PreLaw - Back to School 2010 - 40
Defending people at risk
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, Jules Epstein spent 12 years as a public defender in Philadelphia. In 1990, he joined friends who had set up a civil rights firm and spent several years defending clients in homicide and death penalty cases. “I lost more cases than I won,” said Epstein, now an associate professor at Widener University. “That’s the nature of criminal defense. But you can feel very strongly fulfilled with cases even when you lose. You are the voice standing up for the voiceless and for the guarantee of rights. Without you, that person has nobody. Even when you lose, you can have tremendous satisfaction that you gave that person a buffer against the power of the government.” One of Epstein’s most famous cases was the so-called “Lex Street massacre” in December 2008, one of the deadliest mass murders in Philadelphia history. Four gunmen in ski masks had burst into a drug house and shot seven people to death. Four suspects were arrested. “My client worked in the drug house and ended up confessing to the crime, but he was 100 percent innocent,” Epstein said. Why did he confess? “I wish I knew,” Epstein said. “It’s clear he had been high on drugs and he was scared. The police were probably a little menacing.” The case dragged on almost two years and was about to go to trial when federal
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