A dedicated professional

Published 8:06 pm Tuesday, July 2, 2013

When most folks think about law and order as it relates to the criminal justice system, they tend to focus on the judges, juries and prosecutors. No less important to the system of American jurisprudence, however, are defense attorneys.

Defense attorneys act as officers of the court, as ministers of justice and, perhaps most important, as advocates for the accused. Their highest duties involve ensuring that their clients receive due process of law and the fullest defense against their prosecution that can be provided within the bounds of the law.

Those duties are especially vital for defendants who cannot afford to hire their own attorneys, and public defenders therefore play a special and significant role within the criminal justice system. Not every person who is arrested and charged with a crime actually committed that crime, and not every guilty defendant deserves to bear the maximum punishment for his crime. But every defendant does deserve effective, compassionate representation in court, and public defenders help ensure that each person who stands accused before a judge or jury receives a fair trial.


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Denise Jackson understands her role well. During 20 years of continuous service as a public defender, she has been an able advocate both in court and outside of it for thousands of clients who otherwise might have found themselves caught up in the complex machinery of justice.

Jackson, who has served for the past five years as an advocate on the juvenile and domestic relations team for the Suffolk public defender’s office, was honored in court this week for her long service. Judge Alfreda Talton-Harris presented her a proclamation signed by Chief Judge Robert S. Brewbaker Jr. in one of the courtrooms at the Mills Godwin Jr. Courts building.

It was a fitting honor given in a fitting venue for the John Yeates High School graduate, who began her service in the public defender’s office in 1993, just four years after that office was opened. She said this week that her favorite part of the job is encouraging her clients “to strive for a better life” and helping them realize their own choices have much to do with the direction their lives take.

Most folks would hope they never have reason to meet Jackson on a professional basis. But they can rest easier in the knowledge that Suffolk has such dedicated and compassionate professionals working in the public defender’s office.