It's Not Perfect, But It's The Best I've Got

Let's say you were a doctor. And you had a patient. And he had AIDS. And it was totally his own fault. You know that he contracted from unprotected sex or sharing needles. Would you still treat him? But, how could you help fight AIDS when he totally did it to himself?

What about a patient who has emphysema or lung cancer but smoked his entire life? How could you help him fight the emphysema or lung cancer when you know he totally did it to himself? Does he really deserve a doctor and medicine when he did it to himself?

What about a kid who comes into the emergency room? He was doing stunts with his motorcycle and pretty much nearly killed himself - now he needs emergency surgery in your E.R. Does he really deserve it? How can you, as a doctor, help him, when he was just so reckless himself?

Even worse, what if he killed someone else with his motorcycle stunts? How could you possibly help him?

Shouldn't you just sit back and let those patients die? Shouldn't that patient just take his death sentence like a man instead of trying to find a "loophole" like medicine? Shouldn't he just kill himself immediately to save everyone else the trouble? After all, it's his own fault, shouldn't he just accept responsibility?

It's not perfect, but after five years, it's the best response I have to "How can you represent someone when you know he's guilty?"

36 comments:

  1. I don't see what's so hard about it. There is no alternative to defending the guilty. Any alternative you can think of requires deciding upfront whether he did it or not. But that's what trials are for.

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  2. Here's roughly the answer I gave the other night (hardly the first time I've been asked over the decades I've spent doing criminal defense, but one I rather liked):

    "Proudly. You know, whether the person is legally or factually guilty is only part of it. I'll pursue the question of legal guilt because our system depends on the system itself making those determinations, not the lawyers. But even once the determination has been made, even if it doesn't need in some case to be made, I'll proudly represent the guilty person because just like this young woman (my 22-year old niece who'd just graduated from college and taken a job and for whom another uncle, the questioner's brother, was throwing the dinner party where the question was asked) or you or me, who've all done things we shouldn't have at some point in our lives, even the clients of mine who've done the most horrible things (and I've represented serial killers and child rapists and numerous people sentenced to death) deserve to be judged on more than just the worst of their actions. And I can stand up proudly and say that they should be treated with compassion and mercy and recognized as human beings - often severely damaged ones, frequently with nobody else to stand up for them, no one else to care a whit. And there's nothing I know of that's more honorable than that. And I'm proud to do it."

    I didn't add (it was a dinner party, after all, though getting a bit intense), "and you should be ashamed of yourself for having to ask."

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  3. I like that, Jeff.

    I find that my response evolves, sometimes depending on the cases I'm dealing with, sometimes based on who is asking (and how involved I care to get with answering them or debating with them), and my own mood a bit.

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  4. Those who ask this question clearly have no idea how the legal system works. I suspect they also believe that 'creationism' should be taught in science class as an alternate theory, and fail to observe the irony in these two incompatible positions.

    I would point out to them that the only way anyone can ever be convicted of any crime is if they have a competent defense lawyer.

    Ask them what the alternative is.

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  5. I really like your examples. I've been trying to find the non- philosophical way to explain this to people, now I know what I will say :)

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  6. Yes! Great post! The best explanation I've seen for the general public (that includes me). This puts it into a framework that anyone can relate to (even if they have never been involved in court cases). Thank you!

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  7. We are a nation of laws. To the people that ask this question, I ask in return "what is the alternative". Should guilty people receive no representation?
    Most of the people accused of a crime are found guilty of that crime or a similar crime. The reason for this is because of our judicial process. If the accused were to receive no representation then our police and sheriff's departments could arrest anybody for anything.
    Criminal defense lawyers act as a deterrent to the prosecutors. They know that they must have proof beyond a reasonable doubt before bringing charges against a person.
    For this reason, most people that are accused of a crime are actually convicted of a crime and in this country we have a ton of criminals. In fact we have more prisoners than any other country in the world.

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  8. Right on, Jeff! I use something along the same lines when people ask me why I choose to represent people on death row. One of my mentors has also said that no one is ever the one worst thing s/he has done in life, but we (society)look at criminal defendants that way and pass judgment.

    On the DP front there is an easy answer that can stop most 'debate' ("I don't believe in it"), but there is also a more thoughtful and involved answer that stirs things up - that our capital defendants are most often the ones who started out not only with nothing ON their side, but with extreme disadvantages to boot. That many of them even functioned at all in society is, in some ways, a miracle. And sometimes, because of the way our federal habeas laws are set up, all we can do is provide some hope, a voice, and some dignity in a system that strips inmates and defendants of all 3.

