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Kim T. Stephens on ESPN Discussing Criminal Defense, Due Process, and Jonathon Taylor

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Criminal defense attorney Kim T. Stephens was featured on an ESPN Outside the Lines special this weekend. During the interview, Stephens discusses the need for due process when student athletes, or regular students, are charged with a crime. In the video excerpt below Stephens is featured at the 3:25 and 4:25 marks in the video. Stephens and Brown will post the full interview once ESPN makes it available.

 

http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/13684416/georgia-bulldogs-sent-alabama-crimson-tide-officials-documents-related-assault-case-involving-jonathan-taylor

 

 

“Taylor’s attorney, Kim Stephens, said there is the potential for people to be treated unfairly under the new SEC rule if a case has not been adjudicated yet: “If a person commits domestic violence, if a person commits sexual misconduct, certainly they don’t need to be playing at any SEC school or any other school for that matter, they need to be punished in the courts and, if appropriate, incarcerated. But there needs to be due process, there needs to be fundamental fairness.”

 

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Student Judiciary Advice from Kim Stephens

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Academic Concerns:

While attending school in Athens, Georgia, it is important to adhere to your college’s policies on academic honesty, appropriate behavior, and campus safety. Defense attorney, Kim Stephens, often represents students involved in judiciary hearings at UGA, and based on his years of experience with the student judiciary process, he advises incoming freshman and returning students to be particularly aware of the following:

  1. Any knife having a blade over two inches—even a small fishing knife—is considered a weapon per state law and University of Georgia regulations and is not allowed on campus, including in the dorms. If you are found to be in possession of such a knife, you will likely be charged with a felony.
  2. Plagiarism (using someone else’s ideas or words without proper citations) is considered a serious offense at the college level and can result in suspension or expulsion.
  3. Sharing test information or prior tests is considered academic dishonesty and can result in suspension or expulsion.
  4. If you are charged with a crime while attending college, and the college is made aware of the charge, they will hold a conduct hearing. The student judiciary has the power to suspend or expel you from the university EVEN IF the charges are dismissed or disproved.

Kim Stephens is familiar with the inner workings of the University of Georgia’s student judiciary and provides students with professional advice, often enabling them to continue their studies at the university even after facing charges by the student judiciary. In 2013, Kim Stephens successfully filed a petition for a temporary protective order and injunction which prevented a University of Georgia student charged with a serious crime (which was later disproven and dismissed) from being expelled.  It is critical that students who find themselves facing a student conduct hearing seek professional advice to protect their future.

 

IF YOU HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A CRIME OR ARE FACING A STUDENT JUDICIARY HEARING, CALL KIM STEPHENS TODAY FOR PROFESSIONAL ADVICE AND A POWERFUL DEFENSE. 706.548.3933

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Legal Advice for Students from Criminal Defense Attorney Kim T. Stephens

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Stephens & Brown, Athens Georgia’s premier DUI and criminal defense law firm, welcomes University of Georgia, University of North Georgia, Athens Technical College, and Piedmont College students back to Athens, Georgia. The fall is an exciting time in Athens, with students returning to the city, and football season just around the corner. Former Bulldog All-American and criminal defense attorney Kim Stephens encourages incoming students to study, work hard, have fun, and be careful to avoid being arrested and forever branded as a criminal.

State laws and local ordinances:

