I recieved an e-mail from a Criminal Justice student at Sacramento State. He was interested in how I became an PD investigator.
You know...I never really thought about it a whole lot. But it really got me thinking about why I started doing defense work. A lot of PD investigator's come from a law enforcement background...I came from a different background.
When I was in high school I read a book by Josiah "Tink" Thompson, Gumshoe: Reflections In A Private Eye. It was the book that sparked my interest in defense work. I had read all the PI novels that filled my local library...but this book was different, it talked about actual cases. One in particular was about a high profile San Francisco murder case. The murder occurred in Chinatown (late 1970's I think) and the work done by Thompson in locating a key witness to the murder assisted in showing that his client was misidentified at the scene of the crime and was not the shooter.
The book has a few other fascinating side stories but the Chinatown shooting is the one that hit home for me. He not only talked about the steps he took in his investigation but of the relationship he had to develop with the witness. It was friggin good reading.
That book opened up a new world for me. A world where the good guys didn't always wear a badge and carry a gun. In my world the good guys just have a pen, a notebook, and their own common sense. It opened my eyes to the idea that defense investigators could (and should) be a more cerebral bunch than our DA counterparts. We don't (and can't) open doors and get people to talk to us with a badge and gun, we open them with our minds (not literally of course), our desire to get the truth, and sometimes, sometimes even a little smile and charm.
After high school, I got a job with a private investigator specializing in defense while I went to college, answering phones and basically acting as the, "office bitch." It was a small operation with no more than three investigators and me as the guy that did everything (Phones, Court searches, serving subpoena's, subrosa, and general office management). I eventually learned the basics of interviewing witnesses and victims, locating people, serving subpoena's, and doing court searches (this was in time before courts had their records on-line). All necessary skills in working successfully as a defense investigator.
Most of the work we did was for people that could afford it. People that came from wealth and crossed the criminal line. I worked for a couple more private investigation firms, getting paid more and more as time went on (being bi-lingual is one reason I was able to get work...It's a skill most PD and PI offices are starting to require). I still knew there was more out there and that is when I discovered the wonderful world of indigent defense....
This is getting longer than planned (my efforts to avoid boring people are failing) and my lunch break is almost over....I promise to finish this tonight.