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Description

Prya Murad is a Miami-based attorney who is passionate about criminal and juvenile defense. 

Prya immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan when she was just three years old. Growing up in Hazard, Kentucky, Prya recalls her desire to fit in, particularly in a school where she’d hear comments about what culture is supposedly like in Pakistan. When 9/11 happened, Prya and her family experienced prejudice rooted to fear and ignorance.

Prya didn’t grow up in a religious household. She stopped believing in God around middle school, and her father was proud of her for that. 

In today’s episode, Luke and Prya talk about her passion for being a public defender, why the media sensationalizes trials, and how her grandmother was interrogated by the Pakistani military at 80 years old. 

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Transcription

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Luke W Russell:

Do you love what Lawful Good stands for celebrating our shared humanity? Then you’ll love our new LinkedIn group called Better Together. Better together is a group for attorneys and those working in the legal space focused on promoting authentic human connection. Head over to joinbettertogether.com, and it’ll take you to our LinkedIn group.

Prya Murad:

Unfortunately, he was sentenced to life in prison. It was my first ever life verdict, which was a really emotional experience for me. I remember being like, “I’ve never been more proud to do this job,” and I really hadn’t. I really felt that that was such an important moment because it was just if everyone could just lock you up and throw away the key right now, they absolutely would without thinking twice, without thinking about you, without thinking about your life or what you’ve been through or your family who’s sitting back here and has to watch all this. They would just throw you away if they could. To be a stop gap there and we preserve appellate rights so we’ll see if anything happens with that, may already have and I just don’t know about it, but it’s such a privilege.

Luke W Russell:

Welcome to Lawful Good, a show about lawyers and the trials they face inside and outside the courtroom. I’m your host, Luke W. Russell. I’m not a journalist. I’m not an attorney. I’m trained as a coach. I love human connection, and that’s what you are about to hear. My guest today is Prya Murad, a Miami-based attorney passionate about criminal and juvenile defense. Prya immigrated to the United States from Pakistan when she was just three years old. Growing up in Hazard, Kentucky, Prya recalls her desire to fit in, particularly in a school where she’d hear comments about what culture is supposedly like in Pakistan.

Luke W Russell:

After 9/11 happened, Prya and her family experienced prejudice rooted in fear and ignorance. Prya didn’t grow up in a religious household. She stopped believing in God around middle school, and her father was proud of her for that. Standing up for others and fighting to ensure that justice is truly upheld is something that Prya values and stands for, and she carries that passion into what she does.

Luke W Russell:

In today’s episode, Prya and I will talk about that passion for being a public defender, why the media sensationalizes trials, and how her grandmother was interrogated by the Pakistani military at 80 years old. So Prya, do you have any early memories maybe through photographs or something of life in Pakistan before immigrating to the US?

Prya Murad:

I honestly don’t. My parents tell me that I had a pet donkey who lived across the way in Pakistan. I know. My grandma’s a drama queen. So she keeps telling me that I used to feed this donkeys parathas, which is a form of fried carb. Then when I left, the donkey was so sad that it died. I have no recollection, but apparently, that happened, but I really don’t. I was two. My dad says three. I think I trust his memory better than mine on that, but I was so young when I left, but I really don’t have a strong recollection of what it was like when I lived in Pakistan when I was young.

Luke W Russell:

Sure. So your younger sister, Marya, she is 10 years younger than you and your father described you as a little mommy to her in terms of how you were with … He was working and your mother was studying for her US MLE. Can you take me back to what it was as you started to move into your middle school teen years and your sister came into the family dynamics?

Prya Murad:

Yeah. So that’s my baby. That’s my child. She is the one and only person I love on earth. I always say that. Marya, she’s actually doing her master’s at Oxford University right now. So I love seeing her Instagram and seeing how she’s doing. I was nine. I think we’re nine years and three months apart, so about 10 years. I was so excited to have a baby sister. I took care of her all the time. We have this video. I love this video. There’s a video where she accuses me of, and it’s on video, accuses me of hitting her and I didn’t do it. You see her making it up. You see her being like, “Oh, Prya hit me.” She was two or three years old. We were watching it back maybe when I was an older teenager or something, and I was like, “Is everyone seeing this garbage that is happening right now?” She’s a really cool person. She’s really smart. She’s very aware. It’s those gen, is it Z, the gen Z kids?

Luke W Russell:

I think so. I think so.

Prya Murad:

The newest ones, whenever they are, the TikTok, I mean, they’re just really, they’re attentive, they’re involved, and my sister is like that. When I was growing up, my parents were just working. So I fulfilled the role of taking care of her, and it was, really, it was a pleasure. I mean, I love my sister.

Luke W Russell:

I love that. So you moved to Chicago. When did you end up moving to Hazard, Kentucky?

Prya Murad:

’95.

Luke W Russell:

’95.

Prya Murad:

So we lived in Chicago for three years. My dad did his residency at Cook County. Then for, he probably explains it better than I do, but essentially immigration reasons, we ended up in Hazard, Kentucky when I was about five years old, and it was a real culture shock.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. I wanted to ask about that because Chicago, well, Chicago is a much more diverse melting pot, and Hazard rural Kentucky is not.

Prya Murad:

It is not. There is, however, a pretty substantial salvation population there. So there were a lot of Indian families, primarily all doctors who I think were there for similar immigration related reasons. So we became close with those families. It’s funny because it’s the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere. People who don’t know me from that time don’t even believe it because I don’t sound like it, I don’t act like it, but it was a tough place to grow up as a loud Brown woman, but the people are so kind and so nice. I just didn’t really level with everybody, but it is, truly, I mean, the people are awesome. You just have sincerely kind people who live in small towns like that, but it was really weird. It’s one of those places that I always say I wish I could go back and be a public defender there, but I know that it’s just not a lifestyle that I want. A rural lifestyle is not something that I want for my life.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. When you say it was tough, do you mean it was maybe tough because of the assimilation or the lack of people to connect with or-

Prya Murad:

I think the lack of diversity made it hard in small ways. So my parents, when I was growing up especially, were really, really strict and very concerned about whatever would influence me, right? They just immigrated from Pakistan. They didn’t really know what was going on in the US. So I think they were scared more than anything. I think it made me feel a real outcast and I think kids are cruel.

Prya Murad:

So I think that that didn’t help, but I had people. My next door neighbor and I, Serena Dee, she’s awesome. We always were friends and got along, and her parents are Indians. So we had similar ways that we were raised. So I had a buddy growing up. Small things that I remember, I love telling this story because it’s so absurd, I don’t eat ice usually with drinks because my teeth are really sensitive, but neither does my mom. So growing up, we always did water no ice. So I just got into the habit of ordering water no ice and now ice hurts my teeth, but when I was in school, middle school, a girl said she doesn’t eat ice because they don’t have ice in Pakistan.

Prya Murad:

I was like, “What?” So it’s just little things that are cute. It’s a child. They don’t know, but it’s just an absolute having now. I mean, I lived in the bay area for a year in San Francisco, and you just have so many different kinds of people. I had friends who are American friends who grew up with Prius, and people from all sorts of places. So that just doesn’t happen in an incredibly small community like that.

