“How can you defend criminals?”
I get that question all the time — from the general public, and even from other private investigators. I may have even had similar thoughts, back in the day, before I waded neck-deep into the world of criminal defense investigations. Before I worked several trials (including murder cases and post-conviction work) and got to know an incredible cadre of hard-fighting defense attorneys — and the people they defend.
I think about that question differently now. There are several good answers, including the uber-obvious: “Innocent until proven guilty.” But beyond that, I’ve come to know quite a few so-called “criminals.” Defined as: people who’ve been convicted of serious crimes. Folks who, in some cases, have done great harm to others and ruined lives, including their own. I offer no excuses for their actions, but I can’t write them off as simply “criminals,” defined solely by the worst thing they ever did.
But also, there’s this: sometimes, the prosecution overreaches. That’s what I believe happened in a trial I worked earlier this month: prosecutors told one story about our client, and the evidence, as I saw it, told another. Sometimes, there really is a best answer, a punishment that fits the crime. But the only way to have any hope of arriving at that best answer is to pit prosecution against defense and let them duke it out … hard.
Of course, that only works if the scales aren’t tipped heavily in favor of one side or the other.
That’s just my take. Later this week, I’ll get another take — from David Guinn, a Lubbock defense attorney whom I respect mightily. We’ll talk about why criminal defense work matters, the vital role it plays in a functioning criminal justice system, and why we find the work so rewarding. We’ll post that audio and transcript here at PursuitMag in the next few days.
In the meantime, here’s the weekly briefing video: