Sometimes it just takes a simple act if compassion to tell the difference between finding justice in a case and following the letter. Where others might have seen an incorrigible offender, one judge saw promise–and following a hunch, he acted on his intuition.
At first glance, Edward Martell, a 27-year-old high school dropout with an extensive arrest record might not have seemed a prime candidate for rehabilitation, but when he was facing a 20-year drug conviction, instead of meting out the maximum sentence, presiding judge Bruce Morrow gave Martell probation–and a challenge.
Morrow said to Martell that he expected him make something of himself the next time he entered the courtroom.
Martell explained Detroit: “He said, ‘I challenge you, to be the CEO of Fortune 500 companies instead of being here selling drugs.’” “And I love a challenge.”
Morrow said that it was a joke, but he knew I believed he could become anything he desired to be.
Martell now stands before Judge Morrow once again after 16 years. This time, he is being sworn into office as an attorney having passed the Michigan state bar. Although the outcome is sweet, Martell’s journey was not easy.
Martell was advised by his guidance counselors to stop him from becoming a lawyer because there was a possibility that his prior criminal records might affect his future plans. He refused, however.
Martell was awarded a scholarship for both his undergraduate study and his law school after he earned his associate degree. He was then a clerk at District of Columbia’s Federal Public Defender’s office before being hired by Perkins Law Group, where he became a researcher and writer.
Martell had many supporters when it was time to take the bar examination. This included Judge Morrow with whom he had kept in touch over the years.
Martell presented a 1,200+ page application to his mentors from the law firm detailing the steps he took in order to turn his life around.
“The main thing they look for is candor. Martell explained to WAPO that he told them that he was remorseful and that he is downright embarrassed. “I am still the same person, but now I don’t think that way anymore. I’ve evolved.”
His approval was only 15 minutes. The seeds of a vision he had been dreaming were now firmly planted. Martell is still employed by the Perkins Group. However, he’ll now be a practicing attorney and not a researcher. All because one man was willing take a chance on Martell’s challenge.
Morrow told DD, “It’s crazy cliche but some defendants, they need that.” “If your belief is like mine, that there but the grace and God go you or me… It took intelligence for him to get into this kind of trouble. I said to him, “You could be my child.” Let’s see where you go.
Which is just the kind of sentencing recommendation we could likely use a lot more of these days.
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