Lawyers who defend criminals in court probably do not expect to stand high in public esteem, though they serve our system of justice as honourably, for the most part, as any other officer of the court. They may be surprised, therefore, at the regard in which the public clearly held their colleague Greg King.
His Wellington funeral yesterday was the climax of a week of tributes since he was found dead beside his car last Saturday morning. At 43, he was entering his prime and seemed bound for higher honours in his profession. But the public response has not been the normal sympathy and curiosity elicited by somebody's death in these circumstances.
Greg King was known to most of us only through televised murder trials, notably of Clayton Weatherston, for whom Mr King controversially argued provocation, and very recently, Ewen Macdonald.
Macdonald's acquittal could be attributed to the forensic science of his defence and Mr King's passionate persuasive skills. It was a case that tested the public's faith in justice and, by and large, that faith survived. The appreciation of the work of defence lawyers is a good deal more sophisticated than it might have been before trials were allowed to be televised.
Greg King's qualities have been recognised by many this week, including the mother of Sophie Elliott, Weatherston's victim, and Anna Guy, formerly Macdonald. He clearly touched people on both sides of criminal proceedings and outside the courts. The country is a little better for his life.