Julie Mumma says criminal defense attorneys like her have won justice for the wrongly accused and changed unfair laws.
Former Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy Jimmy Martinez contends criminal defendants are usually guilty and that their attorneys frequently lie in the courtroom.
The clash of ideas between the two Sacramento State criminal justice professors came to a head last month when Mumma took her students to Martinez’s Criminal Justice I class in Solano Hall and demanded a debate.
Mumma “hijacked my class,” said Martinez, recounting the morning his colleague came with her students to challenge him.
“I’m tired of his fiery rhetoric,” Mumma said. “I’m not opposed to conservative ideas, but I want to hear those ideas challenged, debated and discussed.”
Both professors said they have had positive feedback from their students about the rare classroom confrontation. As the judicial system and law enforcement face increasing scrutiny, the impromptu faceoff has prompted efforts to create a series of discussions among criminal justice professionals with divergent views.
“The turnout was crazy,” said freshman Gurnett Singh, a student in Mumma’s class who videotaped the encounter.
Singh said he didn’t think Mumma was angry at Martinez when she came into his class, but wanted the students to see two sides of the issue.
The tension between the professors apparently didn’t start overnight. Mumma said Martinez has referred to her as a “dirty hippie” for years. Martinez acknowledged using the term “hippie” in reference to Mumma, but said it was all in “good humor” and “almost a compliment.” He said he hasn’t used the term “dirty.”
On the day Mumma and her students went to Martinez’s class, he presented a lecture on defense attorneys. Martinez said his lesson about their role comes largely from Alan Dershowitz’s book “The Best Defense.”
“The vast majority (of his clients) were guilty and he still got them off,” Martinez said. “The criminal justice system leans heavily toward the rights of the accused and the victims take a back seat.”
Mumma said she responded with a 13-minute dissertation about why the criminal justice system matters and why she found his portrayal of defense lawyers outrageous. She ticked off cases in which lawyers have championed justice.
“He didn’t agree with anything,” she said. “The only thing he agreed with is that he has the right to say anything he wants.”
“I quote from a renowned lawyer,” Martinez said. “My opinion is based on my personal experiences.”
As an outgrowth of their debate, Mumma is setting up panel discussions among members of the criminal justice community. The first event Thursday featured a panel of law enforcement officers including American River College Dean Steven Segura, a former Sacramento Police Department deputy chief; Rob Hesse, a retired sergeant with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office; Tom Del Torre, a retired commander from the San Francisco Police Department; and Mumma.
They discussed a host of issues, including women in law enforcement, the importance of integrity in the criminal justice system, as well as police brutality and use of force, Mumma said.