Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Go Defence

Via Volokh Conspiracy there is a good article praising defence council in respect of the Duke Lacrosse case:

Our criminal justice system does not rely solely on the fairness of the police and prosecutors to get things right. In every criminal case, there is a professional whose only obligation is to scrutinize what the police and prosecutor have done. This "professional" is a lawyer. The next time you hear a lawyer joke, maybe you'll think of the lawyers who represented these three boys and it won't seem so funny. You probably can't picture their faces and don't know their names. (They include Joe Cheshire, Jim Cooney, Michael Cornacchia, Bill Cotter, Wade Smith and the late Kirk Osborn.) That's because they put their zealous representation of their clients ahead of their own egos and fame. Without their lawyering skills, we would not today be speaking so confidently of their clients' innocence.

I have long considered defence lawyers, particularly the good ones, to be the vanguard of individual liberty. The ability to put your client ahead of yourself, to advocate for the worst our in our society and to keep the power of the state at bay is when a lawyer and the legal profession is at its best. It is when you lose this edge, when you are more concerned for your reputation than your client, when you have trouble advocating for an individual who really should be behind bars that it is time to give it up.

(My faithful reader may think am tooting my own horn, but I do limited criminal work and refer the bigger cases to more experienced and committed counsel.)

Over at Durham In Wonderland, we see this about prosecutors:

In our search for justice, prosecutors are uniquely obligated to make timely disclosure of any evidence which may tend to negate the guilt of the accused. On a daily basis, over 30,000 state and local prosecutors across the country are responsible for evaluating evidence in cases and making difficult decisions to prosecute, not prosecute, or dismiss charges previously filed when the interests of justice are best served. Sometimes justice is best served by declining to prosecute.

The confidence of the public and the very integrity of the criminal justice process depend on strict compliance with these ethical standards. To the extent that any individual prosecutor violates these high ethical standards the public confidence in our criminal justice system is undermined and the image of all prosecutors suffers

I have long held the view that the best prosecutors are those who put forth the Crown's case in a professional and competent manner rather than those who are interested in the wins and losses. The Crown that is over-zealous, who abuses his position or is unreasonable in pre-trail positions wastes the resources of the State and does the administration of justice a disservice.

CP @ Little Tobacco)