Articles on Shifting Sands
“I always believed Dr Nagarwala was innocent and overcharged”
A criminal defence lawyer asserted this when she wrote the following on Facebook on 29 September 2021, soon after learning that she’d won the case for Dr Nagarwala. Shannon Marie Smith gave me permission to reprint her post here.
“I have to admit that I have been a mess of emotions since I found out about this win this afternoon. I consider this win the biggest in my career to date and likely the biggest my career will ever see. I found out we won when reporters started calling me to get quotes and I didn’t even realize we had won!
For me, this case changed and solidified what it means to be a criminal defense lawyer. Despite the horrible allegations against my client, I have always believed she was innocent and overcharged…and it was really hard to be criticized at first, even by other lawyers for taking the case, but there was no doubt I was going to fight for Dr. Nagarwala like she was my mother or my sister. I thank God that I was strong enough in my conviction to believe people are innocent, ,. I’m not sure we could’ve gotten the result we did without all of those things.
To see a judge agree that the government has been vindictive feels very validating because the last five years have been nothing less than a nightmare for my client and her family. The things the government alleged in the initial indictment are not true, were never true, and unfortunately, the world will never see how misleading they really were. I watched my successful client who was a doctor lose her career in a second, become incarcerated for several months until the court allowed her release on bond, watched her and all of the accused be separated from their children by CPS until the judges in those cases saw the truth and reunited all the families, and live under the threat of going to prison for the rest of her life…facing a total of five different indictments and the United States government pressing and pressing and pressing.
I’ve never been more proud to have the career I do and I’ve never been more proud of myself for taking on such a difficult case that quite frankly, sounded so bad and was run through the media in the worst light with more untruths than truth. I had to get out of my own way worrying about what other people would think of me and really in the end, this case has been a quantum leap in my career both personally and professionally. For a person who always preferred to be liked and respected, it was hard to watch my circle of trusted friends, even defense attorney friends, become much much smaller.
To tell my client that she could re-join her community at the mosque tonight for the first time in over four years was the best text I have ever sent. I absolutely love her and thank her for giving me the opportunity to learn so much from her. She has been thankful that I’ve changed her life…but the life that was really changed more was mine. I really learned that “you don’t know what you don’t know” and now I approach the world in an entirely different way now that I realize the depth to which that can occur and how much the media can influence what we think we know.
I am also so thankful that I do have a small group of supporters that really mean the world to me including my husband, Randy Smith, who also came to love Dr. Nagarwala, and my incredible business partner, Mariell Lehman, who “gets it” and is proud to tell the world she supports me and about the win on this case. I’m sure it would be a lot easier to stay under the radar and not admit that our firm was in this case, but instead she beams with pride and solidifies to me that we belong together.”
A press report: Judge throws out historic female genital mutilation case, calls feds ‘vindictive’ can be accessed here.
In December 2018, I suggested here that the November 2018 US ruling which resulted in most FGM related charges against Dr Jumana Nagarwala, her associates and mothers being dropped should be welcomed. But it also represented a missed opportunity – to test the religious freedom aspect of the First Amendment of the Constitution and to define ‘harm’.
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