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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why Do We Defend Clients Everyone Knows Are Guilty?

Criminal defense lawyers are often asked, how can you defend someone you know is guilty? The short answer is that by defending people who are probably guilty as charged we are defending everyone's constitutional rights to due process. For example, people like Francisco Carrillo, who spent 20 years in prison for a drive by shooting he didn't commit. He went to Folsom Prison at age 16. He just got out, but has no job, no home, nothing. Lawyers with the Innocence Project took his case pro bono, and their investigation and hard word proved that the eyewitnesses who fingered Carrillo were wrong.

Another reason we defend people is that prosecutors often "overcharge" - they hit the defendant with the worst crime they can with a straight face to use as leverage in plea bargaining.

Then there are cops and prosecutors who will stop at nothing to get a conviction. Plant evidence, suborn perjury, whatever it takes to win and get reelected. History is replete with kangaroo trials - Joan of Arc, condemned as a heretic and witch, the Salem witch trials, even Jesus Christ.

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