Luke W Russell:

Sure. Now, I believe you were probably in late middle school, early high school around the time 9/11 happened. During that time, did you … I got a two-part question opposite into the spectrum. Did you experience prejudice as a family, but then also maybe some people who surprised you by how supportive they were?

Prya Murad:

Probably both. I, frankly and unfortunately, don’t remember the latter because I was so young. I was in the seventh grade.

Luke W Russell:

Seventh, okay.

Prya Murad:

I mean, the things that students would say to us and even my Indian friends, I mean, it became an absurd thing where it was like, “We’re not even you guys. That’s not even related right. Let the Indians go on this one.” So yeah, I think, but it was really mainly out of fear and ignorance. I think that everyone went through that.

Prya Murad:

With that said, I was dealing really with young people, right? So I don’t think my parents had that experience because they were with people who were older and understood things more. So I think that is a different because the teachers that I really looked up to and who really took care of me in many ways, of course they were kind, but they were always kind. It was really just young people spewing information that, frankly, most of them don’t even believe now. We’re all friends on Facebook and we’re all so different, but it’s interesting to see my friends even from college or maybe not friends, but people that I knew that they don’t say that ignorant stuff anymore. I do think that has value that you’ve realized that what you were doing was wrong and you’re no longer doing it.

Luke W Russell:

I really like this recognition of you have these views at one point, but then I think there’s something really beautiful in being able to allow people permission to change their views over time versus boxing people in to the one view they have. Have you seen that, you think, about growing up and then over the course of your career? Have there been other times in which maybe you’ve seen yourself make massive shifts in how you viewed things from maybe your youth to where you do today?

Prya Murad:

Absolutely in a million different ways. I mean, I went to college in Kentucky, Transylvania University, and there were certain fraternities who were very proud of their confederate history, which I never agreed with and I didn’t agree with them. I wanted to fit in so bad that I went to their parties, I hung out with them, and all this stuff. Now looking back, I am like, “I don’t stand for any of that,” and I never did. I am so sorry to the people that I hurt by that association. I’ve actually said sorry to some of my friends who’ve been friends with me for a long time who are some of my best friends, Black women, who I’ve been … and they didn’t say anything to me then. I just wanted to fit in. I was a Brown girl in this school that had maybe a 5% diverse population.

Prya Murad:

So I had my own stuff going on, but I really look back and think that did not stand for my values, and even the association was not appropriate. So I have so many instances of that even as a public defender. I mean, it is so easy in criminal defense to be paternalistic towards people, especially when you first start because most of us start in misdemeanors as public defenders, and you’re moving so quickly through cases sometimes.

Prya Murad:

I can’t speak to everyone’s experience, but that was mine. You find yourself doing the work without the client sometimes and it’s their life and their decision, and most them are grown adults. So that is something that I really changed in my practice over time was this idea that we lawyers can do this work without the client. It’s so paternalistic and egotistical and elitist. Some people still do that as a practice, but it’s certainly not something that I support. I try to check myself all the time on that because it’s easy to be like, “Well, I know. I went to law school. I know this information and you don’t.” It’s like, “Sure, but they know their life and you don’t.”

Luke W Russell:

Okay. So speech competitions, so my understanding, you did that for quite a few years. What were you developing in yourself during all of those competitions?

Prya Murad:

I think on a practical basis I was developing what I do now for a living, which is arguing and talking in public, but I think in many ways it was, and I think in many ways it still is the only thing I’m really good at. My mother essentially made me try out because I didn’t want to do it. She was like, “You talk all the time. Please do this,” and it ended up really being a starting point for my career as a trial attorney, and it gave me a sense of belonging.

Prya Murad:

The teachers we had were, I mean, I’m thinking if this ever gets in there, Smagard, Helen, they really just took me under their wing as if I was one of their own children, and it was so valuable to me in a place where I didn’t always fit in. It gave me something that I could be really good at, and I think that that helped me develop a lot of confidence in myself.

Luke W Russell:

When did you get this sense of everything you’re doing, you’re doing all this, this laying the groundwork for what you do today, but when did you realize, “I want to be a lawyer”?

Prya Murad:

Probably law school, to be honest. I don’t think even when I was applying to law school I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer. I mainly just wanted to do … I applied to law school to do access to health type work of making sure that everyone had access to healthcare. That was my first internship was at the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, which is an incredible organization. It’s now, I believe, the Health Justice, something. I don’t remember the full name, but it’s a really incredible organization with great lawyers.

Prya Murad:

It just wasn’t a pace that I enjoyed. At the same time, I joined a trial team at my law school that’s pretty prestigious, and 10 of us were selected out of 100 people. That trial team was run by public defenders primarily. So I found my way in there, but I think it was never an option to me that I was going to do something to help people individually.

Prya Murad:

I can’t even imagine working for a corporation. I don’t even know. I feel like my parents would disown me. It’s never been a thought in my mind. It’s always been direct impact, “What can I do for individuals?” I had a minute where I thought I might do policy and I hated every waking moment of that. So I just ended up on this path and I think partially it was by process of elimination. There’s things I like but I’m not good at, and then there’s things I just don’t like. So when we narrow it down, this made so much sense for me.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Oh, that’s so interesting. Growing up, what role did your grandmother play in your life?

Prya Murad:

Ma is so extra. She’s awesome. I mean, she was like, I don’t know if my dad told you, she was arrested in her 80s, okay? So it’s funny because my grandparents were around, but I was not as close with my grandparents as my sister was ever. Marya is very, very close with our grandparents and our grandfather who recently passed, but my grandma, I feel like her DNA is just inside of me because despite the fact that I haven’t really spent that much time with her, especially over the years, I ended up a lot like her. I mean, she’s fierce. She really is.

Prya Murad:

She was in an interrogation room with the Pakistani military in in her 80s like it’s nothing. She’s very extra, but she’s tough. She’s courageous. She believes in her values. So in a lot of ways, I somehow ended up like her, whether that was direct influence that I can remember or not.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Your dad said that according to him, you probably stopped believing in God in middle school. He said, “I’m so proud of them for that.” He was talking about you and your sister. Did you grow up with religion around because I know your father has a background in philosophy as well as being a doctor? What was that dynamic growing up in terms of how you were looking out in the world between what influences you were getting from within the home versus outside of the home?

Prya Murad:

Our parents were never expressly religious. When I was growing up, my mom just said there’s tons of gods and all of them are equal and all of them are great. So when I wanted a baby sister, I used to pray to every god I could think of. So Allah, Christian God, pagan, and then I started just going through this litany of gods that I could think of, many of which ended up being Hindu gods because I had so many Hindu friends at the time, but there are many Hindu gods. So you end up spending a lot of time trying to name every single one, but we were never really.

Prya Murad:

There was nothing I did in the home that was in my opinion driven by religion. My parents are just not incredibly religious people. They probably are more … My mom probably believes in a higher power more than I do, but my sister and I at this point are really not tied to religion in any way.

Luke W Russell:

You mentioned earlier your parents were pretty strict. How did that come into balance with something your father shared? He said that he taught you all that if you were in the wrong, it’s you who did it, there’s no salvation, there is nothing. You just live with your actions and you just have to live with them. How did that balance out with the strictness?

