As lawyers, we truly believe in the law, in justice, and that the system works. But we are also aware of the rare wrongful conviction case—and it is truly the stuff of nightmares. Being accused and convicted of something you didn’t do, or the idea of mistaken identity … think Shawshank.
These cases always get a lot of coverage because of the deep-seated belief that the American justice system will get it right. The guilty will get convicted and more importantly, the innocent will be exonerated.
In our in-depth cover feature this month, we hear the personal story of how the system failed one of the legal community’s own—Suzanne Wooten, a lawyer, a judge.
Wooten actually lived this nightmare. As Angela Morris reports, it all began when she won an election to unseat an incumbent judge. She was allegedly targeted by political rivals, wrongfully convicted of nine felonies, cast down from her district court bench and stripped of her license to practice law. But after six years living this bad dream, Wooten found redemption in May when a court acquitted her of all charges and declared her innocent. In June, she got back her law license.
But there is a bigger question that remains: How could this happen? And what went wrong? Wooten shares her personal story and we hear from both sides, in this piece about recovery after loss. But although it is a story of redemption, there are some things Wooten says she will never get back. “The biggest horror is taking away from me and my family the sense of security we have. When something like this happens to you, my sense of being safe even just walking down the street—it’s gone, it’s destroyed.”