Commentary: The Black Lawyer Representing a White Supremacist

Here’s to always doing your job to the best of your ability despite what others might prefer you to do.

Posted: 06/12/2012 10:51 AM EDT

(Photo: Courtesy Chicago Tribune)

MiAngel Cody is a young federal defender just like many young federal defenders in America. She’s from the South, Black, 32 years old, and many of her forebears were consummate civil rights advocates. On a recent day like any other, however, Cody was throw into a situation many public defenders will not face: Cody has been tasked with defending a white supremacist accused of burning down a Black family’s house.

For better or worse, this is how the American justice system works: If a person accused of a crime cannot afford an attorney, an attorney is provided to them. And sometimes that can make for some pretty strange pairings. In this instance, Cody is defending Brian James Moudry, a 42-year-old man who has already been convicted of a hate crime once in his life. Moudry, who is covered in white-power tattoos, is now accused of setting his neighbor’s house on fire because his neighbor was African-American.

If the coupling sounds strange, that’s because it is. Also strange is that, according to other lawyers, Moudry might have gotten a bit lucky in the deal. "The jury is going to wonder does he really hate African-Americans?" Nishay Sanan, an Indian-American attorney who has represented white supremacists before, told the Chicago Tribune. "The jury is not going to know that she is appointed. All they are going to see is an African-American attorney sitting next to a white supremacist who has supposedly committed a hate crime."

While you may not want Moudry to get off lightly, it’s important to remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Also important to remember about this story is that, as weird and wrong as it sounds, it’s a sign of improvement in America. Time was that a Black female lawyer defending a white man would be inconceivable. Now it’s no big deal. And, according to Cody’s colleagues, she’s going to do a great job of defending this white man, too: “A good criminal-defense attorney can handle anything,” Terry MacCarthy, who used to run the federal defender’s office, told the Tribune. “He'll be in real good hands with her. She is one very good and very bright lawyer.”

Here’s to always doing your job to the best of your ability despite what others might prefer you to do.


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