Noted criminal defense attorney mingles with new lawyers at Sidebar Series

Issue May 2004 By Carla Del Bove

Members of the New Lawyers Section listen intently as noted criminal defense attorney Max Stern presents a lecture at the Elephant & Castle Restaurant in Boston.
Attorneys from the MBA New Lawyers Section mixed and mingled over appetizers and drinks at The Elephant & Castle Restaurant in Boston on April 8 to listen to a Sidebar Series lecture presented by noted criminal defense attorney Max Stern.

Stern welcomed the audience by speaking candidly about what motivated him to become passionate about criminal law and how young lawyers too can become involved in this area of law.

He began by telling the powerful story of Willie Sanders, a young black man who was falsely accused of serial rape. He spoke about how highly publicized the case was in Boston and how the community was eager to make an arrest. Stern said that Sanders, a young painter with no previous record, was falsely accused for the attacks because he worked near the area where the crimes were committed and loosely fit the description of the attacker.

"That (case) began a two-year-long odyssey for me," said Stern. "The hardest thing to do is to defend an innocent person."

Stern talked about his experience handling the case in which Sanders ultimately was found not guilty.

It was during this time that Stern became committed to the cause of opposing the death penalty. He discussed how he and other colleagues put together the Massachusetts Campaign Against the Death Penalty. Their countless hours of work helped to pass legislation to protect individuals in Massachusetts from the death penalty.

"I did not ever want to try a death penalty case in Massachusetts," said Stern, who continues to oppose the death penalty nationwide today.

Stern highlighted how the use of DNA testing has helped revolutionize the anti-death penalty crusade because DNA testing relies on fact rather than speculation and the opinions of others as a method to convict someone of a crime.

"Since 1973, 113 people on death row have been exonerated, mainly because of DNA testing," said Stern.

Stern concluded his heartfelt speech by encouraging young attorneys to get involved with local organizations and continue to fight for the issues of which they feel strongly.