Arny Goodman throws his iPhone across the living room at 6:00 am, but the alarm keeps ringing. He gets off the couch (he didn’t make it to his bed last night), finds his phone, trips over the slumbering bodies of a few dudes on his softball team, and heads upstairs to take a shower.
Arny lives in downtown Buffalo with three of his law school buddies. They all graduated from UB Law School last year, but not all of them are working as lawyers yet. Tommy failed the bar, so he is “studying” to take it again. In the meantime, he tends bar at Patty’s Irish Pub two blocks away. Jim got a cushy job working for his daddy chasing ambulances, and Charlie wants to be an artist. He has his degree, but spends his time playing guitar and working at a hardware store.
Arny scored a job working as a public defender in Buffalo. It is not the glamorous gig he dreamt about while reading case after case in school, but it is a start. Not everyone’s daddy can snap his fingers and create a job at his firm. Friday mornings are tough because Thursday night is softball night. A lot Arny’s friends are still “finding themselves,” so a 6 am wake up is not on their radar. It’s ok, though. Arny knows about hard work, doesn’t require too much sleep, and loves coffee.
After a shower, a shave, and slice of cold pizza from last night’s post-game dinner, Arny heads to work. He grabs some hot coffee on the way and is ready for court. Today is special because Arny will be finishing up his first trial. He is defending a man accused of running from the cops, having narcotics with the intent to sell, and resisting arrest. His client, who will remain nameless, allegedly ran from police. They lost sight of him briefly, found him seconds later, tackled him, and arrested him. They claim he dumped the drugs – which were never found - while running. In his argument, Arny notes that the two officers reported the suspect was wearing black shorts and a white t-shirt when they started chasing him. When apprehended, the suspect was wearing khaki pants and a blue t-shirt. The prosecution maintains that the suspect changed clothes when the officer lost sight of him. Arny maintains that they cannot prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. Arny argues that they tackled the wrong guy.
The defense rests and the jury goes to deliberate. Arny goes to lunch. Luckily for him, his girlfriend is a waitress at the diner near the courthouse. Sarah is two years behind Arny. She slings coffee, omelets, and turkey melts to pay for dental school. The two love birds share a chocolate shake, some jalapeño poppers, and a hummus plate while they muse about the future: a big house, 2.5 kids, and cottage on Lake Erie. Right now it’s only a dream, though. Sarah’s break is over and she needs to check on Mr. Winters’ BLT (He’s a regular who orders the same thing every day. He’s a lonely old chap, but a good tipper). Arny gets a text from the bailiff, “jry haz a verdict.” He kisses Sarah and heads back to court.
After less than an hour of deliberation, the jury comes back with a verdict of NOT GUILTY. Arny is proud. He has won his first case. His client, who will remain nameless, doesn’t acknowledge Arny’s hard work. He looks at his family behind him and says, “That’s what I thought.”
Arny is not hurt by this lack of appreciation. He knows that the life of a public defender can be rough. He also knows that his client, who will remain nameless, was probably the one the cops were chasing. He knows that the testimonies may have been inaccurate because they were chasing the suspect at night. He knows that there is a chance that the suspect changed clothes quickly, but he also knows that the prosecution must prove their case BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT. There was some doubt in this case, and Arny made sure that the due process of the law was given. He is proud to maintain the integrity of the legal system. He is proud that he won!
When Arny gets home that night, Sarah and the boys have prepared him a victory dinner: meatloaf. They congratulate Arny. And though it is great, there is a part of his conscience that won’t stop saying, “dude, you know that guy was probably guilty.” It comes and goes, goes and comes.
Arny lies awake that night trying to convince himself that he has done the right thing. He did his job. But what if his client is guilty?