Monday, June 25, 2012

In Reply: "Not everyone who is accused of some criminal or civil breach is actually guilty...and for me, that tips the scale in favor of defense attorneys as heroes."

In reply to the following comment at the Allergic to Bull post "Memo to Texas “Civil Rights” Group: Fathers (Allegedly) Defending Their Daughters From Sexual Assault Have Rights, Too"
Thing is, most people aren't defense lawyers. Defense lawyers would be sympathetic to any client, pretty much. You could be the combination of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pol, and you still get your lawyer providing a zealous defense. It's their job, just a like a sewer pipe does its important but undignified job.

For normal people, the molester is completely unsympathetic. It's hard to see someone that horrible as a person. Saying he got what he deserved isn't the same a approving of the manner of death. If a mafia hitman is gunned down by a rival gang, you could say he got what he deserved, but he still think the rival gang's shooters are criminals.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you're saying, Omega, but I don't believe defense lawyers, as a rule, find their clients sympathetic.

Rather, I believe what you say further down, that they have a job to do, unpleasant though it may be, and that they do it, regardless of what they personally believe about their client, either in terms of guilt or innocence or as a person. (I'm sure innocent people can behave like assholes, and guilty folks can be quite charming, apart from their penchant for committing crimes.)

In that regard, I'm torn when it comes to attacking defense attorneys for defending the clients they do...

On one hand, it's hard to understand how anyone could advocate for some kinds of / specific criminals, even for money. Arguing that some overwhelmingly damning piece of evidence cannot be admitted at trial because the police officer failed to say or do some small thing in the course of finding/securing/logging it, thereby letting a clearly guilty man go free, seems like an awful way to make a living, karmically-speaking.

On the other hand, what could be more noble and in keeping with our American values and legal standards than upholding the rights of even the lowliest scumbag? I remember reading an article somewhere (which of course, I cannot find now) that interviewed one of the military lawyers who had been assigned to defend an alleged GITMO terrorist, and how he spoke about the necessity of his doing so in our adversarial legal system. He was clearly honored to've served both his country and the law by doing everything he could to defend his client. Just based on the concept of "innocent until proven guilty," everyone--and maybe even the accused, especially--deserve to have zealous representation, and the people who provide it should be proud of what they do...

(Obviously, I lean one way idealistically, and the other in a more "real world" sense...)

The fact remains though, that not everyone who is accused of some criminal or civil breach is actually guilty... ...and for me, that tips the scale.

...As far as we civilians, though... I do get what you're saying... It's not that I don't understand the folks who whoop and holler and high-five when bad people meet their ends... I just personally find it a little distasteful... (Maybe it has something to do with my religion, or the number of people in my life who've died.)

I don't (or at least, try not to) look down on those who don't see it my way, but by the same token, I doubt I'll be joining them in the celebrations anytime soon...
Posted June 25, 2012 2:24 PM and 2:32 PM

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