  1. Athens, Georgia has an open container ordinance, meaning it is illegal to consume alcoholic beverages outside in public spaces, even just outside of some bars and restaurants. The local police enforce the open container law year round, even on football game days on and off campus.
  2. Athens, Georgia has a noise ordinance and excessive noise at any residence may result in police coming to your residence and attempting to question everyone who is there. If the police show up at your home because of a noise complaint, have someone who has not been drinking and/or is over 21 years of age meet the officers at the door and, above all else, be polite, cooperate and turn the noise down, i.e. lower the decibel level.
  3. Littering violates state law and local ordinances and makes the community an uglier place. Instead of dropping cans, bottles or other trash on the ground or throwing them out the car window, pick up any trash you see and put it in the closest recycle or trash bin. You will feel good about yourself and will avoid unnecessary attention from the police.
  4. If you drink alcohol and are under the age of twenty-one, you may be charged with Underage Possession of Alcohol, i.e. MIP, even if the police don’t perform any test to determine if you have been drinking. Local police departments in Athens recently changed their policy of arresting first time underage drinkers and branding them as criminals, instead issuing citations to the alleged offender; but, the penalties and sentences in MIP cases can still be unduly harsh and burdensome and can result in you having a criminal record. Please don’t trust your friend’s expert advice just because he or she already had an MIP in Athens or somewhere else. You should always consult with an attorney before you go to court.
  5. If you are under the age of twenty-one and drive any vehicle after consuming alcoholic beverages, you may be charged with DUI. Even if you are lucky enough to avoid a DUI charge, your driver’s license would likely be suspended if you are charged with MIP while driving. Don’t put yourself or others at risk. Walk (preferably with a friend so that you won’t be a good candidate for being robbed or mugged), call a sober friend, have a designated driver, take a cab, or let Uber help you.
  6. If you are over the age of twenty-one and drive a vehicle (including bicycles, scooters, Segways, golf carts, horses, or any moving vehicle) with a blood alcohol level of .08, you will be charged with DUI in Athens. While television, radio and billboard advertisements call a DUI a $10,000.00 mistake, I know of a DUI conviction costing a person more than $200,000.00 because he lost his job, lost his company car, couldn’t find other work for over a year, almost lost his home, along with suffering the more typical DUI penalties. I’ve also seen commercial drivers lose their licenses for a year or, for a second DUI permanently taking away their ability to work. These cases demonstrate the severe impact a DUI can have whether you are a college student or a working adult.
  7. If you drive a vehicle improperly (speeding, failure to maintain lane, etc.) after consuming alcohol or using drugs, you may be charged with DUI less safe even if you refuse the breath or blood test. Often police officers will request that you take “a few tests” called field sobriety tests (these are not the same as the breathalyzer test that they will ask you to take after they arrest you) to determine if you are impaired. You are not required to take these field sobriety tests. Understand that police officers use the test to gather evidence against you, not to help you. So, in almost every circumstance, you should refuse to do these voluntary field sobriety tests at the scene of your stop.
  8. If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident after consuming alcohol or drugs, you may be charged with crimes ranging from misdemeanor reckless driving to felony vehicular homicide. A conviction for vehicular homicide almost always results in many years of prison time though Stephens & Brown has successfully kept a person out of jail in the last few months who caused the death of two elderly people after smoking marijuana. Don’t take a chance of killing someone, ruining your life, and devastating the lives of family members for you and the person you might injure or kill.
  9. If you buy alcohol and provide it to someone under the age of twenty-one, you can be charged with providing alcohol to a minor. In addition to criminal sanctions, your driver’s license will be suspended if you are convicted of providing alcohol to a minor.
  10. If you have sex with an individual under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you can be charged with rape, aggravated sexual battery, sexual battery, and other serious criminal offenses, even if you were also intoxicated. Even more worrisome, students, particularly male students, are being expelled by UGA and other colleges and universities based upon accusations of sexual misconduct where both students involved were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time, WITHOUT A HEARING to determine the truth of the accusation. Don’t risk the rest of your life by even kissing someone who is under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicating substance.

Remember, if you are charged with a crime or asked to meet with school administrators about alleged violations of the Honor Code or EOO Policies, it is essential that you hire an attorney who can provide you with a powerful defense and protect your future. Kim Stephens defends students every day against false or inflated accusations, winning in court, and preventing these incidents from impacting students’ education and lives beyond college.

