Evelyn Pentikis admires attorney Geir Leppestad, who is setting aside his own pain in order to defend Norway shooter Anders Breivik.
Would you do your job if it meant defending a murderer of innocent youth?
A Reuters article recently profiled Attorney Geir Lippestad, of Norway, who is doing just that and makes a compelling case for why he took on defending militant rightist Anders Behring Breivik, who detonated a car bomb on July 22, 2011 killing eight, then traveled to a small island where he hunted down and shot to death 69 people attending a youth camp run by the Labour Party.
On a basic level, Lippestad states defending Breivik is essential in ‘defending the values’ he believes in and in protecting the core of democracy. “People must enjoy the same rights and must be punished by the same laws.” His personal ideals are clearly aligned with those of the nation he works and lives in, but the choices he had to make in defending Breivik are not so easily demarcated. Not only did he initially face serious threats, but also, he recently told the French daily Le Monde, “I feel I have lost my soul. . .I hope to get it back once it’s over – and that it will be in the same condition as before.”
The stakes are high in taking on defending Breivik of his atrocious crime – the trial itself will be grueling both in the public eye and in the heart – the emotional toll in hearing testimony from witnesses and in seeing parents mourning for their brutally murdered children would be extreme, to say the least, even to the most emotionally hardened men.
Lippestad admitted he had reservations when he received the request from the police to defend Breivik, but then his wife, a nurse, pointed out to him that ‘”If he was shot, the doctors and nurses would… help him, they’d do their job. You’re a lawyer, so don’t you want to do your job?’ Lippestad and his wife, who care for eight children between them, two disabled, may have been sleep deprived when they made the initial decision, but they were coherent enough to contemplate the age-old issue of balancing individuality versus the common good.
What would you do if you were in his shoes? Would you have the strength or courage to defend a ruthless killer in order to protect the integrity of the justice system which was designed according to the principles you subscribe to? Would you be able to sleep at night if you didn’t?
Photo: AP/Scanpix Norway