Prya Murad:

It was confusing, I think, growing up. I mean, the strictness was never tied to religion. It was tied to cultural norms that are informed by Islam about what women should wear, how they should speak. I was always loud. I was always wearing things I wasn’t supposed to or trying to. I was just always like that. I was always getting in trouble for talking too much. Every freaking party from across the room, my mom is staring me down like, “Shut up. You are going to tell a secret. Stop talking. Nobody wants to hear you.”

Prya Murad:

So that was just my life. I think that they, in many ways, over time had to learn that I was going to be okay, but I don’t think my dad wants to admit this, but their strictness was very informed by how they were raised, which was informed by Islam about going out, dancing, stuff that like that. Now, especially with my sister, those are things that they’re not as scared of, but I really think that it has to be scary to come to a new country in your 20s, you’re trying to make it. They really didn’t have any money. They were pretty much entirely on their own.

Prya Murad:

My mother’s parents passed. Her mother passed before, I believe, her wedding, maybe her engagement, and then her father passed a couple months after the wedding. So it was them almost exclusively. I think they just were scared of so many things that they associated with, at the time, American culture. In many ways, there’s some things I don’t disagree with. I mean, I was not allowed to watch MTV as a kid. Now, of course, I watch whatever I want, but I don’t know that I disagree with that. I don’t know that children need to be exposed to every possible thing available to them on the internet or on TV.

Prya Murad:

I think we have seen that it’s harmful in so many ways. The first one being everyone has anxiety all the time, but also in ways that it has really harms children in terms of body image, even behavior, all the way up to what we’ve seen is very violent acts by young men. So again, they were very tough, though. I mean, don’t let them fool you into thinking they were cool and lenient. They were not. They were so strict. I think they regret it a little bit now.

Luke W Russell:

As you were looking towards college, being a lawyer wasn’t really figured out until while you were in law school. As you were looking toward college, did you feel any pressure from your parents to become a doctor like them?

Prya Murad:

Oh, again, don’t let them fool you into thinking they’re cool. It was a big pressure. I mean, I was in all these science classes that I was bad at. I was straight up not good at them. There was a lot of pressure to be a physician or go into the sciences. That’s something that I really … By the end of college, I think they geared me towards law school. I don’t even know that at that stage I wanted to go, but they were like, “This is what you should do.” I didn’t really know anything else. I was like, “Okay,” but they were very interested in me making sure that I was going towards a profession at that time.

Prya Murad:

Again, that’s very different now. My sister’s getting her master’s degree and her degrees were in anthropology, in film. So we were very different in that sense, but when I was growing up, everything was about the end game, your profession and making sure that you are in school or towards a profession. So I was definitely raised in that more traditional way.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. So you did your undergrad at Transy or Transylvania University in Kentucky. I believe you studied poli-sci at that point as well as philosophy. Do I have that right?

Prya Murad:

No. I was a biology and philosophy major.

Luke W Russell:

Interesting. Okay. So I have a feeling then hearing what you just said, then it makes a little more context. Undergrad was probably a frustrating experience if you’re majoring in something that you’re struggling in.

Prya Murad:

Yeah. I mean, I was good at the biology classes and I was really tight with the biology professors. Shout out Belinda Sly. I would just chill in her office and talk about the guys that I had a crush on. That was my education. If my mother hears this, she’s going to be like, “Really? That’s what you did in college?” I liked it. I was good at the writing part of it. I’ll say this, and I don’t mean to say this to be totally a jerk, but most things if I work at, I can figure it out. I might not be the best at it. I might not be getting the best grades, but I can certainly survive it. In a way, I think it was valuable to take courses that were challenging to me because I didn’t get all As and I struggled and I got bad grades on tests and I just got through it.

Prya Murad:

It was like, “Okay. Onto the next. We’ll figure it out. We’ll learn it,” and I think that’s really valuable, especially when you do come from a background where you, for a while, are expected to excel to just experience not excelling at something. I think it’s particularly imperative in a career as a criminal defense attorney and public defender because you’re going to lose a lot of things even though you’re doing great and maybe you’ll win it on appeal, but you have to get used to things being a little tough.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Yeah. so once you got your undergrad, at that point, I believe you got a master’s before going onto your JD. Is that right?

Prya Murad:

I deferred my year to Loyola and I went to the LSE, the London School of Economics in England to get my degree in, it sounds cooler than it is, biomedicine, bioscience in society. The reason I went there was I looked at the bioethics programs in the United States and I didn’t love them. I thought that they were, at the time, this may have changed now, I felt that they were very politically anchored. So everything was reproductive rights or whatever the hot topic was at the time. Clinical ethics was big. So I wanted something a little bit more philosophical or a little bit more less about, “Okay. Well, what should we do in this clinical setting or what should we do about this reproductive issue or should women have the right to XYZ?” I think I was more interested in conceptualizing different issues, and I loved it. I mean, some of my best friends are from London. From when I lived there, I gained 30 pounds and lived my best life. It was an incredible time.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. So then you come back and you go to law school, and during your law school experience, when did you figure out you wanted to be a public defender, and was that something that you actually discovered in law school or was that maybe after graduation?

Prya Murad:

I discovered it in law school, and I discovered it when I was, so as I said, the summer after my first year I worked at what was then called the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago with some incredible lawyers, and what I found was when we couldn’t find a client, they were usually in custody because what we saw, which it’s funny how it connects with what I was doing previously regarding bioethics and access to health, is we find that people who are poor and who are sick and who do not have the healthcare and other resources that I believe they’re entitled to find themselves in communities with crime. Whether they’re victims or alleged perpetrators, these are all very related determinants of the outcome of someone’s life.

Prya Murad:

I didn’t like the pace of just regular civil public interest. I wanted to be in court. I’m such a type A, go-gettery type person that I love always moving, moving, moving. So at that time, I also tried out for the Corboy trial team, which, as I mentioned, is an incredible, intensive trial advocacy program that has historically been run by primarily public defenders from Cook County, Chicago. So I started doing that and was like, “I love trials. This is amazing.” I loved being in trial and I loved being in court and I loved … I was good at it. It made me nervous.

Prya Murad:

I mean, when I first started, my legs would physically shake, and now, I still get nervous before a trial, but there was just something about it that was so exhilarating and something that I really felt if I kept trying I could be great at, and I still feel that way. It’s like I just know it. If I keep trying and keep learning, I just know I can get there.

Prya Murad:

I almost interned for the prosecutor’s office. I don’t tell a lot of people that. So now, I’m telling you in this public forum, but I almost interned for the state attorney’s office. I went to breakfast or lunch with my girlfriend, Jessica Beard, who is a public defender in Kentucky and who I went to college with. I was like, “Jess, I think I’m going to do this.”

Prya Murad:

She was like, “Really? Are you sure that that’s you?” I mean, she really was like, “I don’t think that makes sense.”

Prya Murad:

I was like, “Maybe she’s right,” and I just went for the public defender’s office and I loved every second of it. It was so exciting. I loved the client. I loved being in court. I loved all the other PDs. Until recently, I never left. I mean, I was at the PDs office every internship. I was at the federal defender my last six months of law school, I think. Then I was a public defender on West Palm Beach, San Francisco. I had a little break in between there and then I came back to be a public defender, and I just started my own practice 60 days ago.

