Friday, June 4, 2010

Liberty loses another champion

Liberty lost another of its champions with the passing of Oktavia Carstarphen. I met Oky when I first began practicing criminal law on the island. She was the secretary of the Galveston County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (a position I now hold).

Oky was a passionate defender of the downtrodden and the Constitution. As it turned out, her passion came from her experiences as a teenager - experiences that could either turn someone into a champion for liberty or a person living in bitter resentment.

For those of y'all who never had the pleasure of knowing Oky, the following is a piece that State District Judge Susan Criss posted on her Facebook page over the weekend:
I have known Oktavia Carstarphen since I went to work in the Galveston County District Attorney's Office in 1985. Oktavia is a criminal defense attorney. She has always been kind and friendly with a very cheerful disposition. I never remember her whining or complaining about anything.
Oky lived in the U.S. most of her adult life but still has a very thick German accent. Sometimes we had to struggle to understand her but it was always worth the effort. She was devoted to doing all she could to keep her clients out of jail & prison. For years I assumed that was because she took her professional duties to heart.
Last year Oky asked me to serve as a reference for a job she was seeking. I agreed to support her in this. I had been familiar with her work and integrity for over two decades.
Then she brought me her resume. I learned about the life she led before she came to this country. She had never mentioned the horrors she faced as a young girl. During her mid-teens Oky was incarcerated as a political prisoner. For many months she was held in solitary confinement.
I respected Oky before I learned about her ordeal. But my admiration grew as I realized where her passion for fighting for civil rights was born.
Now Oky is at the end of her life surrounded by her loved ones. She fought cancer with the same courage and dignity she brought to every battle. Those of us who worked with her in the justice system will miss our friend and colleague.
Very well put, Your Honor.

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