    /off soapbox

    LawyerChick

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  9. "I don't defend the guilty, or the innocent. I defend the system, so that it may accurately separate the guilty from the innocent."

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  10. A system of government where the authorities can throw anybody they want in jail without objection or recourse is called tyranny. You defend the rights and freedom of bad people and good people alike. Any place where that doesn't happen is a police state. Punishment without a fair trial is tyranny. Trials where a defendant's rights are ignored are not fair. Say to questioners, "You've heard of tyranny in history class, or in the news. You want to experience it first hand? No? Then let me do my job."

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  11. I usually ask if they have ever been accused of anything...infidelity, stealing, lying...anything at all. Though they usually deny it (it is a buzzkill in conversation), sometimes it gets someone to think. Not perfect, but like all of these answers, if you are talking to a person with some life experience it might help someone understand.

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  12. My 0L answer; I want to work for the good guys......*pause for the confused look*.......criminal defense attorneys defend the constitution.

    I haven't had anyone push it after playing the Constitution Card. lol

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  13. I hate to interrupt the public defender love-fest, but as someone who formerly represented domestic violence victims, I must point out that a criminal defense attorney isn't a guardian of the system. They're zealous advocates for their clients. I understand the importance of all parties to litigation having zealous representation. There is a fine line, though, between zealous advocacy and engaging in non-legal theatrics. I admire the criminal defense attorney that challenges due process violations, questionable police behavior, shady handling of evidence, and effectively points out reasonable doubt, where it exists. I am repulsed by defense attorneys that don't question their client's version of events, take their client's word as gospel, and use the trial as an opportunity to call the victim all sorts of names. Unfortunately, in my area, I see much more of the latter type of defense attorney.

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  14. It's not a love fest, it's a rational discussion about how to answer the question. When was the last time you were asked to rationalize your professional existence at a party?

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  15. The question is not a bad one. What people who are asking that question are getting at is how you can use your talents to get someone off who "did it"? Now that's a tough question. Especially since those who "did it" will likely commit more crime. Maybe Jeff would have so much bravado if he got some child rapist off and the child rapist raped a child of a close friend or familiy member--somehow I doubt it. Some people are truly evil, and you trying to put them back into society. You can spin all you like, but that's what you do. So why is pointing that out something to be ashamed of?

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  16. I hate to burst the bubble of the person who formerly represented domestic violence victims. But I am repulsed by persecutors who don't question the "victims" or the cops version of events. They take the "victims" or cops version of events as the word of gospel and use the trial as an opportunity to "play with" and run rough shot over the rights guaranteed to ALL citizens by the US Constitution.

    Unfortunately, in this entire country there is MUCH more of that than criminal defense attorney's who engage in "non-legal theatrics" as you call it.

    I have NO doubt in my mind that when Jesus was nailed to the cross along with the 2 other men, neither of them would have been praying for you & your kind to show up to represent them.

    Theatrics?? Get Real!!

    Lil Spicy

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  17. I had never even thought to use medical parallels. Thanks! I also like the suggestions regarding defending the system and/or the Constitution (which is hopefully also what the prosecutor/judge/etc. is doing).

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  18. I second that emotion "Anonymous."

    I like the analogy Blonde Justice, and is probably the best answer I've heard yet to what Mark Bennett calls "The Question."

    But I do have one comment on them. Can lawyers really compare themselves to doctors? Think seriouly for a moment. Yes, obviously in capital cases and especially in 12 to Life sentencing potential for some cases, a lawyer is "saving" someone's life from an "eternity" in prison, but a doctor that is treating a patient has a lot greater power over life and death than a litigator in the courtroom.

    I think there is a reason that there are a lot more lawyer jokes than doctor jokes--it's because we take ourselves too seriously, we abuse our power (in Enron, corporate law, politics, the current White House lawyers, Guantanamo Bay, Alberto Gonzalez' Department of Justice, truly "overzealous" prosecutors, arrogrant above-the-lawprosecutors like Elliot Spitzer, etc.), and we think we can save lives like a doctor at an ER?

    Good analogy, but at the same time, it underscores how lawyers view themselves as "saviors" too often when they are just human beings working in a dreary legal system.

