Levi Aron's lawyer, Gerard Marrone, announced that he is withdrawing from the Aron defense.
In one sense, I can sympathize. The nature of the crime, being against a child, would have precluded me from taking the case in the first instance. I have the ability to pick and choose my cases, and I would not have chosen this one. But then, had I chosen this one, I would never quit.
According to Eyewitness News reporter N.J. Burkett, Marrone says "he simply could not, in good conscience, continue to represent" the defendant.
The allegations were too horrific and it's not something I wanted to be involved in.Too late. He knew the allegations going in. He knew what he was getting involved with. He chose to do so, a choice which is admirable in that everyone, even Levi Aron, must be given a defense, and Marrone's decision to stand beside Aron reflects the ugly but necessary job of the criminal defense lawyer.
But now, even though nothing has significantly changed, Marrone has made another choice. This time, he's chosen to quit, to walk away from his client and in the process, to announce that he, as defense lawyer, is too sickened by his client's actions to remain beside him. This he cannot do.
No one could have forced Marrone to be Aron's lawyer, and few would blame him had he refused the case at the outset. Having undertaken the representation, however, his duty is to see it through. The time to make the decision of whether the crime is too distasteful is in the beginning, before signing on. Once in, there is no right to simply walk away when it becomes unpleasant. This is the life we chose. This is the path Marrone chose. It doesn't include an option of walking away whenever the mood strikes.
His explanation, however, emits an unpleasant odor, and I'm not buying. My guess is that he signed onto the case because in one respect, it's every unknown lawyer's dream, the high profile case that puts your name in all the papers and your face on every television screen. Oh, how lawyers want celebrity, and high profile cases are the only way to gain it.
This case offered Marrone his fifteen minutes of fame, but it came at a steep price. A few truths come out fairly quickly, that fame in the defense of a monster doesn't make the lawyer a star. The focus isn't on the lawyer, but the defendant, and there is little if anything to be gained from being integrally connected to such notoriety. No one asks for your autograph.
Not only is the upside of fame not forthcoming, but the downside, the part of celebrity that few can appreciate until they've been there, smacks the lawyer in the head. The questions of how he can defend such a monster begin, and no one wants to stick around for the lecture about the Constitution. People walk away from you in disgust, hatred seething out of every pore, for having stood beside a man that most people would execute without a second thought. And there you are, the lone defender, reviled for doing what you believe you must.
Then there's the affect on one's future, the expectation that being thrust into the limelight will make other clients see you as one of the big name lawyers, flock to you with oodles of money in hand, and important cases to defend. Maybe not Gerry Spence-level importance, but a force to be reckoned with in the world of criminal defense. Except it doesn't happen.
You aren't an overnight sensation, the envy of all the other lawyers in the hallway as rappers and CEOs seek your time and insight. The phone doesn't ring. No one walks up to you in the hallways outside the courtroom asking for your card.
Perhaps Marrone believes that by quitting, by burning his client in the process, by announcing to the world that he has a conscience and love for his own children, that he won't be permanently tarred by having stood next to Aron. Maybe he can salvage his reputation, his besmirched humanity, by spinning his withdrawal into a morality play. If so, this cynical effort won't work. No one cared about Marrone before his moment in the spotlight, and he'll be forgotten again soon enough.
In the bio on Marrone's website, he calls himself "Gerard 'No Fear' Marrone." He may wish that people think of him that way, but there will be one thing that will follow him, haunt him, for his decision to walk away from this defendant, charged with this horrific crime. It's that he's a quitter, that he cannot be relied upon to stand firm and fulfill the obligations he willingly took on, even though it means that he must steel himself to the challenge of representing the worst among us.
Criminal defense lawyers don't have to take any case that comes along. Criminal defense lawyers don't quit when things grow unpleasant. Gerard Marrone is a quitter. Remember him for that.
Update: If you're curious whether anyone is sufficiently clueless as to be sucked into the emotional vortex of Marrone's excuse for failing to fulfill his duty to his client, the answer is, sadly, "you bet."
From The Stir, this stroke of genius by a freelance mother named Jacqueline Burt :
And this is why laws named after dead children are enacted, no matter how mind-bogglingly stupid they are.
"A little piece of me died when I got this case," he said.
That's when the gut-wrenching tragedy hit me on a whole new level. Criminal defense attorneys are tough guys; it comes with the territory. I've never seen someone in that line of work so openly repulsed by his client that he's forced to not only drop the case, but to drop all legal pretense and publicly react on a strictly human level: I'm too horrified by this man to defend him.
What did Marrone see in Aron's eyes that shook him so badly? Those were the last eyes Leiby Kletzky ever looked into. To think that a perfectly innocent child had to spend the final moments of his life under that cold, empty stare makes me doubt the very order of the universe. So I completely understand what Marrone meant when he said, "Before I got involved I believed in the divinity of human beings, and when I got involved I questioned the divinity of human beings."
Of course he had to give up the case. As parents, how can we carry on raising our children if we don't harbor even the faintest hope that there's some meaning behind human life? I admire Marrone's honesty and his decision to put his children first.