The Madison man was facing allegations of killing two people while under the influence of cocaine.
He was in solitary confinement, waiting for an interview with an attorney.
Kathy Smith, of the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office, offered to be the first to talk to him. It was not a daredevil move, Smith said, but rather her acting on the same impulse that prompted her to join the SPD.
“They’re just people,” she said. “They’re like us but in different situations that may have put them in a bad place.”
Smith has been at the SPD for 29 years, working as a trial office legal secretary, a regional support staff member and now as an analyst with administrative services.
Smith said she saw working for the SPD as a way to play a participatory role, big or small, in people’s criminal defense situations. Taking on internal strategy and management, she said, has been a pleasant change of pace during the past 15 years, but she also enjoyed the contact she had with people during her earlier days with the SPD.
“I’m a softie,” she said, “and … I like the little things to help people: Connecting them with a bus pass to get home when they get out of jail or a phone to reach an attorney, answer simple questions.”
Smith is scheduled to retire shortly before New Year’s Eve. Walking away, she said, will mean more time with her son, Drew, and her two grandkids.
She will be out of the office, but, she said, she won’t forget her time spent there.
“Other than my son,” Smith said, “the greatest joy in my life has been working there.”