Born with a Life Sentence

Steve Russell
14 min readMay 19, 2019
Public Domain Photo Courtesy of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Capital punishment, the slogan goes, means those without the capital get the punishment. Over 45 years of labor in criminal law has yet to show me a case to disprove the slogan. The only capital case I defended in private practice was one of very few I’ve ever seen where the lawyers were retained rather than appointed. And we won, victory being defined as the government not killing our client.

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Steve Russell

Enrolled Cherokee, 9th grade dropout, retired judge, associate professor emeritus, and (so far) cancer survivor. Memoir: Lighting the Fire (Miniver Press 2020)