To the Editor:
Recently, the Zoeller family and friends gathered to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of my cousin, Chris Zoeller, a New Albany native who was well known in the courts of Marion County as a criminal defense lawyer. He was a somewhat larger-than-life personality who created memories with everyone with whom he came in contact.
Speaking as a one-time law partner with Chris and now in my current role as Indiana’s attorney general, I find that his professional life represents an important element in our system of justice. Often overlooked and underappreciated, the right to counsel guaranteed in the Sixth Amendment to the United State Constitution is essential in balancing the scales of justice. We cannot have a fair system without those who represent criminal defendants.
The life of a criminal defense attorney is hard, and one that cost Chris dearly in terms of his health. As someone who was attracted to the practice of law by the character Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Chris never backed down from defending the accused. There were those who feared his zealous and often creative approach and some who thought he pressed down too hard on his side of the scales at times, but that is as it should be.
The important lesson I learned from Chris Zoeller is one I reflect upon in my current role: While fighting on behalf of the state of Indiana to convict the accused and affirm the conviction, we must always strive to seek justice. And justice is best served with a strong advocate that challenges the state to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. And with his life’s work done to the best of his skill and ability, the defense can finally rest, and rest in peace.
Indiana Attorney General