moral issues with working criminal defense?

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A'nold
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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby A'nold » Sat Jan 29, 2011 7:30 pm

vanwinkle wrote:





Things like this aren't that common, but they do happen, and because they do happen, that means that it's hard to summarily judge someone as "scum" before you even know all the facts. And if those people weren't there standing by their clients and defending them, innocent people who got stuck in that situation would end up getting convicted over and over again. It still happens, but it happens less because public defenders refuse to judge their clients as "scum" and actually keep digging.

Also, if someone really is guilty, and tells the public defender that, it does tie their hands ethically. They have obligations to the profession, and that includes preventing their client from lying under oath, for example. You can't let a defendant take the stand and testify that he was never there if he bluntly told you that he was and you know that to be true. So there are limits on what they can do for the ones they do truly know are guilty.

b.


Thanks. For the record, I really didn't the word "scum" to be associated with me. I quoted it from someone else above b/c I was trying to use a worse case scenario. Regardless, I really appreciate your posts.

As for the "we know they are guilty" thing, this cuts right to the heart of my initial question. Most of the PD types I have met would be more than happy trying to get an admitted murderer off the hook. They take it as some kind of unjust, "the person just made a mistake" kind of situation. This is what I just cannot understand.

TigerBeer
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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby TigerBeer » Sat Jan 29, 2011 8:15 pm

A'nold wrote:
vanwinkle wrote:





Things like this aren't that common, but they do happen, and because they do happen, that means that it's hard to summarily judge someone as "scum" before you even know all the facts. And if those people weren't there standing by their clients and defending them, innocent people who got stuck in that situation would end up getting convicted over and over again. It still happens, but it happens less because public defenders refuse to judge their clients as "scum" and actually keep digging.

Also, if someone really is guilty, and tells the public defender that, it does tie their hands ethically. They have obligations to the profession, and that includes preventing their client from lying under oath, for example. You can't let a defendant take the stand and testify that he was never there if he bluntly told you that he was and you know that to be true. So there are limits on what they can do for the ones they do truly know are guilty.

b.


Thanks. For the record, I really didn't the word "scum" to be associated with me. I quoted it from someone else above b/c I was trying to use a worse case scenario. Regardless, I really appreciate your posts.

As for the "we know they are guilty" thing, this cuts right to the heart of my initial question. Most of the PD types I have met would be more than happy trying to get an admitted murderer off the hook. They take it as some kind of unjust, "the person just made a mistake" kind of situation. This is what I just cannot understand.


you're probably confusing "trying to get the guilty person off" with "trying to get him a fairer sentence"

the US prison system is poorly run, corrupt, and should not exist in its current form in any free and democratic society, let alone the richest one in the world. sentencing a criminal to one of the more poorly-run american prisons should in itself constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

a lawyer can help a criminal get to a safer prison, or at the very least get his sentence reduced so he won't have to spend as much time in a place where he has an unacceptably high chance of being raped or killed before he finishes serving his time.

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A'nold
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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby A'nold » Sat Jan 29, 2011 8:30 pm

TigerBeer wrote:
A'nold wrote:
vanwinkle wrote:





Things like this aren't that common, but they do happen, and because they do happen, that means that it's hard to summarily judge someone as "scum" before you even know all the facts. And if those people weren't there standing by their clients and defending them, innocent people who got stuck in that situation would end up getting convicted over and over again. It still happens, but it happens less because public defenders refuse to judge their clients as "scum" and actually keep digging.

Also, if someone really is guilty, and tells the public defender that, it does tie their hands ethically. They have obligations to the profession, and that includes preventing their client from lying under oath, for example. You can't let a defendant take the stand and testify that he was never there if he bluntly told you that he was and you know that to be true. So there are limits on what they can do for the ones they do truly know are guilty.

b.


Thanks. For the record, I really didn't the word "scum" to be associated with me. I quoted it from someone else above b/c I was trying to use a worse case scenario. Regardless, I really appreciate your posts.

