Former drug dealer sworn in as lawyer by judge who sentenced him

Edward Martell has been sworn in as a lawyer in the US.
Edward Martell has been sworn in as a lawyer in the US. Photo credit: Edward Martell

A former drug dealer has been sworn in as a lawyer by the same judge who sentenced him for manufacturing and selling crack cocaine sixteen years earlier.

Edward Martell was a 27-year-old high school dropout with a list of prior offences stretching back to his early teens when he was arrested again during a drug sting in 2005.

He pleaded guilty to manufacturing and selling crack cocaine, which meant Judge Bruce Morrow could have given him up to 20 years in prison. Martell told Deadline Detroit: “Any other judge would have flushed me”.

But instead, Morrow gave Martell three years' probation and encouraged him to use it well.

“He said, ‘I challenge you to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company instead of being out here selling drugs. And I love a challenge.”

So Martell took the idea and made it his own, enrolling for community college in 2008. He said they laughed at his new dream of becoming a lawyer, and told him to "go into heating and cooling" because of his criminal background, reported Deadline Detroit.

But Martell persisted - with the support of Morrow. The two men spoke every couple of months and the judge was able to monitor Martell's rise, reported the Washington Post.

After graduating from community college, Martell received a full scholarship to the University of Detroit Mercy - and later, another full scholarship for the same university's law school.

But Martell knew he may still never become a lawyer. The State Bar of Michigan requires a character review as the final hurdle and Martell's chequered past meant there were no guarantees he would ever pass.

So when the board gave their approval after just 15 minutes of deliberation, Martell cried "like a baby", he told the Washington Post.

"I’ve been chasing this dream for 13 years not even knowing what’s at the end of this tunnel”.

On May 14, in the same courtroom where they had both stood sixteen years before, Morrow swore in his friend as a lawyer and gave him a hug.

“That was better than walking your daughter down the aisle,” Morrow told Detroit Deadline.

"It took some intelligence to get in and out of the kind of trouble he got into. I told him, ‘You could be my son. Let’s see how far you can go.’ And man, he hasn’t finished yet.”