Academics, Upper School

Wrongful Death Lawyer Visits Senior Students

On Jan. 25, 12th grade Humanities students in Northwest School’s Law and Society course had the special opportunity to converse with Erik Heipt, a nationally recognized attorney specializing in wrongful death and police brutality cases. After giving students some background in how he settled into his specialized brand of law he then opened the floor to questions from the students for the remainder of the period.

Says Erik: "I find it very rewarding to help families get to the bottom of what happened, and provide them with some closure and justice."

Erik, who is a Northwest School parent, began his law career taking the cases of victims of police brutality, but now represents families whose relatives die in jail, usually awaiting trial. An estimated 800 and 1,000 people die in jail each year, and most deaths occur in the first seven days of jail, Erik told the students.

Students just finished reading Just Mercy, a memoir by Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit organization that provides legal representations to prisoners who may have been wrongly convicted of crimes.

"To have a visit from someone working in the field that aligns so closely with the book, which it itself runs parallel with the school's mission, it was a perfect opportunity," says Law and Society teacher Scott Davis.

Students asked Erik a wide range of questions, including how he was able to continue his work when it involves such horrible situations.

"You can look at an earthquake from afar and see people suffering, or you can try to get in there," Erik told the students. "Even if you are just clawing with your hands, if you pull one person out of that rubble, it can feel better than sitting at that distance and doing nothing."