Judge Bruce Morrow, an African American judge at a courthouse in Wayne County, Michigan, gave a second chance to Edward Martell in 2005 when he was arrested for selling drugs. 16 years later, Judge Morrow has just sworn in Martell as a lawyer!
When the two first met, Martell was a 27-year old repeat offender pleading guilty to manufacturing and selling crack cocaine. Judge Morrow could have sentenced him to 20 years in prison but he saw potential in him.
“I can imagine Ed — being a Brown man, coming from an economically depressed environment, having been chased by police and put in handcuffs — never thinking this is where the love could come from,” Morrow told The Washington Post.
Judge Morrow decided to give him 3 years of probation and a challenge to come back to the court next time as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
“It was kind of in jest, but he understood I believed he could be anything he wanted to be,” Morrow said.
Earlier this month, Martell did come back to the court, not as a CEO and certainly not as a criminal, but as a lawyer.
After completing his probation, Martell decided to pursue being a lawyer and went on to earn full scholarships to college and law school. It wasn’t easy given his past criminal records as people tried to discourage him. His records almost affected his bar application process as well. But he pushed through.
Martell says that he hopes to inspire other people who had the same experience as him to turn their life around.
“I think my testimony may provide some of these young men and women with some motivation,” he told Deadline Detroit. “You plant a seed, and hope it will grow.”
Meanwhile, Judge Morrow, who believed in Martell even at that time he thought he was a lost cause, credits God with how things developed.
“It’s a crazy cliché, but some defendants, that’s what they need, too,” said Morrow. “If you believe like I believe, that there but for the grace of God go you and me… It took some intelligence to get in and out of the kind of trouble he got into. I told him, ‘You could be my son. Let’s see how far you can go.’ And man, he hasn’t finished yet.”