NPR - "Running the trial is Judge Reggie Walton, who has a story of his own.
Walton grew up near Pittsburgh in a steel mill town, and survived a tough period as the industry declined and the mill finally closed. His father was unemployed for two years before finding work as a janitor.
Walton got in trouble with the police, ending up in juvenile court three times for fighting. He also had a struggle to get through school. Despite poor reading skills, he managed to get to college and then law school.
He worked as a public defender in Philadelphia, where he says his first client accused of murder had confessed after being beaten by someone working for the police. On the other hand, he defended a young man accused of brutally beating an elderly woman. Walton convinced the jury that there was a reasonable doubt that his client had committed a crime. Leaving the courtroom, he says, the young man said, "we beat that one, didn't we, brother?"
Sickened by that experience, Walton became a federal prosecutor and later was appointed his first local DC judgeship by Republican President Ronald Reagan, although Walton was a Democrat. Today, he declines to identify his party affiliation, saying it shouldn't impact a judge's work.
As a teen, Walton thought his ticket to success would be pro football, but under the guidance of an 11th grade teacher, he realized that he was too small for that to be a realistic goal. He worked hard, but gives a lot of credit to affirmative action programs for giving him a boost into law school.
Walton says he sits in judgment on a lot of young black men, and sees himself in them, and he spends a lot of time going to YMCA's and juvenile lockups, trying to inspire them, to help them the way others helped him." <audio>