By Crystal Elaine Ellison • February 29, 2020•Writers in Residence
“Ms. Ellison, will you come see me in the jail this week?” “Ms. Ellison, can you file a bond motion for me to be taken off house arrest? It’s affecting my everyday life making it almost impossible for me to care for my family.” “Ms. Ellison, I know I missed court, but can you please get my warrant lifted today?” “Ms. Ellison, this is your client’s girlfriend, I need to talk to you. Please call me as soon as possible!” “Ms. Ellison, I know you got me a signature bond several times now, but can you please get me another one? I don’t want to sit in jail. I hate it here!” “Ms. Ellison, if you can’t get me a signature bond today, I’ll just plead to the felony.” “Ms. Ellison, I didn’t do it, but I’ll just plead guilty because I’m tired of coming to court!” “Ms. Ellison, you don’t know how much you’ve changed my life.” “Ms. Ellison, thank you so much for fighting for me!” “Ms. Ellison, I appreciate your hard work, I know I haven’t been easy to get along with, but you’re one of the best lawyers I’ve ever had. I’m sorry!” “Ms. Ellison, you’re so personable, and non-judgmental. You’re so down to earth!” “Ms. Ellison, something good is going to happen to you. God is going to bless you.” “Ms. Ellison, I trust you.” “Ms. Ellison, can you take all of my cases, I don’t want any other lawyer but you!” “Ms. Ellison, I received an ROR bond, but I’ve been in jail this entire time.” “Ms. Ellison, the truth is, I don’t have a home. You see that parking garage where you park in? That’s where I’m sleeping – in the elevator.”
Sounds like a lot, right? I can truly say, I’ve probably heard majority of these things in one work day. What do I do with all of this information? Where do I start? Do I first digest the victories of those clients that are super satisfied with my services? You know, digest them to give me that sense of gratification I so desperately need. What about the client who told me, “[i]f you can’t get me a signature bond, [i]’ll just plead today”? I continued his case for one week because he was adamant about needing to get back to his family - for valid reasons. Should I start reading his lengthy discovery, that also includes dash cam video and an interrogation video? That doesn’t include actually investigating the case. I’m also scheduled to be in a jury trial. I can’t forget about the bond motion that I need to file for the client who needs to get out of jail because he’s the sole provider for his family. He received a call from his wife that his social security checks have just sat on the table, and their electricity will be getting cut off soon. I’ve never been in this situation but I’m guessing once his electricity gets cut off, there’s a reconnect fee, a late fee, and the actual bill that must be paid. This is a client who receives social security: every penny counts. “Our job is such, that you have to go around and put out whatever fire is burning the hottest at that time.” Walter Stockley, District Defender for the Children’s Team in Jackson County, MO.
While my job is incredibly demanding, it truly takes gifted persons to be able to deal with the pressure, high demands and accountability that comes with this job. You must be self-less. You must be dedicated. You must be compassionate. You must be a hard worker. You must be fearless. You must be educated. You must be firm. You must be ethical. You must be unintimidated. You must be strategic. On the other-hand, you must be healthy.
I believe the PD’s office has equipped me with the tools and real life experiences that will elevate me to even higher grounds. Being an APD has undoubtedly reminded me what it means to be humble. I started my career as a prosecutor and I have to say, working as an APD has changed my perspective and outlook on the legal system. I can’t tell you what my future holds or what path God will take me on next, but I thank God for being in control of my life and for continuing to develope me into a woman who’s well-rounded. If I ever step back into prosecution, or not, I will always be an advocate for more funding for the PD’s office. As a prosecutor, it wouldn’t sit well with me, knowing that my opponents are understaffed and overworked. But most importantly, I wouldn’t be OK with knowing that a defendant is not being afforded his constitutional rights, an oath I vowed to support and one that was designed to make the justice system "more just".
“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” —Booker T. Washington
Happy Black History Month!