are filled with first-year college students yearning for the ultimate college experience, complete with an appropriate balance of academic success and serious fun. The endless weekends of fraternity and sorority parties and tailgating events are well underway. The backdrop is thus perfectly set for the code of student conduct hearings that are regularly happening in universities around our state.
Whether you believe it’s a matter of choice or genetics or a combination of both, addiction affects us all. It is a disease, and it doesn’t discriminate among us. Addiction has touched each of our lives in one way or another. Some of us have deeply personal experiences, but all of us come face to face with addiction and the havoc it brings on a regular basis by nature of what we have chosen to do.
It’s nice to be needed. And given the overall changes in the world around us, criminal defense lawyers are needed more than ever. We provide balance to an often seemingly imbalanced system—and hope, reassurance, and when it goes best, rescue to those whom we serve. We are the ones who consistently challenge the status quo. We are the ones who are unafraid to be in the minority.
The gold standard—the absolute best, the benchmark, the epitome of perfection. It’s what many of us aspire to be professionally and what few actually achieve. Buck Files is no doubt the gold standard among us. He has been a consistent and quality contributor to The Voice for 30 years. In this regard, his contribution to TCDLA is unparalleled. TCDLA is fortunate to have had Buck on its team for all these years. There is no sign of him slowing down, either!
As I write this column, my husband and I are preparing to bring our second child—a boy—into this world. We have decided to name him Samuel George Smith. (Yes, I am one of those women who didn’t change my last name.) George, after my late dad, George Roland. My dad was a fierce defender of the Constitution—the best. I now know and appreciate the blood, sweat, and tears that he invested in his work and its meaning. The soon-to-be birth of my son has me thinking a lot about legacies—the ones we leave behind, the ones we create, the ones we pass on.
It is quite a humbling honor and responsibility to serve as your new editor. I am thankful to the leadership for allowing me this opportunity to continue to serve TCDLA in a new way. Many thanks to Michael Gross for his tireless service to TCDLA as editor for the past 2½ years and guidance to me as I step into this new role. His are indeed large shoes to fill. It also cannot be said often enough how fortunate we are to have the staff that we do working for us.
The proliferation of research and investigation into DNA—that fundamental building block of all living (and some non-living) things—brought with it the unequivocal assertion that DNA simply “is.” What DNA precisely is, however, differs slightly from the scientific community to the legal community.
We signed up for a reason. It is not about the money. We are severely underpaid to begin with. We accept that. We signed up because we believe in an ideal. That everyone—no matter financial means, race, creed, education, lifestyle—deserves the best representation possible. We fight injustice—even systemic injustice.
Gregory died on March 13, 2013. He died from a horrible illness that is scorned and stigmatized by our society. He died from addiction.
“Free World” vs. Appointed Lawyers
Public opinion of court-appointed lawyers is, to put it gently, not entirely positive. One would be hard-pressed to find nearly as many articles praising superior performances by court-appointed lawyers as to find those chronicling gross deficiencies in their performance.