Prya Murad:

I mean, it’s the best job ever, and how I got there is so funny because all these things are related, right? If you care about people and their health and their wellbeing, we see that with COVID. I mean, where were we seeing COVID-19 just flourished? Our jail. There was a big outcry at the time when COVID first hit to release people. There was a lot of talk about monetary bond and the ways in which asking people to pay for their freedom is inhumane, and particularly now when it might be a death sentence. So it’s interesting how things end up connecting.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. I hear you use the language of people uncomfortable with someone who’s charged with a crime. What I hear, I think, a lot of times and that there’s an assumption that in many people’s minds, I don’t know how many people, but some amount of people that if you weren’t doing anything wrong, you wouldn’t have been charged with a crime. So we’ve already decided once you’ve been charged with a crime, you’re like, “Come on.” What I’m saying is, in the sense, is this cultural rhetoric of like, “Come on. Obviously, you did something to get there.” Although, which is interesting because I guess we’ll make certain assumptions about certain kinds of crimes and certain people and not about another crime, but maybe that’s a different topic.

Luke W Russell:

As a person who represents people who may or may not have committed the alleged crime, how do you think differently about our justice system and what these people, what they deserve from a defense standpoint than maybe the rest of us who are just looking at a headline and see somebody who’s charged with a crime?

Prya Murad:

I think as an attorney, my position is that the government does not get to take the freedom of an individual person just willy-nilly. That is not how it’s going to go. As defense attorneys, we are the wall between the individual and the government because it’s not … They’re literally trying to take the freedom of people away from them. In some cases, and unfortunately in some states like Florida, they’re trying to take their life. So it’s not something that can just happen. You’re not going to railroad people. We are way too accepting of a media that believes more in sensationalizing a big story or gossip or drama over what is right and what is fair. That frustrates me to no end.

Prya Murad:

A very simple example of that is so and so pled not guilty at their court date. Everyone pleads not guilty at their first court date. Let’s just get that all out there. At arraignment, pretty much everybody charged with a serious crime pleads not guilty, and that’s because if you plead guilty, you open it up to the judge if there’s no offer or maybe there’s an offer you don’t want or maybe you’re innocent. I mean, it could be a million things. Maybe they can’t prove it.

Prya Murad:

So it just drives me insane because we continue to feed this public appetite for punishment, and this is not a legal system built on punishment or railroading people. It is a legal system built on due process that protects above all the accused. The constitution protects the accused. Marsy’s law, victim’s rights, those were added after, right? The rights that exist are for the accused, the criminal accused especially. So as a person, as a human person on earth and not as an attorney, there is just no way you can meet a person who has done a bad thing.

Prya Murad:

Let’s say they’ve done the worst of the things, rape, murder, all the things. Resentencings are a good example of this about children, young people who in Florida and many other states were sentenced to life without parole. You meet them 20, 30, 40 years later and you’re like, “Really? Life. You’ve changed so much. You’ve grown so much.” I mean, this idea that people’s life is defined by some of the worst moment, some of the worst things they’ve done that they live with. People live with that. They live with what they’ve done and they are more often than not incredibly sorry and ashamed.

Prya Murad:

There are a lot of circumstances that lead people to make bad choices. I feel so grateful that I’m someone that’s not defined by my bad choices because I live in a nice apartment and have a law degree and have had a good life, and my parents are doctors. So nobody defines me by the wrong things I’ve ever done. Nobody defines me by that. I’m defined by my successes, and that is a real privilege, and that privilege has to do with status and money and all sorts of things that, particularly, my clients as a public defender and even in private practice are just not afforded.

Luke W Russell:

When we come back, Prya shares with us two meaningful moments in her career as a public defender. Stay with us. I’m Luke W. Russel, and you are listening to Lawful Good.

Speaker 3:

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Luke W Russell:

As we continue the conversation, Prya tells us about the cases that affirmed her passion for criminal defense.

Luke W Russell:

You mentioned earlier that as a public defender, you lose a lot and that you have to be ready for that. When you were first going into your career as a public defender, what mental toll did that take and how did you have to maybe learn to live with the frustrations and inequities of the process?

Prya Murad:

I think I, for better or for worse, am an extremely good, I don’t want to say compartmentalizer because I don’t think that’s real. I don’t think people actually compartmentalize in any meaningful way, but I am really good in crisis times. I am horrible in regular times. I am a little ball of high functioning anxiety when everything is okay, but when it is game time and shit has hit the fan, I am so good like, “This is our solution.”

Prya Murad:

So in many ways, the job is really fit for the type of personality that I have. I think it wears on different people in different ways, but I started, I haven’t gone in a while, but I went to therapy for three years. Even when I didn’t feel bad, I still went because I found it to be really helpful. I know a lot of attorneys and defense attorneys that do that. Defense attorneys are the coolest people, particularly public defenders. So you have a really great group of people to vent to and socialize with.

Prya Murad:

The PDs that I grew up with in West Palm, I mean, that’s family. I mean, we truly grew up together. I’ve seen them have children. I’ve seen them get married. I’ve had clients sentenced to life in prison, and no one really understands what that is or what that feels like other than people who have experienced it as well. It’s just not. I assume doctors have a similar experience that if you have a patient that dies, I mean, who can relate to that?

Luke W Russell:

Right. I really appreciate hearing how you keep highlighting the fact that we’re talking about people’s freedom and the government attempting to take that away. There’s a lot of different types of political conversations around like, “Oh, the government’s trying to take my freedom in this scenario or that scenario.” Yet, I don’t typically hear a whole lot of people seeming to, from the political environment, talking about freedom in the same way that maybe we do about gun rights and the same concerns of saying, “Hey, we have these constitutional rights. We need to protect them in this environment, too.”

Prya Murad:

Yeah. That’s interesting. I’ve never thought of it that way, but I think that’s a great point, which is hysterical because what is more freedom than the literal incarceration of your body, right? What is more anti-freedom, non-freedom than that?

Luke W Russell:

As you spent more time in your career as a public defender, were you finding yourself handling more and more complex and weighty cases?

Prya Murad:

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I started in 2015, and I was doing misdemeanors then, and then I did, juvenile felonies. When I went to San Francisco, I was back in misdemeanors because I was a new attorney there, and then I came back to West Palm Beach and did the felony cases. I think different attorneys have a different preference. I like the tougher cases. That’s what I enjoy doing for a lot of reasons.

Prya Murad:

So as you get more experience, you normally take more serious cases, but then there comes a point maybe for some people where they’ve become so experienced that then they want to go into administration or maybe … but I would say in the first 10 years of your career as a public defender, you’re just generally moving up into more complicated cases.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Are you able to talk at all about maybe a particularly difficult case?

Prya Murad:

I don’t think I can talk specifics, but I can tell you that when I say that I am most interested in serious cases. I had two really meaningful times in my career where I was like, “Okay. It’s criminal defense for me. This is it.” One was when I was in misdemeanors and I represented someone who totally hated me and every other lawyer, and had a lot of cases, many of what had gotten dismissed. It was an incredibly challenging case because of the difficulty of the client.