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  19. I am the first to admit that lawyers can be arrogant jerks. But likening ourselves to doctors is not that much of a stretch. We work through the legal system to prevent and cure social ills.
    A great legal case, like Brown v. Board of Education, or Roe v. Wade, is at least as good as a vaccine for a disease in terms of our quality of life and our experience of justice and fairness in society. Not every doctor will invent a cure for a disease, and not every lawyer will argue a society-changing case to the supreme court, but we all do our best to cure ills every day on the job, whether they be social or physical ills.

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  20. Let's take a deep breath before we begin denigrating the legal profession as compared to the medical profession. Do we do different things? Facially, yes. Lawyers have very little to do with the physical well-being of their clients. I didn't go to law school to cure cancer or understand autism. Admittedly, we may have an impact on medical care offered to a particular inmate or whether a person is given the death penalty, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

    Granted, I will not start my job as a public defender until mid-August, and I look forward to the jading process that will occur. I refuse, however, to admit that we just "work[] in a dreary legal system" now, and I hope I don't ever adopt that point of view permanently. I do not wish to promote the idea that the system is perfect, but what each individual lawyer can accomplish--in both large and small way--is just as crucial to the services the medical profession provides. A doctor doesn't choose not to help someone because they were just involved in a bank robbery, and there's no reason for a defense attorney to do so either.

    Attorneys may not save someone's life in the physical sense, but real life is more than just physical health. It's important not to underestimate the importance of helping someone keep their freedom or the support that comes from having one person in your corner. Life is physical, mental, and emotional health.

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  21. I really don't want to squabble over this, but I'm not the least ashamed to say that part of the effect of my job (not all of it, part of it) is to do things that might get the client, guilty or innocent, desperate shoplifter or child rapist or serial killer or poor schlub who got caught up in the system, back out on the street. If that happens, and if the person commits a crime again (or for the first time), even a horrible crime. Well, you know, been there done that.

    It was early in my practice.

    The judge let my client, who was almost certainly factually guilty of having committed a damned serious felonious assault and probably bunches of other serious things (I knew something of his background, as did the judge and the prosecutor) out of prison. A few months later, I was reading the paper over a cup of coffee in the morning and saw that the client, the one I'd gotten out on the street, had just been indicted for aggravated murder with death specifications.

    Long gulp and a tough morning while I had to think about what I had (not all that long ago, remember) chosen to do for a living: Represent people accused of sometimes terrible things and do whatever I could, within the law and ethics of the profession and my own sense of morality, to get them the best result. That might mean a reduced sentence or a conviction of a lesser offense or a trip home. Whatever I could accomplish - if anything.

    And here's what I realized. I'm just fine with what I do, even proud to do it. I felt terrible about the victim, but his death wasn't my fault. My client was out on the street because the judge let him out, because the prosecutor didn't put up enough of a fuss, because the cops didn't bother to get exercised enough to come to court (they knew about the hearing) and, yes, because I'd done my job well. And if he killed someone later (at that point it was only an allegation, remember), that was terrible, but I was not to blame for what he did. He was, and maybe the system that allowed for his release was, and maybe the society in which he lived. I offered an option, but it wasn't my call to let him out. Or to roll over when the question came up.

    See, this is where you have to ask just what sort of system you want. Do you want one where the guy who's on the side of the accused gets to say, "I don't much like my client, and I think he's probably dangerous, so he isn't entitled to the protection of the law? Only innocent people get that protection, and I alone get to decide who's innocent? Fortunately, I can't make mistakes."

    I'm not a social worker. It's not my job to solve the ills of society, though I work on that some, too. (And if we solved a few more of them there'd be a damn sight fewer bad guys for me to defend.) I'm a lawyer. My job is to hold the system accountable.

    If everyone does their job right, I have to lose. Let's make that clear. If the cops don't screw up the investigation or violate people's rights, if they arrest the right person and charge her with the right crime and the prosecution plays fair and fights hard but doesn't cheat, if the judge makes the right rulings and correctly instructs the jury on the law, if the jury properly figures out who's telling the truth and who isn't, if the court of appeals then properly decides the issues before it, my client who is guilty will be found guilty and punished exactly according to the laws that our elected representatives enacted.

    For me to get that child rapist (or wrongfully accused serial killer) out on the street, something had to go wrong in the process. And, frankly, if I do my job right, everyone else in the system will be more careful and there will be fewer chances of things going wrong. Along the way, by vigorously defending the guilty, I up the odds that the innocent won't be charged or convicted, but that's almost a side benefit.

