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The Champion

November 2010 , Page 62 

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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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