As for the "we know they are guilty" thing, this cuts right to the heart of my initial question. Most of the PD types I have met would be more than happy trying to get an admitted murderer off the hook. They take it as some kind of unjust, "the person just made a mistake" kind of situation. This is what I just cannot understand.


you're probably confusing "trying to get the guilty person off" with "trying to get him a fairer sentence"

the US prison system is poorly run, corrupt, and should not exist in its current form in any free and democratic society, let alone the richest one in the world. sentencing a criminal to one of the more poorly-run american prisons should in itself constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

a lawyer can help a criminal get to a safer prison, or at the very least get his sentence reduced so he won't have to spend as much time in a place where he has an unacceptably high chance of being raped or killed before he finishes serving his time.


This even gets into a shadier moral discussion. I just don't get why we should care enough that the gang member that broke into a house, rapes, and kills an elderly woman should get some kind of preferential sentence or "better jail," etc. It was his choice and he is the one that showed no compassion for another human being. How does this person deserve a "safer" prison?

Please don't respond with examples like "what if a guy steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving family." Let's keep this discussion limited to people like the Arizona shooter.

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NZA
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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby NZA » Sat Jan 29, 2011 8:34 pm

A'nold wrote:This even gets into a shadier moral discussion. I just don't get why we should care enough that the gang member that broke into a house, rapes, and kills an elderly woman should get some kind of preferential sentence or "better jail," etc. It was his choice and he is the one that showed no compassion for another human being. How does this person deserve a "safer" prison?

Please don't respond with examples like "what if a guy steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving family." Let's keep this discussion limited to people like the Arizona shooter.


The great thing about America is that we believe everyone here should be treated like a human being, not a dog in some shitty shelter.

Real human beings should always be given respect, even if they fucked up royally or are a downright "bad" person. Basic human rights shouldn't ever be violated. And while I don't think the US prison system necessarily violates the rights of inmates most of the time, it's pretty clear that at many prisons the living conditions are abhorrent.

I mean, prisoners in CA probably live in more squalor than terrorists at Gitmo.

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A'nold
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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby A'nold » Sat Jan 29, 2011 8:37 pm

NZA wrote:
A'nold wrote:This even gets into a shadier moral discussion. I just don't get why we should care enough that the gang member that broke into a house, rapes, and kills an elderly woman should get some kind of preferential sentence or "better jail," etc. It was his choice and he is the one that showed no compassion for another human being. How does this person deserve a "safer" prison?

Please don't respond with examples like "what if a guy steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving family." Let's keep this discussion limited to people like the Arizona shooter.


The great thing about America is that we believe everyone here should be treated like a human being, not a dog in some shitty shelter.

Real human beings should always be given respect, even if they fucked up royally or are a downright "bad" person. Basic human rights shouldn't ever be violated. And while I don't think the US prison system necessarily violates the rights of inmates most of the time, it's pretty clear that at many prisons the living conditions are abhorrent.

I mean, prisoners in CA probably live in more squalor than terrorists at Gitmo.


I don't agree with your statements here. I don't think that every human being deserves respect. Hitler did not deserve any respect, for example. Being a human should not give somebody an automatic right to respect. People who's entire existence is spent destroying the lives of the innocent deserve nothing but condemnation. Note that I am a very forgiving person and do believe in second chances. However, I do believe in pure evil. Maybe that is where the difference lays.

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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby keg411 » Sat Jan 29, 2011 8:38 pm

A'nold wrote:As for the "we know they are guilty" thing, this cuts right to the heart of my initial question. Most of the PD types I have met would be more than happy trying to get an admitted murderer off the hook. They take it as some kind of unjust, "the person just made a mistake" kind of situation. This is what I just cannot understand.


I know a guy who is a criminal defense attorney (though not a PD) and again, his thing is that he's more than happy to try and get an admitted murderer off the hook, if the cops fucked up at their job and did stuff they weren't supposed to do in order to prove he committed the crime or improperly coerced him into admitting committing the crime.

I do think you have to have a certain type of attitude to go into criminal work on either side and I definitely have no judgments either way (I'm not going into criminal work, but if I did, it would probably be on the prosecution-side and not the defense-side because it's a better personality fit for me).

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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby TigerBeer » Sat Jan 29, 2011 8:39 pm

A'nold wrote:How does this person deserve a "safer" prison?