Prya Murad:

I just remember I had to conflict off one of the cases due to illegal conflict, and then I represented the person on one case. I remember going to my supervisor and saying, “The attorney who represents him on the conflict is doing such a bad job. Is there any way I can take this case? Please. I know I can do a better job. I know exactly what needs to be done.”

Prya Murad:

They’re like, “No. We have a legal conflict. You can’t undo that,” but if it wasn’t for an attorney that cared, that person would’ve been railroaded because nobody liked him. Judge hated him visibly, audibly, just very audibly and visibly hated him. Prosecutors didn’t him. It was like if you don’t have someone on your side, and that was a really meaningful time. I was the most annoying person in the room next to my client because I was always like, “Objection. We can’t do this. Nope.” I filed all these motions, dadada. Everyone hated me.

Prya Murad:

I remember going back to Chicago for some event I think related to my trial team. I think there was some anniversary. Amy Thompson, who is a supervisor at the Cook County public defender’s office in Chicago but who served as a mentor to me for so many years when I was starting and in law school, I was like, “It’s really weird because I feel like such an inconvenience in court,” and I’m a people pleaser. I love being liked. So it’s really hard for me psychologically to get through that, and that is most of my career is annoying everyone else.

Prya Murad:

She was like, “That’s when you know you’re doing your job because if you weren’t stopping them, they would just railroad your client.”

Prya Murad:

Fast forward several years later, I represented someone on allegations of child molestation. It was a very, very, very emotional case on both sides just based on the mental health of the accused and the testimony of the children. It was a very hard case. You never feel as hated as you feel picking a jury for allegations of child molestation, ever. I mean, everyone hates you. I’ve never felt like that before. I’ve never picked a jury and been like … It doesn’t happen on homicide. People get it. People get that you get in fights with people and sometimes they die. People are willing to accept that.

Prya Murad:

Harm to children is so hard to get, and animals. You find it’s really hard to get a jury passed. Unfortunately, he was sentenced to life in prison. It was my first ever life verdict, which was a really emotional experience for me. I remember being like, “I’ve never been more proud to do this job,” and I really hadn’t. I really felt that that was such an important moment because it was just if everyone could just lock you up and throw away the key right now, they absolutely would without thinking twice, without thinking about you, without thinking about your life or what you’ve been through or your family who’s sitting back here and has to watch all this. They would just throw you away if they could. To be a stop gap there, and we preserve appellate rights, so we’ll see if anything happens with that, may already have and I just don’t know about it, but it’s such a privilege. It really is. I don’t think everybody feels that way and that’s okay because they shouldn’t do the job. If you don’t feel that it’s a privilege, please don’t do it because you’re going to end up ruining a lot of people’s lives.

Luke W Russell:

If I’m hearing you correctly, what you’re saying is here’s a person who they’re being charged with these crimes, and rather than basically the judgment without due process, you’re saying, “No. I’m standing here to make sure we uphold our country’s values so that this person actually gets due process not to …” I think what’s hard as a person not in the system and who many of us have no idea what it really looks like, I think we hear child molestation and it’s like, “Yeah, throw them out and lock the key. That’s not the people we want in society,” but then also we have principles, and if we just throw away people without a proper process, then, I mean, we already have a process that ends up with innocent people getting convicted, and if we just threw away people because we didn’t them, then how much worse might it be?

Prya Murad:

Yeah. I think a lot of the reason why I value and continue to stay in criminal defense despite its toll on my mental and physical health, it’s continuing toll, is I represented children for a year and I loved representing children. Every little girl I represented was the victim of some sexual abuse because they didn’t receive any services, right? I was like, “Really?” I mean, they prosecute victims of human trafficking. I literally represented children who are human trafficking victims. I’m like, “Can we just let it go? I don’t know. If there’s not a dead body, can we let it go and let her move on with her life and maybe offer her some services?”

Prya Murad:

I just know, based on my experience, that those children, if what they say happened to them happened to them and a jury found that it did, they are going to be so upset and so angry and so scarred for their entire lives. If they ever commit a crime as a result of that trauma, the government isn’t going to give two shits about what happened to them. They won’t. They’re just going to be another “defendant” to a prosecutor. Sometimes you can convince them and say, “Oh, look, they’re facing 30 years because of a mandatory minimum, but look at all this stuff I have to explain why it happened and you get a lesser sentence, but it’s still a felony conviction. Okay. What do we do now? That person’s a convicted felon.” Because of mandatory minimums, there’s so much wheeling and dealing that it’s like, “These are not solutions. These are just us trying to mitigate harm to people,” but we are still harming them in that process because they don’t need the felony conviction. They don’t need time in jail or they don’t need to be on probation.

Luke W Russell:

Can you help me understand a little more of what you said where you said, “We’re prosecuting victims of human trafficking.” Are you saying that in these cases there’s been another crime that they’ve been accused of or that is the crime they’re being accused of?

Prya Murad:

I have personally represented someone who was a witness for the government on a human trafficking case, a pending human trafficking case. I represented the young person on, it was a non-violent crime, for sure. I don’t remember exactly what it was. Maybe a car burglary, but I truly don’t remember, but it was definitely no one was harmed. The prosecutor who was prosecuting the human trafficking case wrote me a note and said, “Give me a call.”

Prya Murad:

I said, “Okay.” I called the person and they were like, “Oh, she’s a victim in one of our cases.”

Prya Murad:

I was like, “Okay. Well, are you going to dismiss the juvenile case?”

Prya Murad:

“No.”

Prya Murad:

So I know that for a fact. I mean, that’s a personal experience that I had, and I was like, “Really?”

Luke W Russell:

Oh, wow. So what I’m hearing is that you had a person who had committed some crime, no one’s hurt, and they’re being charged with that crime. Turns out they’re a victim of human trafficking. So there’s also any number of compassionate responses that could possibly be warranted to somebody who’s, one, dealing with severe trauma that’s being induced by another criminal, and yet they’re still being prosecuted for this crime. How do we get to a space to where we recognize that this person is actually a part … There’s another criminal who’s affecting this person and that this person, how do we balance the rights and responsibilities of people so that we maybe have a more compassionate system that still is built on rules?

Prya Murad:

Oh, that’s the million dollar question. I don’t know that I have an answer, but I think that we have to … Right now, the solution is, “Okay. Just prosecute them. Prosecute them. Somebody does something wrong, prosecute them, prosecute them, prosecute them.” It’s like, “Okay. This is not a solution.” Sometimes what we’re demanding of prosecutor’s offices or resources they don’t have like appropriate counseling and healthcare and all of these things that could really impact the ability of people to thrive so that they can pay their rent and not get sick. A lot of the children that I represented needed very intensive counseling, though you do get more resources when you represent children. It is not in my opinion to the level that is appropriate and to the extent that people need. I mean, you really need long-term help. So you have to start looking at those solutions and really good solutions, right? Let’s provide quality access to these things like healthcare and treatment and housing, whatever you can think of, not just cheap government-funded versions of it.

Luke W Russell:

Now, what led into you deciding to go into private practice for yourself after spending quite a few years as a public defender?