    You don't have to like a criminal justice system in which the government is supposed to obey rules and even the bad guys are supposed to have someone stand up for them, but it's the one we have. And while I could happily do some tinkering with the details of how this one works in practice, in theory it's about as good as any I can think of.
    Frankly, most of us would far rather represent the guilty than the innocent, but we do either as well as we can. And we feel good about it. I know people who call themselves criminal defense lawyers but give up on any client they believe is guilty. Those people don't support our system of criminal justice, they subvert it every bit as much as the cop who lies on the witness stand.

    No, I'm not ashamed of what I do, even when something terrible happens some steps later down the road. But that isn't usually the question I'm asked. And it's not the one our blogger began with.

    When I have trouble sleeping at night, it isn't because I might have failed to prevent a crime by one of my clients, it's because I might have failed to advocate for a client as well as I should.

    By the way, remember the guy I got out, who was later charged with aggravated murder and death specifications. I didn't represent him at the trial, but he was acquitted.

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  22. I really don't want to squabble over this, and I'm not the least ashamed to say that PART of the effect of my job (not all of it, part of it) is to do things that might get the client, guilty or innocent, desperate shoplifter or child rapist or serial killer or poor schlub who got caught up in the system, back out on the street. But if that happens, and if the person commits a crime again (or for the first time), even a horrible crime. Well, you know, I had that story.

    It was early in my practice.

    The judge let my client, who was almost certainly factually guilty of a damned serious assault and probably bunches of other pretty-serious things (I knew something of his background, as did the judge and the prosecutor) out of prison. A few months later, I was reading the paper over a cup of coffee in the morning and saw that my client, who I'd gotten out on the street, had just been indicted for aggravated murder with death specifications.

    Long gulp and a tough morning while I had to think about what I had (not all that long ago, remember) chosen to do for a living: Represent people accused of sometimes terrible things and do whatever I could do within the law and ethics of the profession and my own sense of morality to get them the best result I could.

    And here's what I figured out. I'm proud of it. I felt terrible about the victim, but it wasn't my fault. My client was out on the street because the judge let him out, because the prosecutor didn't put up enough of a fuss, because the cops didn't bother to get exercised enough to come to court (they knew about it) and because I did my job. And if he killed someone later (at that point it was only an allegation, after all), that's terrible, but we're not to blame for what he did.

    See, this is where you have to ask just what sort of system you want. Do you want one where the guy who's on the side of the accused gets to say, "I don't much like my client, and I think he's probably dangerous, so he isn't entitled to the protection of the law? Only innocent people get that protection, and I alone get to decide who's innocent?"

    I'm not a social worker. It's not my job to solve the ills of society, though I work on that some, too. And if we solved a few more of them there'd be a damn sight fewer bad guys for me to defend. I'm a lawyer. My job is to hold the system accountable.

    If everyone does their job right, I have to lose. Let's make that clear. If the cops don't screw up the investigation or violate people's rights, if they arrest the right person and charge her with the right crime and the prosecution plays fair and fights hard but doesn't cheat, if the judge makes the right rulings and correctly instructs the jury on the law, if the jury properly figures out who's telling the truth and who isn't, if the court of appeals then properly decides the issues before it, my client who is guilty will be found guilty and punished exactly according to the laws that our elected representatives enacted.

    For me to get that child rapist out on the street, something had to go wrong in there. And, frankly, if I do my job right, everyone else in the system will be more careful and there will be fewer chances of things going wrong. Along the way, by vigorously defending the guilty, I up the odds that the innocent won't be charged or convicted, but that's almost a side benefit.

    You don't have to like a criminal justice system in which the government is supposed to obey rules and even the bad guys are supposed to have someone stand up for them, but it's the one we have, and while I could happily do some tinkering with the details of how this one works in practice, in theory it's about as good as any I can think of.

    I know people who call themselves criminal defense lawyers but give up on any client they believe is guilty. Those people don't support our system of criminal justice, they subvert it every bit as much as the cop who lies on the witness stand.

    No, I'm not ashamed of what I do, even when something terrible happens some steps later down the road. But that isn't usually the question I'm asked. And it's not the one our blogger began with.

    By the way, remember the guy I got out, who was later charged with aggravated murder and death specifications. I didn't represent him at the trial, but he was acquitted.

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  23. Oh man, I know I'm going to get flamed for this...but here goes.

