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Public Defender Hypothetical

Posted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 1:39 pm
by Anonymous User
I have been researching for an interview with a Public Defender's Office and had a couple questions about a hypothetical that I encountered in another website forum, but it did not have an answer.

Your client is charged with assault. On the day of trial, the complaining witnesses are not in the courtroom, but you know that they are in the building because you previously saw them looking a little lost and trying to find their way to the prosecutor's office. The prosecutor has offered your client a decent deal, but the offer will be withdrawn once you start the trial. Knowing the witnesses are somewhere in the building, do you take the plea?

I know the decision whether or not to take a plea ultimately belongs to the client, but what should you advocate for? Hoping to start the trial and that the lost witnesses never show up? Or assuming since they are in the building that they will eventually find help and make it to the courtroom?

Thanks for any help you can offer.

Re: Public Defender Hypothetical

Posted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 6:34 pm
by nyu2012grad
there's not a "right" answer here. if someone asks you this question, he or she wants to evaluate your thought process and instincts. don't stress - just trust your gut!

you've already spotted the biggest issue - it's client's choice, so your role is to give him the best information you have and help him assess his options and preferences. there are a lot of facts missing from the hypo, obviously, but some factors that you and your client can weigh together might be (just off the top of my head):

possible punishment if found guilty (what is the max penalty; whether the judge is a hardass; client's criminal record; time already served)
collateral consequences (the effect of a misdemeanor/felony on your client's record; immigration status, housing, etc.)
benefit of the plea deal (no jail time; no fine; suspended sentence; probation; etc.)
likelihood of success at trial with/without the witnesses

i'm sure these are all things you've already thought of; it's not rocket science. the interviewer (most likely) just wants to see you go through your analysis in a pressure situation, just like you'll have to if the situation arises on the job.

now, the interviewer may fill in facts as you identify outstanding issues ("the penalty for assault is up to one year in jail" or "if the witnesses show, you are pretty much sunk"). you'll just have to roll with the punches and give the best answer you can. they might even structure the circumstances so that most people would choose to, say, plead out (because the witnesses will sink you, and you will probably lose even without them, and the deal is really really good) but the client still wants to go to trial. they may want you to push back on the client and make sure he understands and has thoroughly considered all the possible outcomes. of course, at day's end, you are going with the client's choice. it's his life.

i hope that helps.

Posted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 6:43 pm
by Borhas