When one word doesn't suffice

The New York Times profiles one of Levi Aron's attorneys. He's the man accused of a horrific crime -- kidnapping, killing and dismembering young Leiby Kletzky. All of New York City was focused on the crime but it was particularly tragic for the Borough Park, Brooklyn, Hasidic Jewish community. I'm one of those people who can say without reservation that I admire and support the work of defenders. If I'm ever accused of a crime, I hope I can get a very good defender to help me. Serving on a federal jury a few years ago showed me the importance of a good defender. Billy Martin defended the accused in my trial and even though we convicted the defendant, all the jurors agreed that Martin's service to his client was noteworthy. We joked that we'd like him to represent us if we ever needed it.

But many people loathe defenders, particularly those who take cases involving unspeakably brutal crimes against 8-year-olds. This is a story about that. It begins:

The death threats and hate mail, she says, have slowed, and she keeps her office door unlocked in defiance. There, Jennifer L. McCann sits behind her desk, wearing leopard print pumps, poised for an argument.

Ms. McCann chose to defend Levi Aron, a hardware clerk from Brooklyn who is accused of a crime that gripped the city this summer: the kidnapping, killing and dismembering of Leiby Kletzky, 8, who got lost walking to meet his parents in July in the Hasidic Jewish enclave of Borough Park.

“People assume I’m O.K. with a young boy being murdered because I represent the defendant,” Ms. McCann, 30, said recently in her office in Garden City, N.Y., which she opened in March after four years of practicing criminal defense law for a local firm. “To me, that’s pretty vicious. They have to understand, I’m not all right with people being murdered or with crime. I’m all right with defending constitutional rights.

The story isn't the friendliest to McCann, painting her as someone who is a bit self-serving and naive. But the reader who sent it in had a different concern. It's the lack of information about her religious views. We're told she was raised Catholic in Michigan and went to Villanova and St. John's University School of Law (both Catholic institutions).

And then at the very end of the article, we're told:

Ms. McCann considers it her Catholic, as well as constitutional, duty to care for society’s castoffs. “You protect their rights,” she said, “even when society wants to turn on them.”

And then that's it. As the reader who submitted this noted:

We get a literally one-word mention of McCann's faith -- toward the end of the article -- and no analysis whatsoever of how her Catholicism might affect her choices in her profession. She's a Catholic lawyer defending a Jew accused of killing a Jewish child in New York -- that angle might have been worth exploring. Alas, we're told only that "Ms. McCann considers it her Catholic, as well as constitutional, duty to care for society’s castoffs." What does that mean?

Exactly! When someone you're interviewing tells you that their faith has motivated them to do something controversial, by all means feel free to ask a follow-up or two! It'll make the story much more interesting, too.

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