Prya Murad:

Yeah. This is a real soul-searching question for me. I loved being a public defender so much. I didn’t love living in West Palm Beach, and I worked in an incredible office. I really did. It’s run by Carey Haughwout, who’s one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the country. She does a lot of death penalty work. I just didn’t like living there. I wanted to live in a more cosmopolitan area.

Prya Murad:

I think I personally was getting frustrated with just the caseloads and the grind of it and maybe not having … So right now, I can take whatever cases I want, right? I can take misdemeanors, I can take felonies. I can take all sorts of different kinds of cases. So I like that variety, and I like having that kind of control over my life. I like having control over my time that I get to do if I’m on my own. I still, I mean, one of my girlfriends recently called me about representing someone for free. I’m representing a human trafficking victim for free. I still do that stuff. I’m on the wheel, which means I take appointed cases here in Miami. So I still maintain that. That’s always going to be where my heart is, but I do enjoy having a little bit more freedom and space with my time and control over just what I want to do when I want to do it.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Your father described his mother, who she was a professor in Pakistan with, he said, short cut hair and very, very brave out on the streets in demonstrations. You mentioned earlier you very much have her within you. Would you call yourself a feminist?

Prya Murad:

Oh, of course. Absolutely.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. When you think about your relationship with your dad, what do you feel like you learn about yourself and how you show up in both admiration and appreciation for your dad, and then you’re also willing to go to a bit of a fight with your dad when it comes to your ideals. What do you feel like you really love and value and what you’ve learned about yourself through all of that?

Prya Murad:

That’s a great question. I think I learned from my parents that my ideas matter and that my voice matters. I think just to tie it to my work, I think, unfortunately, we treat a lot of people as if theirs does not. So to be able to use that blind confidence that I have in so many ways, that is really detrimental let me tell you outside of court, to the benefit of people is a real privilege and is probably a good use of it. I think that it has taught me to understand people.

Prya Murad:

So my dad and I probably agree on a lot of baseline values but then disagree on a lot of specific political issues. I grew up in Kentucky. So I grew up with Republicans. I’m a registered Democrat, but I think I’m more left than that because I think that Democrats are elitists, too, as a party, obviously not every individual, but talking to my dad, who is very liberal but also grew up very differently than I did, it just, eventually after the yelling and the screaming and mom telling us to shut up, ends in a understanding with people with whom you disagree with on some things and not others, and you just have to level with people.

Prya Murad:

Again, that’s really important in my work because my clients and I don’t agree on everything, politically. I’ve had clients say things that I think are racist or sexist or all those things, and that’s not my hell to die on with my clients because that’s not my role, but I do sometimes have conversations with them, people that I’m close with or clients that I’ve really grown close with, just about life and politics. You learn this is why people think what they think, and this is how their life has informed their views, and that doesn’t mean that people are beyond change. It just means that you have to meet people where they are, which, again, is advocacy 101, right? They never teach it to you in law school, but that’s how you win arguments is you meet people where they are. You meet the prosecutor where they’re at. You meet the judge where they’re at, and then you get what you want from there.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. I have a few yes/no questions I’d like to ask you. We call it a high velocity round, where I throw a handful of random questions at you and they’re all yes/no questions, but the rule is you can’t just answer yes or no. You got to say something more than that.

Prya Murad:

Okay. I’m ready.

Luke W Russell:

Okay. Sweet. So question number one, do you curse like a sailor?

Prya Murad:

Yes, every fucking time.

Luke W Russell:

Can red lipstick make you instantly feel more confident?

Prya Murad:

Yes. My mother taught me that and I have so many different shades of red lipstick.

Luke W Russell:

Have you ever been so late to a wedding you missed it entirely?

Prya Murad:

Yes, Katie Tortex wedding. I had to go to the reception. Sorry, Katie.

Luke W Russell:

Do you ever imagine yourself swinging on a wrecking ball like Miley Cyrus but maybe clothed?

Prya Murad:

Yes, absolutely, and I assume I would just do it into the courthouse or something and see if I can bust it down.

Luke W Russell:

Yes. Would you describe yourself as intense?

Prya Murad:

Yes. I don’t know what else to say. It’s just yes, everyone would describe me as intense.

Luke W Russell:

I love that. Are you a tidy person?

Prya Murad:

No, never have been. I remember once I went home after I think it was in college or law school and my mom was like … It was a circle, a small circle and my mom was like, “This is your area and you keep your mess here,” and I was like, “Okay.”

Luke W Russell:

Oh, my goodness. Last one, do people misjudge you?

Prya Murad:

I think so. I think people sometimes think I’m dumb because I’m really bubbly, and I watch Real Housewives and I talk about it. I think people sometimes, who meet me in my more aggressive or intense moments, think that I’m a bitch, which I’m not. I’m so nice to everyone or I try to be. So I think I get both of those a lot.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Your friend, Danielle, described you multiple times as coming in like a bomb went off and then you’re gone. Do you know what she’s describing?

Prya Murad:

No, I don’t. That’s so funny. She’s one of my closest friends. I like to think I make an impact wherever I go, but usually, it’s not necessarily, it’s not usually an intelligent one. It’s just me shooting the shit with my friends and then I run away and then I move to a new city. I’m always running around.

Luke W Russell:

That’s great.

Prya Murad:

That’s great. I’m going to have to text her, “A bomb, really?”

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. I think it was at least twice. I was just like, “Oh, that’s interesting. I want to ask her about that.” When we spoke with your dad he said, “Prya takes care of those who cannot take care of themselves.”

Prya Murad:

I agree with the sentiment. I think it’s a little paternalistic, in my opinion, but my dad always says this. I’m so bad at taking care of myself. I’m such a hot mess, but I’m so good at taking care of other people. Like I said, I just deal really well in crisis. That’s what I do. That is my skillset is I can manage a crisis like nobody’s business. I think that is what maybe that means.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. You mentioned you cook more these days. Is that part of something, part of your routine that’s become something you enjoy now?

Prya Murad:

I think so. I just love eating. I’ve always loved eating a lot. I love food. So for me, and I spend money like it’s no one’s business. I’m so reckless with money. So I think, really, it started as I said, “This is not sustainable. You cannot go out to eat all this time,” but I enjoy trying new things and cooking. It’s just a little Sunday ritual to get me ready for the week.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. When you think about taking care of yourself and you think about the work you do as a criminal defense attorney, maybe how have you learned to recognize when you really need to maybe take a step back and focus on yourself?

Prya Murad:

So I think the goal is to preempt that a little bit. Of course, I’m very self-aware. So I can always tell when I’m getting anxious or upset. I’m not someone who just lets that stuff go by. I’ve always been incredibly self-aware, which can be bad or anxiety-inducing in a lot of ways, but it’s something that I’ve always been able to identify. I think as I’ve gotten older, the goal is to be able to manage those things. So I used to work out a lot more than I do now or just trying to get back into it, but I’m out here meditating. I journal. I do the whole thing because if you don’t have a daily practice or at least a regular practice that suits your schedule, when shit hits the fan, you’re just not going to have the tools to manage how you’re feeling.

Luke W Russell:

You’re 32, 33 now?

Prya Murad:

31.

Luke W Russell:

31. Wow. My math is-

Prya Murad:

Don’t age me, man. Don’t age me. No, it’s okay.

