Florida Attorney John Contini Demonstrates Power of Forgiveness in New Book: ’Danger Road: A True Crime Story of Murder and Redemption’
FORT LAUDERDALE (March 3, 2006) --- In his 23 years as a defense attorney John Contini has learned two important things that make him quite good at representing his clients. Early on he learned how to win cases - many that other attorneys wouldn’t take. In fact, Contini worked diligently as a young lawyer to build a reputation as a tough and aggressive advocate for those he represented, and it paid off in an impressive array of victories for his clients -- and abundant press coverage for himself. (To view past press coverage on attorney John Contini, visit www.jpcontini.com/press.htm.)
It wasn’t until later that Contini learned an important and lifelong lesson about the importance of blending justice with mercy and forgiveness. And that, says Contini, has made him a far better lawyer - and a far better human being.
“You’ve got to do certain things to win in trial, and represent your client to the very best of your ability - legal practices that are ethically permitted by the rules of evidence and actually ethically required by the Code of Professional Responsibility - but behavior that can occasionally run afoul of the scriptures,” explained the high-profile criminal defense and personal injury lawyer. “It’s like tip-toeing through an ethical and scriptural minefield.”
Though most of Contini’s cases are in South Florida, he has handled federal cases involving corporate espionage, organized crime and racketeering, smuggling, and drug trafficking - and other crimes - in various U.S. locales like Pittsburgh, Boston, Cleveland, Ohio and Orlando, Florida. Contini, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, has a reputation as one of the most capable and successful defense attorneys in America.
His personal and professional journey has taken him from the depths of emotional despair over the state of an unforgiving world, and the weakness and hypocrisy inherent in human nature, to the pinnacle of spiritual joy and fulfillment. The challenges he has faced, and their resolutions - from both a legal and spiritual position - have enabled him to grow and flourish as a lawyer, and as a man. Working side by side with those who have been truly repentant, Contini has had to struggle with his own ego and personal demons, witnessing the astonishing duality that lies within the hearts of his dear friends, respected peers, and those he has represented.
While most people may be totally comfortable with the meting out of punishment to any and all members of society (as long as it’s not someone they love), Contini is more interested in finding ways to be compassionate in his practice.
“Consider the James Gould case and the public outrage it incited,” said Contini, who once served as a Broward County, Florida prosecutor. “Indignation and righteous anger, including my own, is the typical response when you describe a man who admits to taking a shower with an eight-year-old boy, and possibly doing some inappropriate things. Yes, there are legal consequences for this outrageous crime and yet, as an evolved society with respect for treatment and rehabilitation, are we not required to have some compassion toward even folks like Gould who themselves were once victimized as children? Where’s the empathy for the child inside this man, before his own innocence was destroyed by the sexual abuse perpetrated on him?”
Contini is quick to point out that being compassionate does not mean setting a convicted killer or pedophile free. He believes that criminals can be forgiven, and still go to prison where, he says, most deserve to be.
“Many of the angry, self-righteous folks who clamored for Gould to be put to death, castrated, or sent to prison for life, are the very same people who would ask for mercy if it were their father, mother, big brother, elder sister, prodigal son, or wayward daughter who had done the deed,” noted Contini. “People want justice when someone else is accused. They want anything but justice when a loved one is on trial. Then they demand mercy, and suddenly want to be assured that their loved one will get the help they so desperately need. They talk out of both corners of their mouth. We simply need to acknowledge there’s value in trying to avoid this kind of double-mindedness.”
Ironically, much of what Contini has learned about life, his own failings and weaknesses, and his blossoming spirituality, was gleaned from relationships with some of his most infamous and notorious clients. His close contact with Gil Fernandez, the former Miami police officer and champion bodybuilder who was convicted of the triple gangland-style murder of three alleged drug dealers in 1991, helped to change Contini’s life.
“I got too close to Gil, and probably should have tried harder to maintain appropriate boundaries, and put a healthy distance between myself and my client,” he said. “But I don’t regret a thing. Now after 20 years as a criminal defense lawyer, I only take clients who I believe are truly repentant -- those who show remorse for their crime, and empathy for the victim and the victim’s family. As a man of faith, my relationship with Gil helped me to practice what I used to just preach.”
In his soon-to-be-released book on the case, Danger Road: A True Crime Story of Murder and Redemption, Contini recounts the incredible story of his complicated relationship with Fernandez. Now a lifelong bond, their relationship developed around the nine-week trial in which Contini defended Fernandez, and culminated in a spiritual awakening for both the attorney and the convicted man.
“The biggest challenge I face as a lawyer, and a man of faith in this secular arena, is simply acting in a way that is consistent with all of who I am,” said Contini. “It can be very difficult when you want to tell a pompous and uncaring prosecutor to ’put it where the sun don’t shine!’ Instead, I try to get people to realize that we all have something to learn from each other - even a person who is a convicted murderer has some kind of wisdom to share. There but for the grace of God go I.”
Regardless of a person’s guilt, whether in reference to James Gould, Gil Fernandez, or any other person who has been accused of a heinous crime, Contini believes that if you know the defendant is guilty, it’s crucial to “condemn the act, not the person.”
“The criminally accused is treated as our modern-day leper,” explained Contini. “It’s not the healthy who need a physician. It’s the person who is shunned and ostracized by society who we ought to help, and treat with compassion and mercy. After all, we must demonstrate forgiveness if we want to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made in this life.”
About John Patrick Contini
John Patrick Contini is a former prosecutor and veteran criminal defense attorney since 1983. With over twenty years experience as a trial attorney, John has appeared in eleven Federal Courts throughout the nation and Florida. John received his B.A. in 1979 from the University of MA and his Juris Doctor in 1982 from the New England School of Law. John has been written up by numerous publications and featured on national and local television and radio news outlets. His law firm, John P. Contini and Assoicates, specializes in the areas of family law/marital issues, commercial litigation, bankruptcy law, workers compensation and employment law, civil rights litigation, personal injury, and wrongful death cases. John P. Contini and Assoicates can be reached at: 954-766-8810 or on the web at www.jpcontini.com.
MEDIA CONTACT: To interview John Contini or to learn more about Danger Road, contact Dave Bohon at WDC Media Public Relations: 612-940-8406, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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