Borhas wrote:At the end of the day there may never be certainty, but I'm sure that w/ the access to evidence that a PD has the PD could pretty reasonably come up with his own belief on his client's culpability at the point of the plea bargain. Furthermore, if you know your client is not guilty then could you even ethically agree to a plea bargain? [though that doesn't mean you couldn't make a plea deal if you merely didn't know one way or the other]
Consider this: If you "knew" your client was innocent but didn't know it in the form of strong admissible evidence, and the prosecution had evidence that the judge would admit and the jury would convict on, then as a PD you would be aware that your client's position is one where he's going to jail despite his innocent either way, but his options are to either 1) take a plea or 2) go to trial when the PD is pretty sure they'll lose.
In that situation, isn't it more ethical to tell them to take the plea? You have to consider your client's interests, and if you truly believe he'll be convicted despite your confidence in his innocence, then you probably have to tell him it's in his best interest to take the plea and avoid the longer jail term.
Borhas wrote:The larger point remains, that as a PD you will definitely know some of your clients were guilty/culpable/evil after the fact. Of course, they could even win an appeal and you'd still know it if the acquittal was based on something like reversing a trial court's denial of 4th amendment motion to suppress evidence. The evidence may end up successfully suppressed, but that doesn't mean you never knew about, after all it may be bad to let the police powers go unfettered but that doesn't destroy your own knowledge of the facts.
I'm not going to deny that you'll know some of your clients are guilty. You'll definitely know. But even then your obligation isn't just to that client, it's to every past and future client you've had. If you just sat back and allowed someone you knew was guilty to get convicted despite the evidence being fruit of an unlawful search and seizure, that would create an incentive for the police/prosecution to push more unlawful searches and seizures. After all, if the PD won't object if he thinks his client is guilty, why not?
Suddenly the police could be illegally searching people all over the place, but only arresting the ones where what they find shows they're obviously guilty. The PD wouldn't object, since he agrees, the evidence shows he's guilty. In that scenario, who protects the rights of the illegally searched?
Being a PD means you have to fight for the rights of everyone under investigation, and the only way to do that is to make sure the law is uniformly enforced, even against those who end up being guilty. The fact that someone was carrying 18 bags of dope on them doesn't mean they didn't have a right to not be searched by police without probable cause. The PD knows they're guilty, but fights to get them released because allowing a conviction would allow the illegal police searches that led to it.
The way PDs deal with the obviously guilty clients is by reminding themselves that they're fighting for rules that matter and that apply to everyone, even the guilty. They keep the police in check, not just against the guilty, but against the innocent. Defending the guilty is the only way to do that.