Please don't respond with examples like "what if a guy steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving family." Let's keep this discussion limited to people like the Arizona shooter.


no examples needed.

a criminal deserves the sentence that society deems as appropriate for the crime he committed. if a murderer is sentenced to 50 years, he should serve 50 years, not serve 50 years and oh by the way every day you might be raped or murdered and no one will help you.

any sentence served in one of the more dangerous prisons carries with it a substantial risk to the prisoner's personal safety. how can this be acceptable to you? if we really want to punish rape with rape (or a probability of rape), then write it into the law.

if the state is going to deprive these (admittedly terrible) people of their freedom, then the state is also responsible for their protection. as it currently stands, the state is doing an unacceptable job performing the latter.

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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby keg411 » Sat Jan 29, 2011 8:41 pm

TigerBeer wrote:a criminal deserves the sentence that society deems as appropriate for the crime he committed. if a murderer is sentenced to 50 years, he should serve 50 years, not serve 50 years and oh by the way every day you might be raped or murdered and no one will help you.


Obviously A'nold's never seen Oz.

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NZA
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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby NZA » Sat Jan 29, 2011 8:42 pm

A'nold wrote:I don't agree with your statements here. I don't think that every human being deserves respect. Hitler did not deserve any respect, for example. Being a human should not give somebody an automatic right to respect. People who's entire existence is spent destroying the lives of the innocent deserve nothing but condemnation. Note that I am a very forgiving person and do believe in second chances. However, I do believe in pure evil. Maybe that is where the difference lays.


lolwut.jpg

Honestly, how many people in the prison system do you think are "pure evil"?

And how do you distinguish them from the non-Satanic, normal, everyday human beings?

And what gives you the right to figure out who is who?

And what then gives you the authority to treat those you are, uh, "pure evil" mercilessly?

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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby A'nold » Sat Jan 29, 2011 8:44 pm

keg411 wrote:
A'nold wrote:As for the "we know they are guilty" thing, this cuts right to the heart of my initial question. Most of the PD types I have met would be more than happy trying to get an admitted murderer off the hook. They take it as some kind of unjust, "the person just made a mistake" kind of situation. This is what I just cannot understand.


I know a guy who is a criminal defense attorney (though not a PD) and again, his thing is that he's more than happy to try and get an admitted murderer off the hook, if the cops fucked up at their job and did stuff they weren't supposed to do in order to prove he committed the crime or improperly coerced him into admitting committing the crime.

I do think you have to have a certain type of attitude to go into criminal work on either side and I definitely have no judgments either way (I'm not going into criminal work, but if I did, it would probably be on the prosecution-side and not the defense-side because it's a better personality fit for me).


Thanks for the response but you must not have read all of my posts. I've already freely conceded to this being a very acceptable goal and even one that I would happily pursue. Van and I have been talking about something else for like the past 2 pages.

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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby TigerBeer » Sat Jan 29, 2011 8:44 pm

keg411 wrote:
TigerBeer wrote:a criminal deserves the sentence that society deems as appropriate for the crime he committed. if a murderer is sentenced to 50 years, he should serve 50 years, not serve 50 years and oh by the way every day you might be raped or murdered and no one will help you.


Obviously A'nold's never seen Oz.


i honestly can't tell: are you suggesting that i'm exaggerating the incidence of rape and murder within the prison system?

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A'nold
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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby A'nold » Sat Jan 29, 2011 8:52 pm

By the way, I find the way this thread has turned out to be very amusing. Irl, I am constantly defending PD's to lay people, haha. It's like I'm a huge liberal to most people out in the real world, yet I'm a horrible fascist conservative in the law school world. :)

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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby keg411 » Sat Jan 29, 2011 9:00 pm

TigerBeer wrote:
keg411 wrote:
TigerBeer wrote:a criminal deserves the sentence that society deems as appropriate for the crime he committed. if a murderer is sentenced to 50 years, he should serve 50 years, not serve 50 years and oh by the way every day you might be raped or murdered and no one will help you.


Obviously A'nold's never seen Oz.


i honestly can't tell: are you suggesting that i'm exaggerating the incidence of rape and murder within the prison system?


