Murder, sexual assault, pharmacy, … I was involved in my share of court cases in which I defended individuals charged with such offences. Most attorneys in criminal law will be exposed to these types of cases during a career. Criminal Defense Attorney Spring Hill has some nice tips on this.
Many such attorneys begin their legal career as prosecutors learning the trade. The prosecutor is of course the “white knight” in the courtroom whose role is to bring justice to the accused. So this is how I began my career … As prosecutor for the “white knight.” However, working for the government has its limits on how far a career can go.
Therefore, after working on the law enforcement side for several years, I decided to switch to the other side and battle the government on behalf of the person accused of wrongdoing.
A common question asked of me in a casual conversation is “how can you represent those people?” It’s usually asked with a tone that suggests that I should shamefully bow my head when I give a reply.
But, my head is not diminishing in shame, because there is no shame. I have been practising the criminal law for nearly 30 years. Several of those years have been as a prosecutor, observing and experiencing the criminal justice system from the perspective of one that pursues the accused’s guilty verdicts or pleas.
However, the vast majority of my years practising criminal law have been defending the accused from the opposite perspective, observing and experiencing the criminal justice system. And, I represent a rare person composed of pure evil. The vast majority of people accused as “criminals” are just ordinary people everyday. Usually at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and very probably never again to be charged as a “criminal.”
Even in a situation like this … To represent a person accused of a horrible crime, and a person to be removed from civilised society … Is it not in the interests of such a civilised society that the presumption of innocence, fair and competent counsel, and the requirement of our government, beyond reasonable doubt, to prove him guilty?
That’s how I respond with a question to the question of “how do you represent those people?” I answer their question. It has the desired effect of quieting the questioner. It invokes such silence because no reasonable mind can deny the power of those fundamental rights to maintain a free society in this free country of ours. And that is why it’s not shameful.