CHARLOTTE, N.C.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A new multimedia project by Katie R. Nelson illustrates how public defenders protect the constitutional rights of indigents accused of crimes.
“Being Atticus Finch” focuses on three young lawyers in the Mecklenburg (N.C.) County Public Defender Office and illustrates their daily work to ensure that their clients receive fair treatment in the criminal justice system.
The project, presented by Katie Nelson Photography, includes a short film, a narrative essay and photographs housed on Nelson’s website, www.beingatticusfinch.com. Nelson, a graduate student at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., developed the project as part of her master’s thesis. She named her project for the small town Alabama lawyer who defended a poor black man accused of rape in the novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
The 15-minute film features Mecklenburg County assistant public defenders Emily Wallwork, Eddie Thomas Jr., and Danielle Maddox.
“I wanted to portray the passion that public defenders everywhere have for helping people in their community, regardless of their social or economic situation,” Nelson said. “I think the quote from Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black says it all: ‘There can be no equal justice where the kind of trial a man gets depends on the amount of money he has.’”
The 1963 Supreme Court decision in Gideon v. Wainwright mandated that every defendant, rich or poor, has a right to counsel and that if the accused could not afford an attorney one would be provided for him. A 2009 Pew Research Center report estimates that more than 5 million Americans, most of them minorities, rely on court-appointed attorneys to represent them.
“Public defense work is about dedication, but it’s also about fairness,” Nelson said. “It’s about giving everyone in the criminal justice system a fair shake. It’s about a passion for upholding the supreme law of the land, no matter the case or client in every courtroom. That’s what my project shows.”
Nelson, 24, is a professional photographer who lives in Arlington, Va. She earned a B.A. in studio art from Lawrence University in 2012. For other examples of her work, please visit www.katienelsonphotography.com.