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JD International Law, Death Penalty. African American

Working in criminal justice was the goal that I set for myself while still a child, heavily influenced by America’s glamorization of law enforcement on television. As I matured into an adult, I came to see it as less and less glamorous and more and more tragic. Ultimately, I decided on a career in the military and spent 20 years as a soldier, almost all military intelligence. I am a veteran of both the Kosovo Campaign and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

I spent a decade grieving for my daughter from March of 1998 through April of 2008, three separate surgeries for cancer in what turned out to be only a prolongation of defeat that culminated in divorce and bankruptcy. Nevertheless, I finished my BS in Criminal Justice and Criminology from XXXX University, graduating “Magna Cum Laude” in 2007. I am a fighter, and my heart is more significant than life. As an African American and the only person to ever attend college with my family, my desire to acquire knowledge and intellect has been driven by a desire to overcome the hurdles of my race and my upbringing, making me focused and very persistent. Last year I earned my Master’s Degree with honors in Legal Studies. I have also been managing inmates in the U.S. prison system. Increasingly, to the extent to which I have the opportunity, I communicate with Latino inmates in Spanish; this is helping me to cultivate a greater sense of identity as an international citizen, and understand more fully the way that fundamental challenges in our penal system, while not color blind, still run much deeper than the color, race or ethnicity factor alone. I still have a long way to go in both Spanish and French. Still, the very fact I can communicate in both languages on some level—reading, writing, and conversation, suggests I continue striving not only to excel, but to broaden my horizons.

I feel strongly that African-Americans need to at least participate in, if not lead, the fight against the death penalty on the international stage. Passionate about lifelong learning and the creative struggle for justice, I fully intend to contribute 100% to the anti-death-penalty movement for the next three to four decades. It has taken me the first half of my life to know what I want to do with the second half, and I want to practice human rights and death penalty law in the international arena. I see your university as the flagship institution in this area. Thus, I sincerely hope you will look upon my application to your program with favor. African-Americans are the most overrepresented ethnicity within both U.S. and Canadian prison systems. Their disproportional representation on death row in the US is especially troubling. I ask for admission to your program so I might dedicate the balance of my professional energy to saving lives, particularly those who are innocent and have not been given just and transparent due process.

The University of XXXX is my first choice among JD programs because of the depth of my appreciation for your global focus on international law, which is a good fit with my intense desire to work in the area of international legal affairs. I also want to study abroad rather than in the U.S., and both U.S and Australian law are based on English Common Law.  I also like the fact that your program is the oldest law school in Australia since I want very much to graduate from a distinguished program that is respected across the globe. I seek to take full advantage of how your program empowers students to build pathways toward international careers. Thus, I see the U of XXXX as the optimal springboard for making significant contributions to the global anti-death penalty movement.

My moral world lit up like a pinball machine in my death penalty law course. When I began that period, I was on the fence about the death penalty. By the end of the course, however, I was strongly opposed. This is because I learned about how it is unequally applied, with more black males on death row than any other race, yet we only make up roughly 12 percent of the U.S. population. We frequently hear of people being forgiven after twenty years on death row, wrongfully convicted in the first place. Most of the time, the prosecution gets these convictions from eyewitness testimony which later turned out to be false.

I have a special admiration for some of the defense attorneys who are defending the detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, doing the very best they can with so little to work with since their clients are being detained without formal criminal charges and limited access to counsel. I question the legal authority to detain these individuals in the first place in violation of international law and human rights.

Of course, there is an enormous amount of work to be done by those of us who oppose the death penalty. And given the fact that the United States Government, like China, makes no distinction concerning capital punishment between citizens and foreign nationals who have committed crimes on their soil, this strikes me as an excellent place to begin; to situate myself in the middle of the debate in the international stage.

I feel confident that I will succeed if accepted to your program, first working for an international law firm and hopefully developing my own later on, providing legal investigative service and counsel for international cases and issues, especially as related to the death penalty and the Innocence Project. Today I am no longer a soldier. I am more ready to do battle than ever before, however, especially if I were to be armed with the JD Degree from the University of XXXX.


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