On January 17 I published a piece sharply criticizing New York attorney Jeffrey Schwartz for villainizing a seven-year-old murder victim. Let me give you some background and then we can get to the blog comment critical of the piece.
Mr. Schwartz is the defense attorney for Cesar Rodriquez, 29, who is on trial in Brooklyn’s Supreme Court for the murder of seven-year-old Nixzmary Brown. Nixzmary was found emaciated, beaten and dead on the floor or her Brooklyn home in January 2006. She weighed 36 pounds, barely half the weight of a healthy child her age.
In his defense of Mr. Rodriquez, Mr. Schwartz said, “”As for what Nixzmary did to provoke Mr. Rodriguez’s wrath on the last night of her life, it’s easy to say, ‘Aw, he killed the kid and beat her because of yogurt.’ Many of us don’t have yogurt problems” — here he gestured to his own well-fed midsection — “but when you’re poor and you can’t afford unlimited amounts of food and you have six children, you have to make sure that everyone gets what they’re entitled to get, so that you can ensure that everyone stays healthy.””
Brooklyn police said, “Cesar Rodriguez beat the little girl to death, then tossed her on the floor of what was known in the family’s apartment as the “dirty room,” a rodent-infested room where she had been tied up and left with only a litter box as a toilet.”
Mr. Schwartz said Nixzmary refused to be disciplined, pointing out that she would slip out of the ropes that tied her to the chair in the “dirty room”. He said, “She was a little Houdini.”
Okay. Someone recently sent this anonymous comment in response to the January 17 piece. I present it to you exactly how is was received.
“if you are honest enough to concede that this scumbag deserves a defense, how can you, in the same breath, fault the lawyer for doing his job? his job is to get the guy off the hook. period. unless mr schwartz violates the law, i dont care if he convinces the jury to acquit because aliens from ufo’s did it or because the kid was a little bastard who deserved her fate. that’s schwartz’s job. you have a problem with that- then for crying out loud, understand that your problem is with the system and the jury, not mr. schwartz. i fail to understand why that distinction is lost on so many people.”
I agree with you that part of the problem, without question, is the legal system. But here’s the thing, you seem to give Mr. Schwartz a moral pass by saying he was just doing his job. The implication of your reasoning here is unsettling, as it appears that it is okay with you if a child-murder victim, or any murder victim for that matter, is bludgeoned and defiled in a court room in the name of justice. And here is where we differ. This kind of seedy behavior has no relationship with justice.
The notion of just doing his job does not and should not provide cover for anyone to victimize, brutalize or abuse another human being. The just doing our job mindset is the very mindset used by Nazis and others of similar ilk. Each of us is responsible for how we do our job, what lines we are and are not willing to cross.
I know some good lawyers that on their worst day would not enter into the arena of victim degradation. Not so Mr. Schwartz. He will savage and demean a seven-year-old girl who died a terrible death so he can win his case. But win what? The resulting verdict? Because if the verdict is not guilty, what has he really won? If the verdict is not guilty there is something that, in addition to Nixzmary, that would suffer a devastating loss: justice.
And isn’t justice supposed to be what it is all about in the first place?
Note: The jury is currently deliberating and has yet to issue a verdict.