"You've just heard why, if you're President Clinton, you want David Kendall as your lawyer."

National Public Radio Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenburg covering the Senate impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton


Winter 1999

Editor's Note

I was listening to a re-broadcast of Wabash alumnus David Kendall's "Quid pro quo? No!" defense of President Clinton; editing an article on U.S. Vice-President Thomas Riley Marshall, Class of 1873; and looking for my notes on the bill State Senator Cleo Washington '85 co-authored to abolish the death penalty when Indiana Bar Association President Lee McNeely '62 returned my call from earlier that morning.

It was one of those days when the impact Wabash alumni have on this country seems absurdly disproportionate to the numbers that have graduated from this school of 800 men.

That impact may be felt most strongly in the field of law, so when we decided to conduct an online forum discussing some the challenges facing the American criminal justice system, I knew I'd be able to gather from among Wabash alumni an expert and articulate panel of judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement officers, and corrections and probation officials. In Law & Order: Remarkable Progress or Calm Before the Storm ? these men apply their personal understanding of the system and their determination to improve it to a discussion of promising developments and disturbing trends in criminal justice. They also reveal the dedication and compassion they bring to their work.

I got a close-up look at their line of work the day after wrapping up this issue of the magazine. I found myself in the jury box as "prospective juror #1" for the trial of an alleged carjacker. Answering questions from the prosecutor and public defender in a room crammed with the family and friends of the defendant, I felt the responsibility weighing on each of us involved in this process. I knew the decisions made along every link in the chain could alter the direction of a human life and our community. I remembered a comment Jim Bond '64 made in concluding our Wabash Magazine forum on Law & Order:

"I think that the citizenry would have a lot more confidence in the effectiveness of the criminal justice system if they knew that persons like these Wabash men were in charge of making it work."

For the sake of both victim and the defendant who watched me from across that courtroom, I hoped the judge and attorneys I was answering bore the same dedication to the truth I'd found so inspiring as I'd transcribed our alumni panelist's comments for the magazine. I hope you learn something from them, as well.

I invite you to join in their conversation or to comment on any aspect of this issue by sending your comments on this issue to me via e-mail, mail, or phone.

Steve Charles

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