Thursday, January 26, 2006

Local criminal defense attorney honored

Don Thompson, one of the best criminal defense attorneys in Rochester, will receive the Charles F. Crimi Memorial Award from the New York State Bar Association today for his superb work on behalf on indigent defendants. Don is featured prominently in a Democrat and Chronicle article about the NYSBA awards here. Some bits from the article:

Thompson's colleagues say they see similarities between him and Crimi, the late defense lawyer. Thompson, like Crimi, doesn't think the level of defense a person receives should be based on the resources he or she has.

"Don's one of those rare individuals that is committed not only to the practice of criminal law and the vigorous representation of his clients but the pursuit of the fundamental elements of justice, which the system is based on," said defense lawyer Lawrence Kasperek, who shares office space with Thompson in downtown Rochester.

"Those people are not only rare but they're vital to the proper function of the criminal justice system."

Thompson, 46, admits that he is fueled by an insistence that the criminal justice system can operate better.

"I believe that we potentially have the best system of justice that we could hope for, but you can't just sit back and hit the cruise control and expect it to work," he said. "It's my life so I'm kind of committed to being part of a system that I can be proud of."

In recent years, Thompson has worked with the New York City-based Innocence Project to try to secure genetic testing in cases in which he contends the wrong people may have been convicted. Those cases have triggered legal clashes with prosecutors, who often maintain that the evidence against the convicted is overwhelming.

"Probably one of the biggest compliments I've ever received, and it wasn't meant as a compliment, was (when) a district attorney characterized me as a 'true believer,'" Thompson said.

Doing indigent defense work is usually a thankless job, so it is nice to see Don--one of the true good guys of the local criminal bar--get some much deserved recognition. Congratulations!