In 2005, Edward Martell was in Wayne County Circuit Judge Bruce Morrow's courtroom, waiting to hear his fate — he was 27 and facing up to 20 years in prison for drug dealing.
"Any other judge would have flushed me," Martell told Deadline Detroit, but Morrow said "everybody needs love" and instead gave Martell three years probation and implored him to become "a CEO of a Fortune 500 company instead of being out here selling drugs." Tired of how he was living, Martell took this as a challenge, and soon got his GED and enrolled in community college, wanting to become a lawyer.
Martell received full-ride scholarships at the University of Detroit Mercy, where he attended undergrad and law school. While his criminal record did not immediately disqualify him from being admitted to the Michigan Bar, Martell told Deadline Detroit he was concerned he was "chasing a dream with no guarantee." During his character and fitness review, he explained his past and had his colleagues at Perkins Law Group, where he conducted legal research, testify on his behalf.
When he was approved, Martell told Deadline Detroit, he "sobbed like a baby." Earlier this month, he was sworn in as a member of the Michigan Bar, with Morrow administering the oath. Martell, now 43, will specialize in criminal law, and he said he hopes his story will "provide some of these young men and women with some motivation. You plant a seed, and hope it will grow." Morrow recalled that he told Martell, "'Let's see how far you can go.' And man, he hasn't finished yet."