By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Shoe doesn't fit: More than a decade has passed since Buzz visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., so we remember little about the exhibits there. One image remains firmly embedded, however: a large pile of worn shoes taken from death camp victims. That pile seemed especially poignant, it's hominess bringing the enormous scale of the horror down to a human level.
So perhaps it's understandable that when the Collin County Crime Victim's Assistance Council wanted to commemorate National Crime Victims' Rights Week this week, they chose to lay out a collection of shoes on the courthouse steps intended to represent each of the more than 1,200 crime victims who came through the Collin County courts in the past year. But does the exhibit belong in a spot where potential jurors must pass on their way to render verdicts?
At least some criminal defense lawyers don't think so. "Those accused of crimes should not have their abilities for a fair trial severely damaged by this display," one lawyer wrote the county's judges and commissioners court. "I am sure there will not be a week where all those wrongfully accused of crimes, who were convicted anyway...will be honored by the Innocence Project outside the courthouse—nor should they be."
Good point. Justice is blind, and the time to consider the damage done to crime victims is after a fair trial. The courthouse steps are no place for an emotive display of footwear, right?
District Attorney John Roach disagrees. Justice may be blind, but that doesn't mean it's stupid.
"Surely nobody alive today takes the position that crime has no victims," he told Buzz. "We have some obligation under the law and under society to recognize that people suffer...that the defense doesn't like [the display] is just too damn bad."
Jurors are intelligent enough, Roach says, to avoid being influenced by a shoe collection.
Maybe, but that point sort of begs the question of why the shoes are outside the courthouse, and if he didn't sound so damn sincere, we might accuse Roach of engaging in a bit of demagoguery here.
Why, even criminal lawyers recognize that crimes have victims, says Plano-based defense attorney Todd Shapiro (FYI: he's our editor's nephew, but he didn't write the letter to the judges). "I'm not sitting here telling you there aren't victims...I'm not denying that terrible things happen to good people."
But as he points out, one of the more terrible things that can happen to good people is to be wrongly convicted of a crime. You want to commemorate crime victims? The steps of Plano City Hall would be a good spot next year.