The Champion

April 2003 , Page 62 

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A Gideon Moment

By Robert F. Field

Read more A Gideon Moment columns.

When I started as a public defender in 1976, I was quickly burning out, handling what I considered to be insignificant minor cases. My boss kept telling me that every case was important, and if you look hard enough you will find the real meaning of our work in even the simplest of matters.

In 1979, I was introduced to Rose Caoli by a prosecutor on the case who told me that she needed a lawyer. He told me he was under a great deal of political pressure to prosecute her to the fullest extent of the law. Rose Caoli, a diminutive 70-year-old woman, stood before me clutching rosary beads in her hands.

From the beginning she had complete faith in my ability to represent her and had no doubt that God was on her side. By now I am sure you are wondering what great crime Ms. Caoli committed. Well — take a breath — she was charged with “feeding pigeons in the park.”

It seems my client believed that the Virgin Mary appeared in her bedroom years before and assigned her

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