IF YOU HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A CRIME, CALL ATTORNEY KIM T. STEPHENS TODAY FOR PROFESSIONAL ADVICE AND A POWERFUL DEFENSE 706-548-3933

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Remembering Buddy Christian

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SPO-Buddy-ChristianEveryone at Stephens and Brown was happy to see justice brought to the killer of Athens-Clarke County police officer, Buddy Christian. Buddy was a good man who served our community with kindness and compassion. Before his death Buddy often read aloud to children at the Learning Express store in the Mall on Saturday mornings. Kim Stephens’s youngest daughter, Isabelle, had the pleasure of listening to his stories, and personally, we will remember him as a man who took the time to read fairy tales to little children, to listen to them, and to love them. Although we know that Friday’s sentencing cannot restore Buddy to his family and to our community, we sincerely hope that it will bring some measure of peace to his wife, parents, and children to know that Jamie Hood will spend the rest of his life behind bars. We will continue to remember Buddy with gratitude and offer thanksgiving for a life well lived.

http://onlineathens.com/mobile/2015-07-24/jamie-hood-sentenced-life-prison-murder-athens-police-officer

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Kim T. Stephens Makes Top 100

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The National Trial Lawyers

The National Trial Lawyers Announces Kim T. Stephens as One of Its Top 100 Criminal Defense Trial Lawyers in Georgia

For Immediate Release

The National Trial Lawyers is pleased to announce that Kim T. Stephens, with the law firm of Stephens & Brown in Athens, GA, has been selected for inclusion into its Top 100 Criminal Defense Trial Lawyers in Georgia, an honor given to only a select group of lawyers for their superior skills and qualifications in the field. Membership in this exclusive organization is by invitation only, and is limited to the top 100 attorneys in each state or region who have demonstrated excellence and have achieved outstanding results in their careers in either civil plaintiff or criminal defense law.

The National Trial Lawyers is a professional organization comprised of the premier trial lawyers from across the country who have demonstrated exceptional qualifications in their area of the law, specifically criminal defense or civil plaintiff law. The National Trial Lawyers provides accreditation to these distinguished attorneys, and also provides essential legal news, information, and continuing education to trial lawyers across the United States.

With the selection of Kim T. Stephens by The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100, Mr. Stephens has shown that he exemplifies superior qualifications, leadership skills, and trial results as a trial lawyer. The selection process for this elite honor is based on a multi-phase process which includes peer nominations combined with third party research. As The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 is an essential source of networking and information for trial attorneys throughout the nation, the final result of the selection process is a credible and comprehensive list of the most outstanding trial lawyers chosen to represent their state or region.

Contact: Andrew Findley
AFindley@TheNationalTrialLawyers.org
866-665-2852

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Comparing the Due Process Provided Students for MIP/UPA/DUI/Academic Dishonesty to the Lack of Due Process Provided to Students Charged With Sexual Misconduct

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sitting-in-jail-slideComparing the Due Process Provided Students for MIP/UPA/DUI/Academic Dishonesty to the Lack of Due Process Provided to Students Charged With Sexual Misconduct

At the University of Georgia, a student charged with a violation of the UGA’s Code of Conduct for things like Underage Possession of Alcohol (MIP), hazing, theft, selling illegal drugs on campus, and damaging UGA property are entitled to a relatively high level of due process.  Specifically, an accused student must be

(1) given formal notice of the charges against them;

(2) advised that no inference of responsibility will be drawn if they remain silent;

(3) advised of the procedures that will be used to decide the charges;

(4) advised that they may have an advisor;

(5) informed of all “potential witnesses and any information that may be presented against” them including a list of witnesses and a chance to view the evidence to be presented;

(6) presumed innocent;

(7) given a live hearing before three neutral decision makers (two University Student Judiciary Members and one Administrative Panel/Faculty/Staff member);

(8) given a recorded or transcribed copy of any hearing; and,

(9) permitted to question his or her accuser and other witnesses involved in the hearing.

The accused student in these Student Conduct hearings is allowed to have an advisor that can be an attorney, a member of the Student Judiciary, or any other person.  The advisor, attorney or otherwise, may not speak for the accused student, something attorney Kim Stephens believes violates the accused student’s United States and Georgia Constitutional rights to due process, but can provide preparation, guidance and support throughout the hearing.