    The question is how can you defend someone when you absolutely know they are guilty.

    First off, that's how our system works and that's the job of the defense attorney. It's not up to him/her. I completely recognize and agree with all the constitutional arguments.

    That said, there will always be a part of me that struggles with the idea of actively trying to prevent the administration of justice (by, for instance, impeaching a witness is believe to be truthful) when I know for a fact that the person accused is guilty.

    I'm not judging anyone, I'm just saying, that's something that I have yet to really come to terms with...and yes, I agree that asking a defense attorney "how do you defend guilty people" at a party is pretty crass.

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  24. I don't think it's a stretch to say that lawyers can save lives, albeit in a different way than doctors do. As the relative of someone wrongfully convicted of murder, I feel that anyone who can save someone from losing years of his/her life [especially when the prosecution did not follow the rules] can be called a savior to some degree. Please feel free to take yourselves seriously. I do.

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  25. Anonymous said... The question is not a bad one. What people who are asking that question are getting at is how you can use your talents to get someone off who "did it"? Now that's a tough question. Especially since those who "did it" will likely commit more crime. Maybe Jeff would have so much bravado if he got some child rapist off and the child rapist raped a child of a close friend or family member--somehow I doubt it. Some people are truly evil, and you trying to put them back into society. You can spin all you like, but that's what you do. So why is pointing that out something to be ashamed of?

    It isn't, but too many of the public think that is the purpose. The defendant is entitled to offer his own version of events and to question those who accuse him. The defense lawyer is a 'rent-a-head' who gives the defendant the skills needed to compete with the professional accuser - the prosecutor - so there is at least the appearance of a fair trial, although all too often that is all there is - just the appearance.

    When YOU are accused of a crime you did not commit see how fair you think it is to go to trial without a lawyer on your side.

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  26. I think that criminal defense attorneys are necessary. There is nothing worse than having a pro se defendant. However, I feel the need to back up the person who talked about domestic violence crimes. I have seen these particular victims treated in the worst way by some defense attorneys. I don't always believe the victim or the officers but there have been obvious victims that defense attorneys have treated horribly during trial or convinced them to invoke the 5th. I have also seen public defender's investigators waiting outside of the order protection court call like vultures waiting for victims to walk out. It is one thing to hold the prosecution to treating your client fairly, it is another to revictimize these particular victims over and over again.

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  27. Anonymous said ... I don't always believe the victim or the officers but there have been obvious victims that defense attorneys have treated horribly during trial or convinced them to invoke the 5th. I have also seen public defender's investigators waiting outside of the order protection court call like vultures waiting for victims to walk out. It is one thing to hold the prosecution to treating your client fairly, it is another to revictimize these particular victims over and over again.

    That is not the fault of the defense lawyer. It is the fault of the prosecutor or the judge for not filing the correct orders or not agreeing to them. And if the court cannot do it it is the fault of the legislature. The whole point of a court is to not let one person decide all matters according to their desires, but to ensure that matters are judged on a reasonable and predictable basis.

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  28. Voice of Sanity. That's a cop out. It is the defense attorneys fault. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should and it doesn't change the fact that what your doing is wrong. There is still such a thing as morality. Even if the prosecutor doesn't file the right orders, or the court doesn't agree to them, or the legislature hasn't put things into law yet doesn't mean what some defense attorneys do is morally correct.

    I have seen plenty of defense attorneys advocate for their clients without resorting to some of the more underhanded tactics.

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  29. It isn't up to the defence to be the police, prosecutor and judge. As long as they don't violate the ethics set by the bar they have done their job. Would that prosecutors would follow the same ethics rules, that the police would investigate without prejudice and judges would rule without bias. There is enough wrongdoing without defence lawyers adding to it.

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  30. I cringe to think of any defense attorney even taking the time to respond to such an ignorant question. I cannot think of any response that is not either a) sarcastic and a tad rude or b)that requires you to have to defend an honorable social service to a clear nitwit. But if it makes you feel better, I prosecute felony sex crimes and crimes against children and I am perpetually given a similar "I don't know how you do that" reaction. Though I am proud of my owrk, my response is to share the details of my occupation with as few people as possible. I'll make up a profession if I can get away with it.
    But it is interesting to see all the varied responses. I absolutely love the response of "a voice of sanity." I can just see how nicely that one would play out: "You know, someone can only get convicted if they had a competent attorney who first made sure that they got a fair trial, their rights were respected, and the prosecutor had sufficient evidence. Why, do you think it should be different?" That would shut them up.
    And to the prior representative of DV victims (thanks for doing such important work BTW): a defense attorney is precisely a guardian of the system!!! (As is an ethical judge, jury and prosecutor). I am sorry to see that you have experineced more "theatrics" than good defense work. I have been a prosecutor for several years and I have seen vastly more ethical and competent defense attoreys than the other variety. Maybe you are not looking objectively and critically enough at your victims' cases, or maybe you happen to practice in an area with an inordinate number of jerks. But I hope you are heartened that your experience is not normal.

