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Courage Is Necessary for Justice

Recently, I was in Denver for a conference for attorneys who defend criminal cases in federal court.  It was very energizing to be around so many attorneys across the nation who have the courage to fight for their clients.  Having the courage to say what is often unpopular, and may even seem impossible, is necessary for justice to be possible.

One of the speakers reminded us that some of the great United States Supreme Court cases would not be possible without the lone voice and dissent of the individual who refused to submit to the authority of the United States government.  See, for instance, Rodriguez v. United States (2015), where Dennys Rodriguez refused to allow the police to search his vehicle, and this refusal created a huge win for people across this nation.


Here in South Dakota, long time criminal defense attorney, John Murphy, fought a necessary fight for his client on appeal before the South Dakota Supreme Court, having the courage to speak the truth about the errors that occurred during Mr. Janis’ jury trial, which included arguments of prosecutorial misconduct.  (Mr. Murphy was not the trial counsel.) While the South Dakota Supreme Court found error by state actors, the majority of the sitting justices on the South Dakota Supreme Court refused to reverse the conviction, citing for example, the fact that the trial counsel’s failure to object during the trial created too high a burden to overcome on appeal to require a reversal of the conviction.  However, one South Dakota Supreme Court justice, Justice Janine Kern, filed a lone dissent, and found that the error of prosecutorial misconduct in Mr. Janis’ case denied him a fair trial, thus requiring a reversal under the United States Constitution.