Not at all. Why would you think that? Oz was an awesome show and a good portion of it showed the types of horrors that go on in prison (while some of the storylines themselves were soap-ish, I think the generally idea of the show was pretty damn accurate).

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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby klmnumbers » Sat Jan 29, 2011 9:01 pm

imisscollege wrote:Has anybody else ever felt this way?


I didn't think I would, but I struggled a bit with some work over the summer. I like criminal defense in theory and in execution for the most part, but some particular cases can be very triggering. On the opposite side of the spectrum, however, there are some cases where people are really getting worked over by the system. Even if they are potentially guilty, many defendants don't deserve the harsh penalties being lobbied against them.

eta- to explain a bit better - it was a situation where the accused was guilty, but we were trying to get evidence suppressed.
Last edited by klmnumbers on Sat Jan 29, 2011 9:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby 20160810 » Sat Jan 29, 2011 9:04 pm

Everyone's entitled to a valid defense. If you are ethically unable to give defense work 100%, then you have an ethical obligation to your potential clients to pursue another avenue of the law IMO. Every defendant deserves a lawyer who is in it to win it, so to speak.

I applaud OP for thinking this through BEFORE taking the job. A lot of people rush into defense work for naive reasons ("I'm going to free innocent people!" "I want to be a PD because The Man is bad!" etc.) without seriously considering (1.) the fact that the vast majority of criminal defendants are, in fact, guilty and (2.) whether they're OK with advocating for them anyway.

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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby bjsesq » Sat Jan 29, 2011 9:23 pm

SBL wrote:Everyone's entitled to a valid defense. If you are ethically unable to give defense work 100%, then you have an ethical obligation to your potential clients to pursue another avenue of the law IMO.

This isn't your opinion, dude, it's a statement of fact. If people cannot do a job to the best of their ability when the freedom of clients frequently depend on that ability, he/she needs to gtfo.

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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby Borhas » Sun Jan 30, 2011 5:25 pm

excellent posts VW

Ultimately its a matter of focus

On the big picture as a PD you will work w/ scum, it's a fact. Does that mean that on the small picture level you could reasonably prejudge any individual client as scum? Not at all. Even if 90% of your clients could be justifiably characterized as scum, to prejudge any of your clients leads you to 1) losing the empathy that is crucial in advocacy for all your clients and 2) misjudging 10% of your clients... So while it would be unreasonable to judge any individual client as scum, you do KNOW from a big picture POV that a lot will be before hand.

The problem w/ this as far as ethics/happiness goes is not that you KNOW your client is guilty before hand, but that you will definitely know after the case is over. If you have qualms about this then you can look at the big picture and justify it through the need to limit the state's police powers.

I suppose the best way to look at the job is to take the best of both perspectives and live with it. On a case by case basis never prejudge any client, and even if they do turn out to have been bad/evil or still are, you still have the benefit of knowing that you played a small role in keeping police powers in check.

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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby swiftwings88 » Sun Jan 30, 2011 5:50 pm

Borhas wrote:1) losing the empathy that is crucial in advocacy for all your clients


why on earth do you need empathy to effectively and accurately apply the law in any given situation? empathy isn't required to act without prejudice. if anything, empathy would lead you to have an unbalanced view of a case based on emotional contingencies (e.g. the defendant has kids). such contingencies are immaterial to the actually trying of a case. the judge may take those factors into account during sentencing, but within the actual application of the law, i wouldn't say empathy is crucial, or even necessary.

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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby vanwinkle » Sun Jan 30, 2011 6:21 pm

Borhas wrote:The problem w/ this as far as ethics/happiness goes is not that you KNOW your client is guilty before hand, but that you will definitely know after the case is over.

I object to this characterization. Even after the trial is over, it's not over. You don't always know your client is guilty, only that they were convicted by a jury after a trial. Verdicts do get overturned, though it's rare. When they do get overturned, though, it's because either 1) a rule designed to protect the trial's fairness to the defendant was ignored or violated, and without that rule in place the defendant could not have fairly been found guilty, or 2) someone has found new evidence after the trial is over that shows the defendant's innocence.