Luke W Russell:

Well, I’m pretty sure if you listen back to the recording I said 21, 22, but 30, 31 works. So you’re young. I’m actually of the same age. When you look ahead to the future and you think about your work, your work as an attorney, do you know if you might want to have children someday in addition to your baby sister?

Prya Murad:

I do. I think that’s actually quite a recent decision that I’ve made for myself I think when I was younger. It’s not that I was against having children. It was just it’s not a priority and I think as I’ve gotten older, it’s something that really does matter to me. I think part of that is my mom is such a good mom. She really is. It’s just such a pleasure being her daughter. I’ve had the opportunity to take care of Marya as she’s growing up and see her become such an incredible person and human being in this world. To have any little part in that has been a real privilege.

Prya Murad:

So I don’t know. I think it’s something that’s more important to me now, but I’m someone who’s like, “It needs to be right. It needs to make sense.” It’s not something that I feel is necessary to my happiness. I have a great life that I have built and I take a lot of pride in that that I did things my way in a lot of things. I think my parents would agree with that that there were ways that they wanted me to do things and I decided not to. I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to create for myself, and that’s not without a lot of help from mentors and my parents and all sorts of people. So I don’t want to make it seem I’m some pull yourself up by your bootstraps gal. Definitely not.

Prya Murad:

So I think it’s something that is important to me, but it’s not something that I would do tomorrow because that is the priority. Does that make sense? I think people who do, that’s great. I know women who as a single woman will adopt or choose to have children at that time through in vitro or have a sperm donor. I think that’s amazing. I’m not there yet or maybe I will be there, maybe I won’t. Right now, it’s something that I think is important to me, but I don’t know that the time is right quite right now.

Luke W Russell:

One of the things I love what I’m I’m hearing is a lot of agency and what I’m hearing, to put words onto your experiences, seems a lot like you’re giving yourself permission to explore and discover that because I think we have a, in the American culture, very much like if a man is 31, doesn’t have kids, we don’t think much of it, but then there seems to be a lot more pressure on women to know or to have kids or maybe that they’re even supposed to have children. I think there’s a really beautiful space when someone like you is out there saying, and maybe for a period of time you didn’t want to have children, and maybe if you never did want to have children, that’s a good and beautiful thing too versus trying to pin women into a box of saying they should.

Prya Murad:

I think that’s right. I think part of that is I’ve had really good women role models in my life who have done things a lot their own way. You do find that with women in criminal defense across the board, I think. I don’t know. I think it’s a profession that really attracts a certain type of woman for people who do it long term and they are definitely the agents of their own lives. So that’s something that I’ve really been able to take from other people, but that pressure is even worse when you’re a Pakistani. Trust me. It has only been a couple years that people are not like, “When are you having kids?” My parents now put the kibosh on it. They’re always like, “Stop talking to her and stop asking her those questions,” but my whole 20s were like, “Are you getting married yet? Are you … dadadada.”

Prya Murad:

My grandma even said that. I told you she’s extra. She was like, “The only reason I’m staying alive is for you to get married.”

Prya Murad:

I was like, “You got a lot longer to live, sis. You got time if that’s the basis.”

Prya Murad:

It’s so funny because she’s not like that at all. She’s not like that at all. I mean, she never had a traditional marriage or a child-rearing life in any way, whatsoever. So it’s just hysterical how that stuff’s ingrained, but I think I said something to her like, “I did go to law school, become an attorney. Isn’t that enough?”

Luke W Russell:

Oh, man. You are the godmother to one of your friends’ kiddos. What types of perks does that come with?

Prya Murad:

Danielle. Well, Brooklyn is the cutest little nugget of all time. I always say I’m the cool auntie to all my friends’ children because I am at an age where a lot of my friends have kids, but I wish I could be closer. So I don’t really see them that often because they’re in Kentucky, but I try to encourage misbehavior and just annoying the parents and dancing to the beat of your own drum, which, luckily, she has excellent parents and they do the same, but that’s the same friend who said I come in a bomb and then just sleep. So that’s the same friend who’s I’m the God daughter of her child.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. The other day I was taking a … So I love Peloton, and one of the instructors … Do you ever do Peloton at all? I have to ask now.

Prya Murad:

I sure do.

Luke W Russell:

Oh, my gosh!

Prya Murad:

I sure do. I did it this morning. I didn’t ride the bike, though. I did a strength training, but I have the bike.

Luke W Russell:

Yes. Oh, my gosh. I actually do a bike ride before, unless I’m traveling. I always do a bike ride before my interview as part of my pre-interview prep. I was listening to this ride the other day with Robin Arzon, and she was sharing she’s married now. They just had their first kiddo. She was talking she has this tattoo on one of her hands. I think it might be left hand, and it’s of a diamond. She was saying how-

Prya Murad:

The ring. She married herself first.

Luke W Russell:

Yes. So I was listening to her talk about that, and it reminded me of one of my favorite celebrities, Emma Watson, and how a few years ago in some interviews she was talking about how she was in a relationship with herself. Some people criticize that as weird or whatever. I just think it’s such a cool and empowering way to talk, particularly because we don’t seem to put the same pressure on men. I was just curious, do you relate to any of that, what Robin talks about with marrying herself?

Prya Murad:

Robin’s amazing. I’m a big fan. I’ve watched all the Instagram stories. I know about their love story. I know all of it. I’m in it. So I understand. Yeah, I think I do. I think that that’s an incredibly explicit way of doing it, which is great. Awesome for her, but I think that this idea that I think I was watching her, I think they were on their honeymoon and making out or some shit. It was awesome. They were on these little overwater bungalows. Her and her husband were doing this thing where they were like, “This is when we met.”

Prya Murad:

One thing that I really liked from it, and it’s something that I hope for myself in any future relationship if I choose to have one, is you got to be a whole person first. Of course, we’re always growing and we’re always changing, but as someone who has been insecure in so many ways growing up, I mean, and who had very strict parents, it’s so fun now in my 30s to be like, “I know exactly who I am and I know exactly what I stand for, and I don’t do things that do not align with that. I don’t. I just do not do those things.”

Prya Murad:

It’s cool. It’s cool to be that assured and in tune with yourself. I think in many ways it’s a privilege because I see that that’s not always the case for a lot of people, but it’s really cool for me. It’s fun to feel like you have a say in your own life and that you built it and you know what you’re about. So I think that’s a really cool feeling and it’s something I often I’m like, “I’m so grateful. I don’t know how it ended up this way, but I’m so grateful,” because I just feel so assured in myself right now at my age. It’s just a wonderful feeling.

Luke W Russell:

How do you think you went from being a person who had a lot of those insecurities to coming into your confidence and comfort and knowing who you are and what you went in life?

Prya Murad:

I think despite my insecurities, I’ve always known who I am. So if you ask my friends, and Danielle’s known me since college, I’ve been like this for a long time. You talk to a lot of people who’ve known me, I’ve just always been like this even when it wasn’t good for me, even when people are going to think that you’re this or that or dadadada. I always was the same way. I think part of that was how I was raised and I don’t think it was how I was raised, and that that was explicitly told to me because I think what was explicitly told to me is, “Do less. Stop behaving this,” but my parents didn’t do that. They’re so authentically themselves. They really are, especially now. I mean, when they were younger, they were just trying to survive, but I think, especially later in their life, I’ve seen they’re like, “We are who we are. This is what we do. This is what we stand for.”

