Five Things We Love about Matthew Hefti

We 'Heart' Our Students: Matthew Hefti

1. He fights for justice.
"When I see something wrong, I want to do something about it. That’s probably what led me to join the military after 9/11 in the first place, because I saw all these American civilians getting killed. At 19, maybe what I chose to do about it wasn’t the best or most productive solution, but the instinct or the drive to social justice has always been there.

"Now I’m older, and I’m in law school, and getting good grades is important to me. But more important is working toward social justice and criminal justice goals and reforms. I’ve already jumped in: I just finished an internship at a criminal law firm, and I’m helping Professor Klingele with her research on sentencing, which is really interesting. I’m next year’s president of the Law School’s chapter of the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and I’m on the executive board for the Public Interest Law Foundation."

2. He’s a conscientious detector.

"As an EOD technician based in Iraq and Afghanistan, I disarmed bombs that put Americans in danger. But explosives are an indiscriminate enemy. They also could have killed Iraqi civilians, Afghani people, Afghan national troops, anybody. For me, it was never about fighting one force over another. It was about making sure that IEDs —the deadliest weapons in the war — were hurting fewer people than they otherwise would have."

A Hard and Heavy Thing
  Hefti's novel, A Hard and Heavy

Thing, comes out in January.

3. He knows how to handle pressure.
"I saw Bryan Stevenson here last fall. He was amazing and inspiring, and I thought, ‘I just want to be that guy.’ After law school, I’d like to do public defense for a couple of years and then move on to capital defense. I think that not a lot of people are willing to represent inmates on death row. People talk about how high the stakes are — and they are — but I figure if anybody can handle the pressure and high stakes, it’s a guy who spent over a decade taking apart bombs. I figure if I have the aptitude, then I also have the duty."

4. He just likes to write.
"I don’t necessarily take the author label—writer, maybe. Author sounds kind of pretentious, like that’s my day job. Writing is just something I’ve always liked to do: I like to get stuff out. Legal defense work has plenty of writing, but it doesn’t exercise the creative juices in the same way. I have several book projects in mind after my novel comes out next year, but I don’t know for sure what’s next. And if I did, I wouldn’t tell you."

5. Wherever he goes, there he is.
"Besides doing four total combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’ve also lived in Texas, Florida, Utah, and Kansas. Hopefully in ten years, I’ll be doing capital defense somewhere, which means leaving Wisconsin with my wife and three kids. My wife has family in Texas, and they execute plenty of people. It would be nice to get down there and help slow that down. I also have lots of family in California, and that’s a death penalty state. As you can see from my history, I have no problem moving around, just going wherever I need to be."

Submitted by Tammy Kempfert on June 2, 2015

This article appears in the categories: We Heart Our Students

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