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People Top 5
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- December 29, 1997
- Vol. 48
- No. 26
His No-Nonsense Tactics Made Justice Make Sense Again
For Hartzler, 47, a Springfield, Ill., resident who volunteered for the job, the trial was also about showing that the justice system works. "I wanted to bring dignity to the process," he says. Such straightforward idealism is characteristic of Hartzler, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a motorized scooter to navigate courtrooms, as well as to coach the baseball and flag-football teams of his three sons, ages 13, 10 and 6. (Diagnosed in 1988, he is quick to correct those he thinks make too much of his disability. "I do have multiple sclerosis," he wrote in a June letter to Newsweek, "but I do not 'suffer' from it.") Chicago attorney Jim Ferguson, a longtime friend, calls him "an authentic American hero—someone who is completely devoted to family, community and church and willing to make so many sacrifices for the good of everyone else."
Being away from home for two years to prepare the case was an especially painful sacrifice, and Hartzler has declined to help prosecute second accused bomber Terry Nichols. Today he is happily back in his brick split-level, playing board games with his boys. He still loves prosecuting fraud cases in the Springfield U.S. attorney's office. Says wife Lisa, 44, a homemaker: "Nothing fills him with more pride than at the beginning of a case saying, 'My name is Joe Hartzler, and I represent the United States of America.' "
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