Prya Murad:

I’ve had that as a model, which has been really cool. I think I was very lucky that I found things that I was good at pretty early in my life, right? I started speech team when I was literally nine years old, I think, is when I did my first competition and I won first place and my parents still have the damn trophy somewhere. Then I just have been able to identify like, “This is where I excel,” and then that builds your confidence.

Prya Murad:

So I’ve been very lucky in that sense. That was identified for me very early and then I was able to cultivate it. So I always had something that I was good at. So even if there were insecurities or things that I wasn’t great at or things that I was working on, I always had something to hang onto to make me feel valuable and to make me feel like I had a skill that that could be used. So I think that was really important.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. How do you carry on the legacy of your parents and grandparents in the work that you do?

Prya Murad:

I think the work itself is what it is. I think treating people with respect, that they deserve, that they’re entitled to is just the bottom line of how I was raised on both sides from my mom’s parents, who I never met but have heard so much about, to my dad’s side. It’s just you treat people people. That’s just the bottom line. You don’t treat them they’re less than you or they’re subhuman or anything that. You treat people like the human beings they are.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Your dad said, “I really, really admire people who go out of their shell and work so hard to get ahead and achieve what they want, and I saw Prya do that.”

Prya Murad:

Oh, that’s so sweet. I don’t know. I mean, it’s just so hard because he’s looking at it from the course of my whole life and I don’t have that perspective, right? I just feel like I’m doing the next thing that feels right. So I think he has this bigger perspective of, A, the life he’s lived, and then viewing who I am as an adult. So I think I am a go-getter. I think if I want something I am like, “Okay. I’ll go get it. What am I going to do? Fail?” but that’s also a function of my parents. They really raised me to believe in myself, and on a very practical level, I know that there’s not a situation in which I will not be okay financially. I think that matters and I think if it’s not fair to not talk about that because it has led to my success. It’s this idea that I have a safety net.

Luke W Russell:

What’s your relationship like with your mother these days?

Prya Murad:

It’s really good. I love my mom. My sister and I are obsessed with my mom. We are. We love Asma. I FaceTime her every day. Sometimes she ignores me because she’s too busy. It’s this weird cosmic like they want you to love them for all these years and then you’re like, “No, I’m a jerk. I’m 13,” and then suddenly you’re 31 and you’re like, “Why won’t you talk to me every day?” and it’s like, “Because I’m a practicing physician and I have work to do.”

Prya Murad:

I am really close with my mom. I think my mother has the most integrity of anyone I’ve ever met in my life. She is just the coolest chick on the block. She is. She’s so cool. She’s so tough. She’s been through a lot. I mean, she doesn’t talk about it. She’s very humble. I’m more like my dad. We’re very comfortable talking about ourselves, but my mom, I mean, her mom and dad died in medical school. She had me in medical school and then she paused her whole career until her 30s, it’s a decade, to become a practicing physician. She did not like being a stay-at-home mom and that’s not because she doesn’t love her kids. My mom adores her kids, but she loves being a doctor. She loves her patients. She loves her profession. So she really put so much of her life on hold before she started doing what she loved. I mean, she was my age in her early 30s and she was pregnant with Marya. So she’s just a really, really kind, resilient person, and she really knows how to treat people well.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Are you hopeful that you’ll see criminal justice reform in your lifetime?

Prya Murad:

No, I’m not. I think we need to be comfortable with just busting down the whole system and having an anarchy period. I don’t know because we just keep making little tweaks that are not working. Examples of that are things like probation and house arrest and pre-trial conditions that, by the way, are run by private companies and we just keep monitoring people. We just keep people under these clench of the government, right? So we’re not abolishing anything that sucks. We’re just changing little things about it and it’s not changing the big picture.

Prya Murad:

So I think that we’re just not doing a great job of that. The thing about crime is it’s not like housing. I think people can get onboard with the fact that people should have housing. I get that there’s ideas about money and if you’re not working hard enough, dadadada, but people hate people who commit crimes or who they think have committed a crime or who are accused of committing crimes. So there’s not a lot of political pressure to do any good for those people.

Prya Murad:

So we found ways to … We’re a little smarter about homelessness. We do a little bit better for people who are mentally ill. I think we’re accepting things along the way that like, “Oh, this isn’t working.” I think conversations about race and the disparate treatment, particularly of Black men, in this country has been really important, but I think we’re just making little tweaks that are within a system that is punitive, incarceral, and dehumanizing. As long as we’re living in that little bubble, we’re never going to change anything meaningfully. I think we are going to see little tiny changes along the way that will probably be good, but we have to stop seeing the caging of human beings as a solution to social problems.

Luke W Russell:

What impact do you hope to have through the course of your career?

Prya Murad:

Maybe if you asked me that a bajillion years ago I would be like, “I’m going to change all this stuff.” I really, at this stage, value the individual people that I can impact. I’m not as big picture oriented at all. I think if there’s a big picture thing that I think is cool, I will certainly help. I have friends who do policy and it’s incredibly valuable, but my number one is my clients and what I can do for them. It’s a lot more rewarding, frankly. I mean, it’s a selfish way to proceed because you see the impact you have on an individual’s life and you feel good about it most of the time because even with bad outcomes, people are just grateful that you fought for them and that you treated them like they deserve to be treated.

Prya Murad:

So I really am more interested in the individual stuff right now. I think I used to be really into media advocacy, and it’s something that I still am interested in, dabbling in, but it’s just this idea of people are so confused about what goes on in court, just straight up do not know. They have so many opinions that are so strong about things they don’t know two shits about. So I think that on a basic level, we need people who work in the criminal punishment system to talk about it, but the best people to do that are the people who have been affected by it, the clients who can really explain what they went through.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Okay. Prya, it is your 80th birthday celebration, and people from all throughout your life are present. A gentle clinking on glass can be heard and a hush washes over the room. People raised their glasses to toast to you. What are three things you would want them to say about you?

Prya Murad:

I love this question. She was there for me when I needed her. She’s a bad bitch. She always knew who she was, but I will say that one of my friends once told me that at my wedding she’s going to toast that, “Prya always orders a dessert even if no one else is ordering.” So if I can have a fourth, that’ll be it.

Luke W Russell:

To learn more about Prya, visit pryamuradlaw.com. A few notes before we wrap up. Please check out our season three sponsors. Be sure to check out Jason Hennessey’s book titled Law Firm SEO if you want the best knowledge available in the industry. To any plaintiff’s attorneys who have clients in need of simple interest loans, check out themilestonefoundation.org. If you’d like to join a growing group of attorneys that are actively working to improve their trial skills, head over to trialschool.org. For personal injury lawyers looking to acquire big cases through social media, visit 7figurecases.com. If you want to experience rich human connection, join our LinkedIn group by going to joinbettertogether.com.

Luke W Russell:

Thanks so much for listening this week. This podcast is produced by Kirsten Stock, edited by John Keur, and mastered by Guido Bertolini. I’m your host, Luke W Russell, and you’ve been listening to Lawful Good.