I've worked on appeals for both situations, where the conviction was iffy in the first place and surely wouldn't hold up if the improper evidence was thrown out, or if the new evidence exonerating the defendant was considered. It's enough that it taught me that even a conviction does not necessarily absolutely establish guilt, and that the role of a PD is to continue to defend the rights of that person even after they're convicted because 1) they still have rights and 2) while I'm not saying it's common, they may still be innocent.

Fun fact: 99% of all charges pressed in NYC lead to pleas. 99%! The number of trials that occur are fewer than 1% of all cases, and verdicts flip about 50/50. If your defendant is one of the rare few who's so convinced of his innocence that he goes to trial despite plea offers (and there's always at least some kind of plea offer), then it's reasonable to still think he might be innocent afterward, conviction or not.

swiftwings88 wrote:why on earth do you need empathy to effectively and accurately apply the law in any given situation? empathy isn't required to act without prejudice. if anything, empathy would lead you to have an unbalanced view of a case based on emotional contingencies (e.g. the defendant has kids). such contingencies are immaterial to the actually trying of a case. the judge may take those factors into account during sentencing, but within the actual application of the law, i wouldn't say empathy is crucial, or even necessary.

I'm not gonna assume you're a 0L, since you can study the law in a classroom and still be this ignorant, but I am gonna assume you've never actually worked in the criminal law on either side. Empathy always matters, on both sides.

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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby NZA » Sun Jan 30, 2011 6:26 pm

swiftwings88 wrote:
Borhas wrote:1) losing the empathy that is crucial in advocacy for all your clients


why on earth do you need empathy to effectively and accurately apply the law in any given situation? empathy isn't required to act without prejudice. if anything, empathy would lead you to have an unbalanced view of a case based on emotional contingencies (e.g. the defendant has kids). such contingencies are immaterial to the actually trying of a case. the judge may take those factors into account during sentencing, but within the actual application of the law, i wouldn't say empathy is crucial, or even necessary.


Completely disagree.

Even prosecutors and judges are empathetic towards defendants. It's a good thing because there is no black and white in law.

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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby 20160810 » Sun Jan 30, 2011 6:35 pm

vanwinkle wrote:Fun fact: 99% of all charges pressed in NYC lead to pleas. 99%! The number of trials that occur are fewer than 1% of all cases, and verdicts flip about 50/50. If your defendant is one of the rare few who's so convinced of his innocence that he goes to trial despite plea offers (and there's always at least some kind of plea offer), then it's reasonable to still think he might be innocent afterward, conviction or not.

This seems to assume that (1.) criminal ∆s are rational actors and (2.) that the criminal justice system is (at least almost) as likely as not to convict an innocent as a guilty ∆. Both of those assumptions are probably problematic.

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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby vanwinkle » Sun Jan 30, 2011 6:45 pm

SBL wrote:
vanwinkle wrote:Fun fact: 99% of all charges pressed in NYC lead to pleas. 99%! The number of trials that occur are fewer than 1% of all cases, and verdicts flip about 50/50. If your defendant is one of the rare few who's so convinced of his innocence that he goes to trial despite plea offers (and there's always at least some kind of plea offer), then it's reasonable to still think he might be innocent afterward, conviction or not.

This seems to assume that (1.) criminal ∆s are rational actors and (2.) that the criminal justice system is (at least almost) as likely as not to convict an innocent as a guilty ∆. Both of those assumptions are probably problematic.

I wasn't talking proportions, and I don't know what the ratio of actually-innocent-to-guilty people is post-trial. (If I could somehow show that with certainty, I'd use the data to argue for release of the innocent!) I was merely trying to point out that the percentage of those convicted and yet still actually innocent is greater than zero (and the somewhat regular post-conviction releases of convicts confirms it's a non-zero number), and that's enough reason for the person representing their interests to not just assume guilt even after conviction.

Also, it does not assume criminals are rational actors. If someone is actually innocent, but the prosecution (for whatever reason) has enough evidence to convict them and their counsel is telling them that, it would be more rational in some of those cases for the defendant to take a plea to a lesser charge despite being innocent. Forcing a trial with high odds of conviction on an even greater offense is irrational in at least some cases.