Similarly, at the University of Georgia, a student accused of violating the Honor Code, A Culture of Honor, by plagiarizing, copying a classmates test answers, lying to a professor, or even trying his or her best to submit responses or prove attendance via apps like TopHat that suffer frequent technical problems, is entitled to due process.  Accused students in academic dishonesty hearings are

(1) allowed to complete all required academic work, have the work evaluated and graded;

(2) given formal notice of the complaint(s) that have been made against them;

(3) allowed to participate in a facilitated discussion, i.e. a mediation, which includes the instructor who filed the complaint, the student, and a Facilitator.  The purpose of the of the “facilitated discussion” is to provide a fair and focused discussion between all parties involved about what may have occurred. The instructor(s) who reported the matter, the student(s) believed to have violated the policy, and the Facilitator are the only participants in a Facilitated Discussion. These Discussions may not be recorded.  The instructor and student may reach an agreement about the matter and, if dishonesty is involved, may determine the appropriate consequence(s);

(4) if no resolution is agreed upon, the matter will be forwarded to a Continued Discussion with an Academic Honesty Panel that will determine the outcome of the allegation. The Academic Honesty Panel is, at its heart, a hearing on the merits of the instructor’s complaint.  The Panel is comprised of two faculty members and three student members who decide whether the instructor can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the conduct alleged in the complaint is true and is a violation of the Honor Code, and, if a violation is found, determines the appropriate punishment;

(5) written notice of the allegations being made against them;

(6) copies of all evidence to be used by the accusing instructors against the students including the instructor(s)’ statement and supporting documents and witnesses;

(7) a chance to provide a written statement and provide supporting evidence and documents to the Panel before and during the Continued Discussion;

(8) a chance to question the accusing instructor and all other witnesses and evidence being used during the Continued Discussion to show the accused student violated the Honor Code.

The accused students in these Continued Discussion hearings are allowed to have an advisor that can be an attorney or any other person.  The advisor, attorney or otherwise, may not speak for the accused student, again something attorney Kim Stephens believes violates the accused student’s United States and Georgia Constitutional rights to due process, but can provide guidance and support throughout the Continued Discussion.

Now, compare these relatively high levels of due process provided to accused student’s cases to cases involving allegations of sexual misconduct, a political “hot button” issue:

(1) The accused student will be provided with notice of the existence of a complaint being filed against him or her but is not told the identity of the person filing the complaint or the specific accusations made by the accuser;

(2) The accused student may be immediately suspended from the University and barred from campus while the investigation is ongoing;

(3) The accused student may be removed from UGA’s student housing and dormitories immediately and, thus, forfeiting all moneys paid for housing and dining;

(4) The accuser and the accused student are provided with a copy of the EOO “non-discrimination” policy which allows the student to “blindly” provide information to an EOO investigator, provide evidence to the investigator that may or may not apply to the accusations being made, and submit himself or herself to questioning by the investigator;

(5) The accused student is NEVER provided with the identity of witnesses against him or statements made by such witnesses;

(6) The accused student is NEVER provided with the identity of favorable, i.e. exculpatory, witnesses or statements made by them;

(7) The EOO investigator only discloses information to others involved in the case on a “need to know basis;”

(8) The EOO procedures now state that the investigator’s interviews “constitute the hearing.”

So, prior to being expelled from the University of Georgia for alleged sexual misconduct, an accused student NEVER receives a formal charging document expressly telling him what offense he or she is charged with committing, NEVER receives a list of witnesses for or against him, is NEVER allowed to review statements or evidence used to determine his guilt or violation of the EOO policies, is NEVER allowed a hearing before a panel of three or more hearing panelists to determine his culpability, is NEVER allowed to question the accuser in his or her case, is NEVER allowed to question other witnesses or evidence used against him or her to show guilt or a violation of the EOO policies, is NEVER allowed to present evidence in his or her defense to a panel of impartial panelists rather than just to the investigating EOO officer, and is NEVER allowed to provide a statement to an impartial hearing panel.  Apparently, the University of Georgia believes that students charged with Underage Possession of Alcohol/MIP deserve greater due process than students charged with serious offenses like rape.

