DAYL President’s Page
Our Duty to the Truth
We all lost a brother and a neighbor when Botham Jean was killed last September here in Dallas. His loss was felt dearly not only by his family, but also by our friends and our community, raising unresolved and painful issues we are all familiar with: the use of force by our police officers, racial tensions related thereto, and the injustice that many of our neighbors face every day. Upon this tragic episode’s seeming summation last week, when officer Amber Guyger was convicted and sentenced for Mr. Jean’s murder, these tough realities– these intractable difficulties between all of us– reminded me of the young lawyer’s role in all of this.
If you have witnessed the commentary and exchanges by our neighbors on social media over the past month, you know that there is a great deal of misinformation, speculation, and resulting damage to our common fabric– our union– out there. Folks on both sides of all of these issues steer us towards different truths, separating us before we know it. Sometimes, folks turn us against one another. Division, blame, and anger box out reality and reason. But our profession and work are centered around the pursuit and attainment of the truth. Lawyers have training and skills that can help facilitate discussions and take an honest and unbiased approach to the facts. We have the ability, and arguably, a duty, to combat misinformation. To correct misperceptions with evidence. To wipe away rumors and speculation using reason and facts. To help our neighbors understand and resolve these issues, and to bring us all a little closer to the truth.
Because the truth is that the legal issues implicated in the murder of Mr. Jean were complicated and uncommon, difficult even for many lawyers to understand. Any prosecutor or defense lawyer would tell you the same– that this was not a simple case in a legal sense. But it’s also the truth that African American members of our community endure disparate treatment in serious ways every day. Their pain is real and understandable, and it’s an issue we all most work harder to address and resolve. And the truth is also that the vast majority of our police officers are heroic public servants worthy of our admiration and praise for their service.
If these issues were capable of resolution in these lines and on this page, I’d try, but we all know that would be a disservice to these issues and to your time. Instead, this is a reminder of the vast and incredible power you have as a young lawyer. If you’re asked by a family member over the upcoming holidays about the legal case related to Mr. Jean’s murder, you have a unique opportunity to use your strength and skill as a lawyer. Educating yourself about the legal issues and process involved in the case and trial can be of great benefit to you and those around you. It’s important to try, as this is not something simply playing out on the television and in the paper– it affects all of us.
Some of our neighbors consume overly simplified narratives, and sometimes, blatant misinformation, as they form their own opinions on the fringes. This pattern has real consequences for our neighborhoods and communities, as we all grow further apart, we stop listening to each other, and we stop working together. More directly, misinformation is the mother of extremism and violence, which are sad and indelible parts of our city’s history, including most recently the senseless murder of five police officers in downtown Dallas in July 2016. It is our duty to combat these forces at every turn, and to ensure that these are things in Dallas’ past — not its future.
DAYL’s several committees work hard to educate our members, and you can be a part of it, either as a committee member or as a recipient of valuable education. Our Politically Aware Committee has done some outstanding work this year to arrange apolitical presentations regarding topics in the news– most recently, they hosted an incredible discussion with the Dallas County District Attorney, John Creuzot, that was very informative regarding his policies and background. Our CLE Committee makes DAYL proud with its consistent and constant excellence, including the fascinating breakdown of the Dr. Death case earlier this year. Our Lawyers Promoting Diversity Committee also hosts outstanding events throughout the year, including our annual Dinner & Dialogue, where community members get together for conversations regarding issues surrounding race, gender, and diversity. If you’d like to join these excellent committees, you can contact me or 2020 President-Elect Justin Gobert using the information found under the above “About” and “Board of Directors” headings, or you can contact our Executive Director, Cherie Harris.