You describe yourself very nicely as a “people specialist”. Is this what all trial lawyers have in common?
Some may feel more inclined to defend the perpetrators of crimes or misdemeanors. What interests me is not one part or the other, but the human being. (She picks up her phone, presses a button, a man’s voice speaks out). You hear ? Every morning, a friend from Mauritius sends me a short video of this local priest, which inspires me for the day. I myself speak in parables all the time. Sometimes, I feel so inspired in my pleadings that I tell myself that this inspiration must come from somewhere.
Are you a believer?
My mother is very religious, I do not find myself in the Church as an institution, but I remain very sensitive to the biblical messages: “Stretch out your hand to others”; ” Love eachother “. I was born to be useful and convince.
While you most often defend the victims, you place a lot of emphasis in your book on the perpetrators…
A president of the Assize Court said to me one day: “You are incredible, you could plead in the same case for the victim and the perpetrator! ” It is very true. My job is to understand. What a victim wants is to put words to what happened to them. When I try to decipher the perpetrator’s motives, when I explain to the jurors why he got there, I also help the victim. Because his attacker becomes less omnipotent in his eyes. It is a source of reassurance for her even if the goal is obviously not to deny the evidence and to exonerate the accused at all costs.
What do you mean?
I remember a case that I had received at the start of my career under legal aid. The man was being prosecuted for the rape of a schizophrenic woman. He denied it, there was nothing in the file, the acquittal was argued. And then, I discovered that he was adopted, I understood that he never felt up to what his adoptive parents expected, and that he was gradually scuttling his life.
I then become almost certain that he did indeed commit the acts that day, because it was on himself that he symbolically vented his rage. I told him: “I can plead for an acquittal, and even get it. But you’ll hate yourself even more. Think. » My client arrived at the hearing with his suitcase. He admitted the facts and was sentenced to eight years in prison, as I recall. This man had taken charge of his story.
Defending is not enough, we feel that you also seek to “repair” those who turn to you…
I often end my pleadings by saying: “Here, in this court, it is the beginning of a tomorrow, and you, ladies and gentlemen of the jurors, are contributing to it. » The important thing is not so much the verdict as the path towards reconstruction. Knowing how to convince can change lives.
“The perpetrator is usually better than the crime he committed,” you write. Is this message audible today, when the presumed innocent are often condemned in advance by social networks?
Crime freezes everything, it immobilizes beings at a given moment. But we cannot reduce the perpetrator to his act, nor the victim to his death. You have to be able to broaden the field to understand. I often tell this story to my clients: if tomorrow you read an AFP dispatch: “Societe Generale robbery, three dead among the attackers, four among the employees”, the news will leave you relatively indifferent.
If a talented director makes a film of this story, and chooses one of the killed police officers as the hero, portraying him as a super dad, with a child eager to follow in his father’s footsteps, at the moment that police officer is killed, you will cry. Is it because you are pro law enforcement? No way.
If the same director instead chooses one of the robbers as his hero, let him tell how he managed to get out despite a massacred childhood and years in prison and dove back in by wanting to help one of his best friends… You cry too. Because in each case, you were interested in the character. If we deprive ourselves of this look, the victim is reduced to a silhouette in chalk on the ground, and the author, to his crime.
How do you choose your clients?
They are the ones who choose me. Then, it is never the act that proves decisive for me, but what led to it, the way in which my client understands the facts and accepts his action or not. And, more importantly, how I feel about the person. If she touches me, I’ll go.
As in the case of Nadège?
Quite. In my book, I tell the story of Nadège, 16, who moves in with Stéphane, a gypsy. They have a baby, time passes, Stéphane drinks and becomes violent, the young woman meets Christophe, an engineer from a good family. She wants to leave her daughter’s father but he threatens her, harasses her, until he hides in the trunk of his car. She no longer knows how to free herself from it and the story turns into horror: Nadège and her new companion kill Stéphane before burying him in the forest.
By meeting Nadège, I understood that I was dealing with a submissive young woman and – I will undoubtedly shock you – with a “nice” girl. The couple was psychologically invaded by the ex-partner and could no longer think of how to get out of it.
Where is she today?
After being sentenced to twenty-two years of imprisonment (in 2008, Editor’s note) , she benefited from a reduced sentence and now works in a bakery. I’m sure she’ll never do it again.
Reading you, we understand with horror that committing a criminal act can happen to anyone!
You can kill without wanting to, indeed. I think of Sylvain, a West Indian bus driver, very religious. A homeless man had gotten into his vehicle and was disturbing travelers. He ended up ejecting him by grabbing him by his scarf. But it tightened around the man’s neck, until it strangled him. Sylvain was sentenced to eighteen months for involuntary manslaughter.
Why are you in favor of abolishing the statute of limitations for personal injury?
When the concept of prescription was introduced, people died much earlier, the means of scientific investigation were much more limited, etc. Saying “we can no longer do anything, so we prescribe” was not shocking.
This is no longer the case today. when a man confesses to the murder of a kid thirty-five years after the facts and the courts respond: “Prescription”, it is unbearable!
The prescription can, however, help victims to turn the page and not lock themselves in their pain…
This is true for some, but not for others. And then, we can say to a victim who files a complaint very long after the attack: I hear you, we won’t get anywhere for lack of evidence, but there is a report, which could be useful if the attacker presumed is designated in other cases. Let us do whatever we have to do – me, as the lawyer, the victim, as the complainant – God will recognize his own.
Aren’t the victims expecting too much from the trial?
It all depends on how the victims were prepared by their lawyer. For them, the punishment is never high enough. My job is to bring them back to what they can do and get, regardless of the fate of the perpetrator. Filing a complaint means saying: “I am “me”, and I did not agree with what happened to me. “. I try to make them understand that they are acting in the name of their pain, and not for the conviction of the accused.
Explain yourself !
Imagine that you are driving your car. You’re worried, your mother is sick, the phone rings, you’re not paying attention, you run over a kid. Should you be condemned for your fault or for the pain of your parents?
If Gérard Depardieu opened the door to your office, would you agree to defend him?
My very first instinct is to stand up for those who are doing badly. I have no doubt that some of his actions have deeply tarnished women, but I also think that he is, at the present moment, cornered by the media court and social networks.
In controversial scenes broadcast on television, he “overplays” the provocative persona he has since The waltzers. Some people cry about impunity, but we mix everything up: the problem is that in certain circles like that of cinema, there is no morality.
The only thing that would interest me would be to know what he perceived and what he perceives of the harm he may have done. Obviously, we would have to go further. But putting people against the wall and sparking arguments between “pro” and “anti” is not constructive. We want to know everything about everything, very quickly, and so we put people into boxes. Without ever questioning the subtlety of beings and situations.
You know better than anyone the dark side of humans. Have your three children become suspicious of others while listening to you talk about your cases?
I don’t think so, but we can ask them. (She calls one of her sons, aged 18) ” Are you OK my angel ? I have a quick question to ask you: Has my job made you suspicious?
– Not at all, we know that we have to be careful in certain situations, but we are not paranoid, you taught us that the world is neither all black nor all white. »
– (She hangs up, moved.) This is exactly what I wanted to convey to them.