Two Kinds of People

Some people believe that we are where we are and have what we have mainly because of the choices we’ve made.

Others believe that we are where they are and have what we have, ultimately, because of things beyond our control — nature and nurture for example, or good fortune, or the grace of God.

Most people who have led privileged existences are in the first group. People in the first group find it easy to judge others. (After all, if we are the product of the choices we’ve made, then clearly the people who lead privileged existences have made better choices than the people who don’t.) If you know a republican, he’s probably in the first group.

Because it’s easier for people in the first group to judge others, prosecutors are almost universally in the first group. The typical stock argument made by prosecutors in criminal cases highlights the “choices” the accused made — a “first group” argument.
Most people who have been beaten down by life a few times are in the second. People in the second group find it easy to empathize with others. It’s easier to see how inexorable forces can control other people’s lives if we’ve felt them in our own. Believing that we are ultimately creatures of factors outside our control, it is easier to imagine ourselves in other people’s shoes.

Because it’s easier for people in the second group to empathize with others, the best criminal-defense lawyers are in the second group. A great criminal-defense lawyers is always seeking the uncontrollable factors that led the accused to do whatever he did.

Being in the second group requires imagination: without imagination it’s hard to see anything beyond the immediate choice. People rarely move from the second group to the first. In my observation, people often move from the first group to the second when they have more exposure to other people’s sorrows and their own.

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0 responses to “Two Kinds of People”

  1. I agree. Prosecutors and most judges are the most hypocritical people on the planet. We are talking hypocrisy greater than that practiced during biblical times. To observe these rookie lawyer prosecutors preach to juries about all of the available options a disadvantaged defendant had at their disposal is nauseating. During a sentencing hearing once a young black defendant started recounting his despicable treatment at the hands of police who had stopped him for an alleged traffic violation. The judge interrupted and stated that the Plano police do not abuse their power. The judge turned to me, who had nothing to do with the case and asked me to explain to this defendant what would happen to the judge if he were stopped by the police. My explanation was not appreciated or apparently expected by this jurist as I informed the defendant that nothing would happen to the judge. Not because the Plano police are not biased, violent, and prejudiced. They were I explained. But the judge, unlike you, is not a young powerless black man. Rather the judge, like most of West Plano citizens is a financially secure powerful person who the media and politicians would pay attention to if a complaint were heard. You, Mr. Defendant on the other hand have no power, no one would listen to you, if they did listen to you they would not believe you, as you are currently experiencing. The police make roadside determinations of whose rights they can ignore and whose they can’t. Yours they can. Was there anything else judge?

  2. I used to dislike prosecutors for this reason, until I realized that their inability to appreciate the extent to which we are formed by things beyond our control is not their fault!

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