We the People

A periodic photo column exploring our constitutional rights in everyday action

By CHRIS ZUPPA, Times staff photographer
Published January 21, 2007

Sixth Amendment: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to have the assistance of counsel for his defense. On one side sits a convicted criminal, a white supremacist, a man whose tattoos tell a story of hate.

On the other side sits his best hope for freedom, a prominent black lawyer who represented the man against a burglary charge. The lawyer also agreed to help him appeal the conviction, pro bono. This January afternoon Grady Irvin Jr. greets Brian Zero Buckley in a drab, concrete visitation room, located inside the Pasco County Sheriffs Office Detention West Facility. When the Public Defenders Office and two private attorneys declared conflicts of interest, Irvin, 43, agreed to represent Buckley, 45. Irvin could have argued a conflict of interest. But he didnt because, in Irvins words, The bigger picture is not the client, its the constitution. He added, If I didn not represent him with the same zeal, same tenacity as I would for a client with an impeccable background, I would be doing a disservice to the legal profession as a whole. We realize in the end, its not who saves us, but instead that they try to save us, and you dont care if theyre man, woman, green, black, orange. In December, Buckle sent Irvin a Christmas Card.