Mark Prothero was a defense attorney. As a deputy prosecutor, everything in my body told me I wasn’t supposed to like him. Of course from the moment I shook his hand in that Kent courtroom 15 years ago, I did.
Mark W. Prothero - In Memoriam 1956 - 2014
By: Ian Goodhew, Deputy Chief of Staff
Mark Prothero was a defense attorney. As a young, idealistic deputy prosecutor, every bone in my body told me I wasn’t supposed to like him. Of course from the moment I shook his hand in that Kent courtroom 15 years ago, I did.
As I stood at counsel table about to take my first felony guilty plea from his client, I was nervous. I knew I had to do the plea colloquy with the defendant. I was worried I was going to forget the magic words I needed his client to repeat to ensure the plea was accepted by the court. As I struggled through the questions, Mark quietly slipped a note to me with all of the key phrases. In the end, both his client and I thanked him for the guidance. After all, Mark being Mark, he had negotiated a very favorable plea for his client.
I prosecuted dozens of cases that Mark defended, including State v. Ridgway. We disagreed with each other many times. Sometimes those disagreements were heated. Yet every time our paths crossed, he greeted me with respect and humor. After working on the Ridgway case, we loved to tell our war stories to others, sometimes the same ones over and over again to the chagrin of everyone else in the room. But Mark and I both couldn’t get enough of it.
Whether we were arguing with each other or laughing with each other, I never forgot the help he gave me on that first case.
In that small moment he showed to me that he was a gentleman first, a mentor second, and in the end, an extremely skilled defense attorney.
Mark handled huge cases. He also handled simple ones. Whether it was defending the most deadly serial killer in the country, or handling a misdemeanor charge for a first time offender, Mark carried with him a confidence and dedication to the case that permeated the courtroom. Had he not been an attorney, he clearly would have been a teacher. He was always teaching, no matter what he did. In fact, the last time I saw Mark, he was in a classroom at the University of Washington teaching. It was who he was.
Because he was always teaching, I learned something from Mark every time I met him. This was especially true over the last three years as he carried himself with grace and dignity as he fought his battle. I would imagine that most attorneys who worked with or on the opposite side of Mark, learned from him. For that, I, and our profession should be grateful.
After working in the criminal justice system for any significant amount of time, a person can become jaded, skeptical and downright cynical. The system can wear on all of us, but it’s people like Mark Prothero who remind me that the people working in the criminal justice system have chosen an honorable profession. We just have to live up to the standard that Mark set to continue to make it honorable.
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