By Travis Gulbrandson
Many of the students currently attending Girls State probably are considering what career they should pursue following graduation.
During his remarks in a presentation Tuesday morning, state Attorney General Marty Jackley suggested they study law.
“You won’t find a more gratifying, satisfying profession,” he said. “I can’t describe the feeling when … you walk out of the courtroom, and you just defended a guy falsely accused of murder who was acquitted. He’s either going to walk out of that courtroom, or he’s going to spend the rest of his life in jail.
“On the other side, as a prosecutor, when you walk into that courtroom with a victim and some guy who abused her is in the courtroom, and she grabs you so tight that it cuts the circulation off in your arm,” he said.
Jackley acknowledged that the girls are still in high school, but told them if they are interested in law as a profession, they should start preparing as soon as possible.
“Now is the time to begin those preparations and begin developing your study habits, making the grades so that you can go on and get a four-year degree and two more years of law school,” he said.
He also told them to remember that despite its rewards, there also can be conflicts.
For example, Jackley said that as a Catholic, the state’s two recent executions gave him pause.
However, he was ultimately able to justify them in terms of his belief, which he explained in the case of Eric Roberts, a prisoner who was executed last year for his role in the murder of a guard.
“(Roberts was) already in jail for very, very violent crimes … things that justified housing (him) to protect people,” Jackley said. “Yet (he) continued to hurt and kill people – (he) killed a prison guard.
“So, we can no longer keep (him) in there for life. We have to do something, or else (he) will hurt another inmate, kill another guard, kill a nurse, kill a doctor, and so in order to protect life – it may seem a little odd – I had to utilize the execution,” Jackley said.
Other issues of conscience can arise over the enacting of laws by the state legislature or the governor.
Jackley said that while he may disagree with the laws, he has a responsibility to enforce them.
“It’s no different, though, when I was a defense lawyer,” he said. “I never supported the concept of rape or murder, but yet I would be assigned cases where I represented murderers and rapists. That’s part of being a lawyer. You have a job to do, and you do it to the best of your ability.
“There are times when I take a step back and maybe don’t necessarily like what I’m doing, but I have to justify it in my mind by saying, ‘The governor and the legislature make the laws, the attorney general has to execute or follow those laws,’” Jackley said.
The attorney general also encouraged the Girls State attendees to take an active role in public service and make their communities and the state better places to live.
“I hope that you’re able to take the time and continue to grow and expand, and to do those things in public service and later on in life to serve on the school boards, serve on the county and city commissions, and hopefully some of you will get involved in higher politics,” Jackley said. “The state has never had a female governor or attorney general, so I hope that one of you can rise to that.”
Jackley, a veteran of Boys State, added that he hoped the girls would gain new insights into the importance and process of government as a result of their week in Vermillion.
“This is your time here at Girls State to begin learning and developing a better knowledge of local and state government,” he said. “Of course, government can be a very positive thing or a very harmful thing, and that’s why it’s important that people like you who are interested in it, that you stay active and that you stay involved in it.”