Daniel H.J. Satterfield, Assistant Public Defender
404 James Robertson Parkway, Suite 2022
Nashville, Tennessee 37219
14 February 2016
To Whom It May Concern,
I have been blessed with the opportunity to be a public defender in the South for the past five-and-a-half years. I’ve sat with a 15-year-old whose mother took him to steal things from stores and told him to drive because she didn’t have a valid license. He didn’t want to go back to a youth detention center because the last time he was there one of the adult workers broke his leg. I’ve sat with a young woman who got pregnant in eighth grade. After a miscarriage, other students began calling her “baby murderer” and scrawling that on the stalls of the bathroom walls. The school painted over the words, but the scars remained. One day, three girls began whispering “baby murderer” at her during class. She complained to the teacher, who told her to go on to second period and not listen to them. On the way to second period, the three emboldened bullies pursued her in the hallway. Getting no reaction, one of the girls spit on her. She threw a chair at one of them and was expelled. I’ve sat with a man suffering from severe mental illness who was given money from a police officer to go into a dangerous drug dealer’s house and buy drugs. He bought food instead and was charged with theft. I’ve sat with homeless men and women whose “crime” was obstructing a passageway at 2:00 in the morning for sleeping on warm grates during the freezing cold. I’m privileged to defend the most vulnerable, victimized and marginalized members of our society. Victims of poverty, neglect and abuse. Abused physically, emotionally and sexually.
I credit Gideon’s Promise http://www.gideonspromise.org/ with providing me with the training, mentorship and community necessary to keep me in this calling. While participating in the Gideon’s Promise Core 101 program and Graduate program, I’ve been blessed with meeting and getting to know the amazing public defenders in Orleans, St. Tammany, and Lafayette Parishes who have done and seen all that I have and more. Committed public defenders are necessary to combat the legacy of enslavement and human rights violations of our past, which are still evidenced in our criminal injustice system.
Louisiana is in crisis right now. Crisis is difficult and scary and can cause systems to melt like wax in a flame. But crisis can also be an opportunity to come through stronger and better than before like forged steel. Do not succumb to fear and fallacious notions that efficiency should be valued over justice. I trust that Louisiana will look at the changes and challenges that are happening all over this country, be courageous, be proud and do everything that it can to protect the human rights champions at Lafayette Parish.
“My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice. Finally, I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.”
- Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
Daniel H.J. Satterfield
Assistant Public Defender