A. Nony Mouse wrote:I guess I have two responses to this: first, at least in the federal system, criminal defense attorneys recognize that they're not going to get very far with their individual cases, because they know perfectly well that plenty of their defendants are guilty. A lot of times their strategies are intended to try to change the system, by hammering away at specific aspects of the law and trying to get them changed. So their approach is governed almost as much by collective strategy about what to try to change, as by the facts of the specific case.
I just finished a federal sentencing course, and largely agree with you on that front. It should also be interesting to see it in action this summer. The federal system was a completely foreign concept prior to that course because on the local level, there is nowhere near that degree of certainty in conviction of the top charge, nor is there a sentencing scheme that can be wacko at times. While I intend to be a local ADA to start, I could see myself becoming a federal PD later on down the line (unless, of course, my experience is "tainted" by the DA's office...).
Conversely, on the local level, PD's are exploiting the rapid-fire process to negotiate lower offers and ACD's, get cases dismissed on 30.30, etc. until their clients are arrested again and the process starts all over again. As they should be because that's their job. But that does nothing to "change" the system. I'd hazard the assertion that if anything, it just entrenches it and the revolving door that is the CRJ system on the local level.
Second, a lot of (most?) criminal defense attorneys don't care if their client is guilty; that's not the point. The point is to make the government prove the case fairly every. single. time. If the government can't prove the case within constitutional constraints, then it can't convict, no matter what the client's actually done. It's not that the PDs are naive. They just firmly believe that the prison system is not a solution, regardless of what their client has done.
Oh, that's fine. I didn't intend to imply that PD's should care (though I do, which is probably why I lean more toward an ADA over a PD even though I also firmly believe the government should have the burden of proving their case in every single instance). I made the point because this is what ADA's care about, and I think a lot of PD's would have a better understanding of why prosecutors do what they do if they could at least understand that concept. In my experience, which is admittedly anecdotal, there are more than a few PD's who absolutely refuse to even try. A little more of an attempt to understand the so-called "other side" would go a long way in the context of plea negotiates, proffers, etc. In the spirit of that line of thinking, I'm (genuinely) curious as to what alternative there is to the prison system for serious offenses (full disclosure: could care less about the kid caught with a joint or the turnstile jumper). How should the CRJ system treat offenders, aka: defendant proven guilty, who committed homicide? Assault with a weapon? Or how about a chronic repeat drunk driver who hasn't killed someone...yet? I've asked the PD hopefuls in classes this a number of times, but never seem to get an answer.