Being the best advocate in a court of law should be the goal of every attorney. It certainly is for Terry Green who has now worked on both sides of the aisle.
As State’s Attorney in Franklin County, he served from June 1983 until 1996.
Several times, his faith was tested when death penalty cases came up. At that time, the death penalty was still an option in Illinois.
“In two of those instances, the death penalty was a potential sentence,” he said. “In each, the families of the victims did not wish to seek the death penalty, and my feeling was the people who suffered the most have the strongest voice.”
He served until 1996. At that election, he said he received “an overwhelming mandate to represent people individually.” He said he prefers to look at it that way instead of saying he lost that election.
Moving over to “defense work” on the other side of the aisle wasn’t difficult, he said. He’d had a good deal of practice with 18 jury trials in a 12-month period.
“It’s an honor to represent the public,” he said.
A cradle Catholic, he said his mother was Catholic and father a Methodist until late in life. “Then at the end, he was a Catholic too.”
Terry remembers his Saturday religious education classes well. “I learned tremendously about my faith from those catechism classes,” he said. “Many of the prayers I still pray today” were learned there.
Terry will mark 35 years as an attorney in October, the month that he got his license.
“One thing about the law,” he said. “We have adversarial situations with winners and losers. Every case is a battle of some nature.”
Terry speaks quietly in his office talking about his respect for the law, the responsibility he feels for his clients and the way his faith guides his work.
He believes the “seed” was planted to pursue a career in law as he watched “The Defenders” a 1961-1965 courtroom drama focused on the law, not a “who-done-it” type of crime series. It tackled difficult issues like capital punishment, immigration quotas, abortion and more.
Still important topics 50 years later, “growing up, I knew a lot of people with legal difficulties,” he said. “I have an urge to assist people.”
Underpinning all of his actions and decisions is his faith.
“Over the course of my life, I learned the people I serve have some type of problem — family, financial, emotional, substance abuse — that if they had reflected on it or had advice, could have avoided getting involved in the criminal justice system,” he said.
Terry sees his role is to “humanize” these people. They are flawed individuals like each other person, but somehow they have become involved in the system. He sees their pain.
“The good Lord didn’t just put us on earth to exist but to flourish and be happy and serve out a good life,” he said.
With that in mind, Terry tries to find assistance for his clients whether it is rehabilitation or counseling or just finding “a new way of looking at things.”
In doing his job, Terry said he prays “a lot.” What does he pray for? “In handling my cases, I pray that I make right choices to help people to the best of my ability,” he said.
In 2008, a granddaughter, Karcynn, taught Terry about faith. “She spent the greatest part of the first year of her life at Cardinal Glennon Hospital in St. Louis” with life-threatening medical problems.
She eventually died from an infection before her second birthday, he said.
“She strengthened my faith, to see how she approached her difficulties, even at that young age,” he said.
When Terry gets discouraged because of some difficulty with a client or case or court proceeding, “it doesn’t shake my faith in the Lord or the law,” he said. “Dark times need prayer the most.”
Terry is a parishioner at St. John the Baptist in West Frankfort. He is married to Tammie. His daughter, Lindsay, is married to Jarvis Clark. His three grandchildren are Tatem, Nova and Kalena.
“I’m blessed with my family,” he said.