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From a Prison Law Library to the New York Times
By Shon R. Hopwood
I am proof that defense lawyers do make a difference. In 1998, I was
sentenced to 12 years and 3 months in federal prison for five armed bank
robberies. I was fortunate to have competent counsel and to receive a
sentence that, while long, was not long enough to make me stop thinking
about my future.
I quickly learned that I did not enjoy prison. I also realized that I
did not want prison to define my life. Believing in the power of second
chances, I endeavored to find a career, a passion.
I found it in the law.
My passion for the law began with an end-of-the-term decision by the
Supreme Court in 2000. It was the now infamous decision Apprendi v. New
Jersey,1 which ushered in a new era of Sixth Amendment jurisprudence.
At the time, I could not have named a “right in the Bill of Rights.”2
But I, like many of my fellow brethren, thought that Apprendi would
reduce the amount of time I would remain incarcerated. I began the art
of legal research by studying my ca
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