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  31. The reponse of Jeff makes me cringe. Seriously? Serial rapists are good people too, if you just would really get to know them... That's your best agrument to explain a noble profession that enforces the laws of this nation and ensures fair and just convictions?!? Of course, people are not prosecuted for their best days, but for their worst. And appropriately so.
    And your other argument that these defendant's are the victims of society's ills is equally ridiculous. First of all, ususally the victims are of the same social position as the defendants. Secondly, to excuse someone because they had a bad life is a slap in the face to the people who have equally bad lives but chose to (with immense struggle) lead a life on the right side of the law.
    Your need to morally justify your clients speaks to your own personal need for moral superiority. That personal need for moral superiority is exactly what leads defense attorneys (AND prosecutors) to be unethical. Put the ego aside and just try to be an honorable and diligent public servant. If you succeed then you will have done your part to make sure that all criminal convictions were fair, in compliance with legal rights and supported by sufficient evidence. - That is work we should all be thankful for.

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  32. Call me jaded, my response to that question is generally along the lines "I get no greater joy than seeing a guilty man walk, because I've seen too many innocent men go to prison." After than they usually shut up and sulk off.

    - k

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  33. Posts like this (and half the responses) are why so many people dislike defense attorneys.

    There's a very large difference between representing your client against the system, so that they have the best possible outcome given their factual guilt, vs. declaring that your client is not guilty, when, according to the wording of the question, "you know he's guilty".

    Attack the system: Check.
    Attack the process: Check.
    Attack procedural rules: Check.

    None of these things are professionally or ethically questionable.

    Stand before a judge and jury and declare that your client is not guilty, without mention of the failure of system, process, or procedural rules, when "you know your client is guilty"...

    No one questions the fact that we have an adversarial system, and that the accused have the right to a champion to fight for them.

    But the manner in which some people do it is what grinds the gears.

    It's the how (you defend), not the why (you defend), stupid.

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  34. Anonymous said... (Something incomprehensible).

    Even when the police adhere to the highest standards of investigation, even when the prosecutors proceed with the best of motives and ethical standards it is still possible for them to prosecute an innocent man. If they convict him, two tragedies occur; an innocent man is punished and a guilty one walks free to commit further crimes. The role of the defence to prevent this is at the core of the system.

    Given that far too many members of the police forces and prosecutors' offices often fall well short of these standards, the role of the defence becomes even more essential in public life and deserves the full support of the state and public alike.

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  35. Blonde Justice- I understand your need to parallel the medical profession and the legal profession. And, in your first 2 examples (AIDS, cancer from smoking) - I understood. But, you might omit the "kid" from your 3rd example.

    Children should not be likened to adults regarding culpability (regardless of what the legal system might suggest). Would you really believe that a child understood the consequence of their actions? (I suppose that depends on your definition of kid)

    As a pediatric ER nurse, I have seen many kids involved in motorized vehicle accidents. I have seen them kill others as a result of the accident. And, I have yet to hear a child say "gosh, I just knew that would happen."

    I suppose that I am making all children look innocent, and they aren't. I agree, that children do knowingly reckless things as well, and I do feel like a competent defense attorney can save that child from themselves.

    So, I appreciate the analogy as it relates to adults; but you lost me when you included the child. Using dirty needles is a knowing act; an 8 year old imitating Jackass probably is not.

    Maybe a better solution is to ask the parent of that child (who was supposed to be supervising the child, right?) if they, the parent, deserve the guilt/consequence of their child's behavior.

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  36. Emily, your right, it comes down to your definition of "kid." You caught me in my habit of calling most people younger than me "kids."

    I was thinking of 18 year old kid, not a kid too young to have a license. (Maybe 17 or even 16, but I wasn't thinking of children 8 or 9 years old.)

    As an aside, in many places, teenagers even younger are prosecuted as adults - not that I agree with it.

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