Think A Few Weeks At Home Is Hard? Try 26-Years In Prison For a Crime You Did Not Commit.
If you think a few weeks serving home quarantine is hard, imagine spending 26 years in prison for a crime you did not commit. Mr. Alton Logan did just that. Years after his exoneration in 2009, Mr. Logan co-authored a book about his experience, with investigative reporter, Mr. Berl Falbaum. They reached out to me when writing their book because I published a peer-reviewed law review article in 2009 about Mr. Logan, advocating for a rule that would prevent other people from suffering the same fate.
Mr. Logan served 26 years of a life sentence in prison for a murder he did not commit. He was formally declared innocent on April 17, 2009, a few months before I was sworn in as a 26 year old California attorney.
In their book, "Justice Failed: How 'Legal Ethics' Kept Me in Prison for 26 Years", Mr. Logan and investigative reporter, Mr. Berl Falbaum, explore the horrific reason Mr. Logan spent 26-years as an innocent convict, which ironically, deals with the "ethical rules" governing attorneys conduct, as it relates to something called "attorney-client confidentiality." (not privilege).
My ideas were highly controversial when published in 2009, but over the last 11 years several states have adopted the very ethical rule I so passionately advocated for. Some even attempted to block the publication itself. For example, here's what another attorney wrote in to the Los Angeles Daily Journal after I published a short article on the subject:
"I shuddered when I read Mr. Patrick Santos' perspective on the attorney-client privilege […] I understand why someone with no experience representing individuals accused of criminal conduct might dream up what at first blush appears to be a reasonable exception to the attorney-client privilege. However, as any practicing criminal defense lawyer knows …"
(Jennifer Friedman, Esq., LA County Public Defender)
She was right, I was about to turn 27 and knew nothing about representing real people. See?
This remarkable first-person story is told by Mr. Logan, a completely innocent man, who lost nearly half his life. According to Chicago attorney G. Flint Taylor, the book "also recounts how a serial police torturer named Jon Burge framed him, and a racist ‘justice’ system sealed his fate”, but those issues are beyond the scope of this blog.
Mr. Falbaum interviewed me for the book, and ended up actually mentioning me a few times in the book, and giving me an acknowledgment of thanks, for which I remain grateful. It's nice to know people actually read your work. Here's what Mr. Logan recounts about my 2009 law review article:
"Telling us he was inspired by my case, Patrick T. Santos, a California attorney, published a comprehensive analysis on attorney-client confidentiality in which he captured the central issue: Life. Advocating for the adoption of a narrow wrongful-conviction exception, Santos said the essence of the argument is, 'grounded in the fundamental notion that an individual's physical liberty outweighs client candor.' [¶] He pointed out the ABA already had broadened its model rules to include exceptions that permit lawyers to reveal client information where an attorney 'reasonably believes it necessary to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm.' He explained, '[T]he rationale behind the new rule is simple: The value of human life and bodily integrity trumps keeping client confidences.' He further argued that the justifications for a new wrongful conviction exception to client confidentiality had already been supplied by the ABA. He said, '[T]he interests that confidentiality preserve . . . seem less important when juxtaposed with another human good - such as when life itself is at stake.'"
I found it amazing that despite the length of my article and the multitude of legal issues addressed, Mr. Logan was able to zero in on what drove my passion – the supreme value of personal dignity and personal freedom. Captured quite nicely in the following maxim: “It is better that 100 guilty men go free than 1 innocent man go to jail.”
He knew what drove me: the idea of spending even 1 minute behind metal bars despite doing absolutely nothing wrong, which is without doubt, one of the worst fates a human being can suffer. It was the great and irreparable physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual harm, an innocent human being locked away suffers daily. He knew because he lived it. He knew it because he suffered it. He knew it all.
As Mr. Falbaum aptly notes in the introduction of the book, "Many of us have received a traffic ticket we believed we did not deserve. We drive away cursing, and vow to the heavens to take the fight to the court." Indeed, as many of you know, this is the driving premise behind one of my successful business models.
Without hyperbole, it is beyond most people's abilities to even imagine being in Mr. Logan's shoes. It requires a deep level of empathy. New research suggests being deeply attuned to others' feelings might actually put your own health at risk. Like when you're watching a movie and someone gets knocked in the groin, some of us (men) cannot help the involuntary physical reaction, and the resultant feeling – however remote - of shared pain. Others may just laugh it off, confident in the knowledge it did not and will not happen to them - - it's just a movie after all.
To anyone whose been locked away despite being completely innocent, empathizing with Mr. Logan is easy. But others may liken it to the movie. The movie where someone else's fate plays out, disconnected from their own reality.
In 2009, I urged we broaden our capacity for human empathy, and incorporate it into what we conceive as the "ethical" framework guiding the conduct of all attorneys throughout the country. Hence it’s title, "Why the ABA Should Permit Lawyers to Use Their Get-Out-of-Jail Free Card: a Theoretical and Empirical Analysis."
Here we are now a decade after Mr. Logan's exoneration and release and the publication of my article. Several states have adopted the "wrongful incarceration" rule. Thankfully, it appears our capacity for empathy has broadened, and for this, I am eternally grateful to one person: Alton Logan.
~Patrick T. Santos is a California attorney, who is not afraid to take positions others deem unworthy or wrong. With eleven years experience, he knows how to advance contrarian views to persuade with force and to stand up for your rights when you need it the most. He offers free consultations on all matters.