Mark Stanziano – We Have Lost a Warrior
"Mark Stanziano has been shot and killed outside his office." Ed Monahan, Kentucky Public Advocate, called me and told me the news about 9:40 today, the 27th of June. I was intending to write an article about NAPD's strategic planning. That doesn't seem right now.
Who was Mark? He was a "prominent criminal defense lawyer" in Somerset, Kentucky. That's what the "breaking news" from the Lexington Herald Leader says. And that he was. He was also a former public defender in Minnesota, a capital conflict public defender in Kentucky, and a man with a fierce hatred of injustice. He was past-President of the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense lawyers and life-long board member.
Public defender work didn't really suit Mark. He was far too independent and out-spoken for that. He didn't take to supervising people. He didn't mince his words. He didn't collaborate much with others when setting policy. He mainly said his piece with a refreshing bluntness.
Mark was at his best when his client's back was against the wall. When a child drank poison from table, left there during the meth making process, police and prosecutors screamed for blood against the dad. Mark was there. When a man was charged with shooting a local sheriff, seemingly everyone called for the death penalty against the defendant. Mark was there too. Judges tried to hold Mark in contempt. Prosecutors loathed (and respected) him. Mark never walked away from a fight, and usually when he did walk away, his client was victorious.
I think back to the last time I saw Mark, a few weeks ago. I was at the Dayton trial practice institute run by Ira Mickenberg and co-sponsored by NAPD. Mark regularly gave up a week each year to teach mostly Ohio public defenders in the art of trial practice. I had taught with Mark many times at Faubush, Kentucky DPA's trial practice institute located not 50 miles from where he was shot down. Mark was never stingy about sharing his skill, his art, his passion, with public defenders.
We don't talk much anymore about public defenders being warriors. Many would say the "warrior" criminal defense lawyer is a disappearing breed. But today, I know, that we have indeed lost a warrior.