08 January 2013

Prove It!

We forget that the issue for the prosecution in a criminal case is whether the charge can be proven. Contrary to those who wish to improve the jury system, prosecutors without enough to do, and defense attorneys who don't properly represent their clients, whether the defendant did it, commit the act charged, is not the issue. The issue is whether the government can prove it. Innumerable times I have witnessed defendants plead guilty to some charge, such as domestic assault, where no sensible jury would convict him. Usually this is done after counsel has advised client that it is the best deal he is going to get. Simply because your client committed he crime he is charged with, is not a reason to plead him guilty. You, as his defense counsel, don't care whether he did it or not-the issue is whether the state can prove it. When defense counsel begins to judge his client, to categorize him in the pantheon of evil doers, he is no longer acting as defense counsel. It is not the job of the attorney to see to it that his client gets substance abuse counseling or anger management classes. These concerns are those of social workers who are paid to make us all better human beings. It is not the concern of the defense attorney to encourage the moral improvement of those he or she represents. I have often been harangued by prosecutors stating unequivocally that my client was guilty and needed some sort of therapy. One can only respond to these harangues by the retort of "So what?" "He may or may not need counseling for drug addiction or 24 classes to show him the error of his ways when he pops his girlfriend, but first you have to prove he did it." This response normally brings out the worst in prosecutors who now think you, as defense attorney, are also a moral reprobate and are acting irresponsibly in not acquiescing in the improvement of the defendant as a human being. I often speak disparagingly of prosecutors, but some actually do act like attorneys, not social workers. They understand that if they can not prove a charge, it should be dismissed. There are no stern lectures on the failings of the defendant or that he needs to find some way to earn money without selling illegal substances. They are fully aware that they will get him next time--its just a matter of time. They tell us every person charged with a crime deserves a lawyer so let us give them one. Tell the prosecutor the defendant isn't taking a deal and is planning on trial. You will be surprised how many charges just go away.