UGA expels students, usually young men, through a process that provides absolutely no due process at all.  Does that sound fair?  Is that due process?

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DUI: Choose Your Attorney Wisely

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DUI/DWI MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE THAN ADVERTISED

 

I was speaking to a friend recently when he unexpectedly told me that, before we met, he was arrested and convicted of DUI/DWI several years ago. After some discussion, my friend shared with me that in his case the DUI/DWI conviction was far more costly than the estimates of $10 – $15,000 typically seen in articles and online for the “cost of a DUI/DWI.”  My interest was piqued, so he explained:

 

“I accept full responsibility for my actions.  I drove when I had been drinking more than I should and knew better. . . .  I was driving home when I came up to a roadblock. . . . I knew I was screwed.  I cooperated, took all the Field Sobriety Tests, and took the breathalyzer.  I was arrested and taken to jail.  I posted bond, paid a towing fee, hired an attorney, went to court several times, and was ultimately convicted.

 

The cost of posting bond, paying the towing fee, hiring an attorney, going to court, and paying fines, surcharges, taxes, probation fees, and other direct costs of the DUI/DWI was very expensive.  The estimates I saw before and since I was arrested, though, don’t come close to the actual cost to my family and me.

 

I lost my job.  I lost benefits for my family.  It took more than a year for me to get another job that was anywhere close to my qualifications.  My car insurance skyrocketed.  I can’t afford to get life insurance because it is so expensive.  I still am not making as much money as I would be making if I had not gotten the DUI.  So, my estimate of the cost of a DUI/DWI is much different than what I see online.”

 

Upon further questioning and after reviewing online articles and data, my friend provided me with his estimate of the cost of his DUI/DWI arrest and conviction:

 

Bond/Bail                                                                   $         2,500.00

Tow/Storage Charge for car                                               185.00

Increase in Car Insurance Premiums                               7,500.00

Attorney Fees                                                                        5,000.00

Court Imposed Fines/Surcharges/Fees                          1,730.00

DUI/Risk Reduction School                                              287.00

License Reinstatement Fees                                              210.00

Increase in Life Insurance Premiums                             10,000.00

Lost Income, Wages and Benefits             $ 330,000.00 – 370,000.00

(Caused by DUI/DWI and since my arrest)

________________________________________________

Actual and True Cost of DUI/DWI           $357,412.00 – 407,412.00

 

I know my friend’s story is personal and anecdotal but a DUI/DWI arrest in anyone’s situation is expensive and costly, especially if you hire the wrong attorney. If you are arrested for DUI/DWI, don’t take it lightly or assume the best. Call attorney Kim Stephens at 706-548-3933 so that we can begin to aggressively defend your case.

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Changes in DUI Law

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dui-badges-3Attorneys Kim Stephens and Michael Brown applaud the Georgia Supreme Court for its well-reasoned opinion upholding every person’s right to be free from unlawful searches of his or her body and bodily substances.  In the three weeks since the Court’s ruling in Williams v. State, attorney Kim Stephens successfully convinced prosecutors in Elbert County and Madison County, Georgia to dismiss DUI cases against his clients based on this change in Georgia law.  When choosing a DUI lawyer, it is critical that you hire a criminal defense attorney who specializes in DUI and other criminal law, knows current DUI law, and keeps up with changes in DUI law that will help win your case.

