Spring 2021 Funk Law Student Scholarship Winner

Lamarr Martin of Georgia State University is our Spring 2021 winner of the Funk & Associates Law Student Scholarship. Mr. Martin, who just completed his 2L year, tells the moving story of why is plans to practice criminal defense law below.

When I was seventeen years old, two officers visited my family’s house in Oakland, CA to question my sixteen year old cousin on a criminal related incident. My cousin and I were not at home, but we were together at a basketball game. When we finally returned home, our family informed us about the officers’ visit. Thereafter, I drove my cousin to the police station for him to respectfully speak to the officers. Upon speaking to the front desk receptionist, the officers apprehended him. This was his first encounter with law enforcement. In addition, he refused to meet with a public defender because he believed he could solely explain his innocence to the officers. Nevertheless, the officers’ demeanor towards him intensified to aggressive tactics in the interrogation room. After he answered each question, they recklessly raised their voices and used profanity when addressing him. Admittedly, he shared with me that he was nervous, scared, and intimidated. Consequently, he failed to articulate his explanation clearly enough to the officers. After four months in a juvenile detention center, he was prosecuted for the crime. Although a teenager myself, I only wish that I were the legal representation “voice” for my “voiceless” cousin in his darkest moment.

Now that I am a second year law student, I constantly remind myself of the promise I made to my cousin years ago. A promise that I would become a criminal defense attorney to fight for individuals with my cousin’s similar odds. Throughout my life, I always felt more connected to people who were the “underdog” in life circumstances. Becoming a criminal defense attorney will allow me the opportunity to represent clients at one of the most difficult points in their lives and advocate for their rights against the interests of formidable and sometimes well-funded opponents.

In my part-time job as a legal assistant at a criminal defense firm, I assist with case management and finding solutions for indigent defense clients. While working on several cases that involve young adults, I noticed the alarming arrest rates of minority teenagers. These ranged from a client who brought a flashlight taser to school, to a client charged with minor possession of marijuana and drug objects. Most of these young adults lived in communities with high crime rates, which ultimately and unfortunately led them right into the criminal justice system due to a lack of healthy outlets in those same communities. I felt compelled to work extremely hard on
these cases to prevent jail time, not because it was my job, but because I believed that they all deserved a second chance. I want to ensure that at-risk youth have someone who can challenge these school-based incidents on their behalf. As a defense attorney, I will work closely with community leaders, school boards, and parents to help find alternatives to incarceration for young adults. I want to use my education and skills to advance young adults from disadvantaged communities through programs and speaking engagements. Overall, I will make full effort to advocate for juvenile justice reform. I know that with strong grit, I will have the capability to help young adults that are facing daily adversities.