If you know the client did the crime, how can you represent a guilty person? There are three answers to that:
1. Very few clients ever fully admit they’re guilty! Most lie and deny everything. Even though the evidence makes them look guilty. I’ve learned to withhold judgement. You never know for sure. Often, the defendant may be guilty—but not of the exact crime they’re accused of doing. I defended a guilty person who admitted that he strangled his wife to death. He was charged with Murder in the 1st. degree. At trial, the medical evidence showed the crime could not have been premeditated to prove first degree murder. The jury found him guilty of second degree murder.
2. Everyone is entitled to a strong defense. The system is adversarial. It’s designed that way. So both sides must be strong. I must still defend a guilty person by challenging the government’s case. That means the evidence, the witnesses, and the forensic testing. It’s a way to test the government’s case and make sure they’re being honest. As citizens, we can’t let the government run over us without a check on their power.
3. People are innocent sometimes. How many times have you been accused of doing something (probably not a crime!) that was wrong? Even with careful police work, witnesses, and forensic evidence, sometimes innocent people are accused and even convicted. Think of the number of people in prison who are released, years later, after being cleared by DNA analysis, for instance. This point ties into Number 1: I don’t always know for certain if a client is guilty or not. Therefore, I have to even defend a guilty people and let the jury system make the final decision.
What do you think? Could you defend a guilty person?