 

Blood Tests Taken Pursuant to Georgia Implied Consent Law May Not Be Voluntary According to Supreme Court
Georgia’s implied consent law may not be around much longer. On March 31, 2015, the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously laid the groundwork for a future ruling that could effectively nullify the statute that imposes automatic punishment on motorists who refuse to provide a blood or breath sample upon demand. The implied consent law helps police investigate drunk driving (DUI) cases by allowing what are considered searches under the Fourth Amendment to take place without a search warrant. John Williams learned about this after a Gwinnett County police officer pulled him over for swerving on September 22, 2012.  “Georgia law requires you to submit to state administered chemical tests of your blood, breath, urine, or other bodily substances for the purpose of determining if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” the officer told Williams. “If you refuse this testing, your Georgia driver’s license or privilege to drive on the highways of this state will be suspended for a minimum period of one year.” Williams agreed to the blood draw, thinking he had no choice. The officer called the incident an ordinary DUI and admitted there were no unusual or exigent circumstances with the case. A county judge convicted Williams based on the blood evidence, saying the implied consent law rendered Fourth Amendment concerns irrelevant. The Georgia Supreme Court disagreed. “The state court’s analysis is flawed,” Justice P. Harris Hines wrote for the court. “A suspect’s right under the Fourth Amendment to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures applies to the compelled withdrawal of blood, and the extraction of blood is a search within the meaning of the Georgia Constitution.”  In Missouri v. McNeely (S.Ct., 4/17/2013), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream did not automatically create “exigent circumstances” that absolve police of their duty to obtain a search warrant before drawing a suspect’s blood. The justices required police to either get a warrant or cite a legitimate emergency justification for not doing so. There were no exigent circumstances in the Williams case, so the Georgia high court was left to rule on whether Williams voluntarily consented to having his blood drawn after being read the implied consent notice that told him that he had no choice. The justices said they needed more information. “In considering Williams’s motion to suppress, the state court failed to address whether Williams gave actual consent to the procuring and testing of his blood, which would require the determination of the voluntariness of the consent under the totality of the circumstances,” Justice Hines concluded. “Consequently, the judgments of the state court are vacated and the case is remanded to that court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

If you have been charged with DUI, call Stephens and Brown today at 706-548-3933 for a free consultation.

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Kim Stephens Discusses Jonathon Taylor on Paul Finebaum Show

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Paul Finebaum interviewed me on Thursday on his ESPN show regarding the Jonathon Taylor case. Since Jon’s arrest in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the female who made the allegations has recanted her story, stating that she lied to the police. You can listen to my complete interview with Paul Finebaum about Jon’s case and the impact of false allegations here, beginning about 11:3o minutes into the show:

 

 

      Listen to the interview
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Inspiration from To Kill a Mockingbird

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“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  Atticus Finch—To Kill a Mockingbird

As the publication date for Harper Lee’s sequel to her Pulitzer prize winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, approaches, people are digging out and rereading their copies of Lee’s classic tale. Today, the Athens Barnes and Noble will read the novel aloud in its entirety throughout the day to celebrate both the recent fiftieth anniversary of the novel and the upcoming sequel. My wife, a writer herself, is one of the guest readers and will read the novel’s final chapter at the close of the bookstore’s celebration. This event has reminded me both of my love for Lee’s novel and my admiration for one of its principal characters—father and defense attorney Atticus Finch.

For those who might have missed To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus agrees to represent a black man accused of raping a white woman in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s. The racism and inequality prevalent at the time means that the residents of Maycomb are both outraged and shocked that Atticus would take the case. Atticus, however, ignores popular opinion and considerable intimidation, believing in Tom Robinson’s innocence and zealously representing him, stating famously that “the one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” Atticus battles not only the prejudice of the day but also the justice system, which at the time prevented African Americans and women from serving on a jury.

Atticus provides a model of integrity and courage for criminal defense attorneys because he chooses to do what’s right in the face of insurmountable odds. Convincing an all-white male jury to find Tom Robinson not guilty in 1930s Alabama is an impossible task, but Atticus chooses to fight the good fight: “Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win.”

I am as inspired by Harper Lee’s story today as I was thirty or more years ago when I first discovered the tale, and if you’re in the Athens area today and have some time, I hope you’ll take a trip to the bookstore and maybe listen to a chapter of To Kill a Mockingbird.

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