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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby Borhas » Sun Jan 30, 2011 8:04 pm

swiftwings88 wrote:
Borhas wrote:1) losing the empathy that is crucial in advocacy for all your clients


why on earth do you need empathy to effectively and accurately apply the law in any given situation? empathy isn't required to act without prejudice. if anything, empathy would lead you to have an unbalanced view of a case based on emotional contingencies (e.g. the defendant has kids). such contingencies are immaterial to the actually trying of a case. the judge may take those factors into account during sentencing, but within the actual application of the law, i wouldn't say empathy is crucial, or even necessary.


Criminal law focuses so much on the state of mind of that you really have to present the mind of accused in the best or worst possible light to maximize your ability persuasion of the jury. Characterizing a state of mind necessarily requires the ability to know what sorts of feelings people have in different situations, how those feelings effect their decisions, what their decisions actually where, knowing is not enough, you also have to communicate that information in a way that emotionally resonates w/ the fact finders. Empathizing with your client and the fact finders crucial.

I object to this characterization. Even after the trial is over, it's not over. You don't always know your client is guilty, only that they were convicted by a jury after a trial. Verdicts do get overturned, though it's rare. When they do get overturned, though, it's because either 1) a rule designed to protect the trial's fairness to the defendant was ignored or violated, and without that rule in place the defendant could not have fairly been found guilty, or 2) someone has found new evidence after the trial is over that shows the defendant's innocence.

I've worked on appeals for both situations, where the conviction was iffy in the first place and surely wouldn't hold up if the improper evidence was thrown out, or if the new evidence exonerating the defendant was considered. It's enough that it taught me that even a conviction does not necessarily absolutely establish guilt, and that the role of a PD is to continue to defend the rights of that person even after they're convicted because 1) they still have rights and 2) while I'm not saying it's common, they may still be innocent.

Fun fact: 99% of all charges pressed in NYC lead to pleas. 99%! The number of trials that occur are fewer than 1% of all cases, and verdicts flip about 50/50. If your defendant is one of the rare few who's so convinced of his innocence that he goes to trial despite plea offers (and there's always at least some kind of plea offer), then it's reasonable to still think he might be innocent afterward, conviction or not.


You have a good point w/ plea deals, and in general the prevalence of plea deals reeks of injustice to me.

I was mostly referring to the time that the PD has access to enough evidence to make his own subjective evaluation. Of course, the PD has a more accurate vision of the defendant's culpability because he has access to all the evidence that he excluded from the trial... even then though the balancing act between making the Gov't meet their burden of proof, and not risking a trial and thus excessive prison sentence (from my POV we sentence people WAY too heavily/long) means that sometimes the D never gets a chance to get heard by a jury...

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]

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.
Last edited by Borhas on Sun Jan 30, 2011 8:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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A'nold
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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby A'nold » Sun Jan 30, 2011 8:09 pm

NZA wrote:
A'nold wrote:I don't agree with your statements here. I don't think that every human being deserves respect. Hitler did not deserve any respect, for example. Being a human should not give somebody an automatic right to respect. People who's entire existence is spent destroying the lives of the innocent deserve nothing but condemnation. Note that I am a very forgiving person and do believe in second chances. However, I do believe in pure evil. Maybe that is where the difference lays.


lolwut.jpg

Honestly, how many people in the prison system do you think are "pure evil"?

And how do you distinguish them from the non-Satanic, normal, everyday human beings?

And what gives you the right to figure out who is who?

And what then gives you the authority to treat those you are, uh, "pure evil" mercilessly?


Take out the "pure" part. I believe "evil" is acting selfishly w/out regard to the consequences to your fellow man. I'm not talking satanists here, I am talking gang members that rob, rape, kill, etc. without a second thought. There is no conscience, no regard for the lives they destroy. They are out for themselves and them alone.

How does anyone have a right to anything? How do we have the right to judge who should pay tort damages and who should not? We have a system in place to determine who the bad criminals are.

What does not give me the right to treat those that are "pure evil" mercilessly? Respect is earned, not given.

Edit: note that I am addressing the poster's specific question, NOT whether people are entitled to proper defense.

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vanwinkle
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Re: moral issues with working criminal defense?

Postby vanwinkle » Sun Jan 30, 2011 8:39 pm

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.




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