A city jurist with a complicated past fights to keep her job.
Twenty-four years ago Judge Deborah Griffin made a mistake, one she never thought would come back and get her kicked off the bench.
Sitting in her lawyer's office the day before she'll head to Pittsburgh and stand before the state Supreme Court, Griffin, 54, dressed in a blue suit and red shirt, her bobbed hair showing streaks of gray, contemplates her past and her tenuous fate.
She tells how she grew up in an East Harlem housing project and as a young woman got caught at the end of her husband's abusive fist. Out of work with bad credit and two sons--one of them autistic--she made up a Social Security number to get a job. She also used it to get two credit cards. When her estranged husband (who later died of a drug overdose) got caught in one of his crimes, he once again turned on his wife.
By this time Griffin had left him in Atlanta and returned to New York with her sons. She was working as a computer systems analyst at AT&T when one day the FBI came and questioned her. About six months later they came to her home and arrested her in front of her mother and 3-year-old son.
In 1984 Griffin pleaded guilty to two counts of using a false Social Security number to obtain credit, which is a federal crime. The judge gave her three years' probation. But not before "laying her out," Griffin says.
He told her he couldn't see how a woman so smart could do something so stupid. But he was going to give her a second chance.
While on federal probation, Griffin, who has a sociology degree from Penn, went to University of Missouri's Columbia Law School.
There she became president of the Black Law Student Association, and the first black student to win the moot court competition.
She also studied comparative intellectual property for two semesters at Oxford.
After graduation in 1988, she interviewed in the DA's offices in Brooklyn and Philadelphia. She chose Philadelphia because her $29,000-a-year paycheck would stretch further here. That fall she became a prosecutor in DA Ron Castille's domestic violence unit.
That's where she met Myla Friedman.
In September 1989 Friedman, 24, was a Temple University law school student and part-time intern.
Griffin, then 36, befriended Friedman, who often complained about her abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend Bryan Edwards.
That November Friedman shot Edwards while they were in bed, in an apartment they shared off-and-on for nearly two years. Friedman said she shot him because he'd forced her to have oral sex at knifepoint. Police said Friedman killed Edwards after she realized she couldn't prevent him from returning to his estranged wife.
They also said Griffin had helped Friedman file assault charges against Edwards, offered her a place to stay until he could be arrested, and showed Friedman how to load and unload her new gun.
Griffin was one of the first people Friedman called after she was arrested.
Griffin's friends told her to get a lawyer.
Friedman was later convicted of third-degree murder and did six years in Muncy.
Griffin was fired.
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