The tireless advocate

So Nick J. Thiros, an Indiana attorney, died last month at age 78.

I just found this out a few minutes ago, then read his obit from the Post-Tribune, which refers to him as a “tireless advocate.” Why do I care about the passing of some obscure lawyer from the midwest? Well, two years ago I busted my butt on one of the most intensive writing/reporting experiences of my career. It was while I worked for, and the story concerned the life and death of Lyman Bostock, the California Angels outfielder who had been murdered 30 years earlier in Gary, Indiana. The article was titled FIFTH AND JACKSON, and is definitely one of the best pieces I’ve ever done.

Thiros was the attorney who represented Leonard Smith, the alleged gunman who wasn’t merely alleged—he admitted to police that he’d accidentally shot Bostock in the head. Thiros knew he had no shot of getting Smith off with a simple “He didn’t do it” plea, so he used his imagination/creativity and convinced the jury that Smith had been insane, and could not be held responsible for his own actions. Amazingly, the jury bought it, and Smith was sent to a mental ward. A couple of months later, the ward said Smith was not, in fact, crazy. Thanks to a loophole that has since been corrected, Smith could not be retried or sent to jail. He was set free—and has been ever since.

Thiros knew he was helping a murderer walk free, and while I know it’s an attorney’s job to do his best for his client, well, I think this crosses a very definitive line. Doesn’t make him a bad man, doesn’t make him a good man.

Just … is.