We’re currently in the process of narrowing down finalists for the $1,000 Appelman Law Firm Scholarship, and we thought it would be a great idea to share some of the best essay submissions we’ve received on our blog. As part of the application process, entrants were asked if they would allow their story to be shared on our blog, and if so, how they would like to be attributed. Today’s essay comes from Joseph Crawford.
During high school my ability to overcome adversity would be tested. Conflict at home was normal and manifested itself in my high school performance and attitude. My father was a corporate man who tried to remove his unhappiness in life with a bottle. My mother tried to be there but was just as sick as my father. Baseball was my out, and my freshman year I made the varsity squad. My sophomore year, I allowed the drama to catch up with me and was sidelined from baseball for eligibility issues. The high school team went on to win the state championship; I would have been the starting short-stop. After reflecting upon the disappointment of my sophomore year, I renewed my focus and had a breakout season. Colleges started to show interest in my abilities. However, my dream of playing college baseball would never be realized, because during my junior and senior year I made decisions that cost me the ability to achieve this dream.
In 2002 while in the midst of having a breakout baseball season I was stopped by an officer in Derby, KS and questioned about an event that happened earlier that day. Hours prior, while exiting the high school parking lot I was involved in an altercation that ended when I head-butted another student. I could have avoided this confrontation all together but I chose otherwise.
I told the officer that I had nothing to talk about and he immediately requested I exit the vehicle and arrested me for assault and battery. This was only the beginning, because in my possession was a small amount of marijuana that was found when I was searched at the juvenile detention center. The assault and battery charges were later dropped, but the possession charge was enough to land me on diversion for one year.
While on diversion I continued making poor decisions. Later that year, I was pulled over and booked for DUI while driving in Derby, KS. My diversion was revoked and I was placed on probation for one year. My life was beginning to really spiral out of control and I failed to take action and change things.
My poor choices continued to catch up with me and in 2003 while attending a high school formal I was approached by a school administrator. You see, a few months prior to the dance I fought some kid from another school and beat him up pretty bad. He got his revenge that night by informing the school administrator, which had previously approached me, that I was under the influence and causing trouble. I was under the influence, and as soon as the administrator was sure of this she carted me off the dance floor.
The result was a one year expulsion from school. Instead of graduating from high school and moving on to play collegiate baseball, I was taking the GED. Taking the equivalency exam thrust me directly into a cohort of which less than one percent will finish a four year degree. Having completed my undergraduate degree, with honors, and in the process of completing my Juris Doctor, I have triumphed over difficulties and grown from them. The humility learned, in suffering as the result of my own behavior, turned out to be extremely beneficial to my development.
I have always felt that my background gives me a unique perspective on what it means to be a criminal or a person accused of a crime. I mean not to state that I was undeserving of any punishment I received, or that I was slighted and therefore can understand those that also feel slighted. However, I do believe that my experience gives me empathy towards those who are currently constrained by criminal charges.
I feel that I am especially equipped to become a unique defense attorney in the field of juvenile criminal justice. After all, the bulk of all the legal trouble resulted from a few years of misbehavior as a juvenile. The cases I caught as a juvenile have stayed with me to this day. I understand the repercussion of adolescent actions and how these actions effect employment, applying to schools and organizations like the Bar, and generally how these actions can stick around like shackles on your feet. Ultimately though, I am proof, and can provide inspiration to others, that although these shackles will never be removed, they can be overcome.
I hope to be a zealous advocate for my clients. I am passionate about defense law because of my life experiences. My hope is that I can combine my legal knowledge, desire to represent the accused, and inspirational story into a successful and fulfilling legal career. Any support from the Appelman Law Firm would be greatly appreciated in this endeavor.