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Neal Boortz: Why I don’t object to defense lawyers


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Opinion 7:08 p.m. Friday, June 25, 2010

Neal Boortz: Why I don’t object to defense lawyers

Isn’t it just so much fun to hate a defense attorney?

Do you remember Larry Davis? A violent New York City drug dealer, circa 1986. A squad of cops show up to arrest him at 3 a.m. Davis shoots and kills six police officers. Davis hires William Kunstler who, in his closing argument at trial, tells the jury that if they don’t acquit Davis of these murder charges they will one day wake up at 3 a.m. — screaming. Larry Davis kills six police officers; Kunstler gets him off. Davis goes on to become known as “Hood Hero,” and later as Adam Abdul-Hakeem. Quite a guy. Eventually, as you would expect, the Hood Hero murdered again, and this time was convicted. The prosecutors got it right the second time.

Let’s not forget O.J. Simpson. There’s not a person out there with the IQ necessary to put their pants on straight who doesn’t think that Simpson butchered his wife. Here come Johnnie Cochran and Robert Shapiro — defense attorneys. There goes O.J., off to Florida to work on his golf game. Oh yeah, it’s easy to really hate defense lawyers.

David Wolfe is a friend of mine. He’s the lawyer who will be defending Christa Scott in her vehicular homicide trial in Fulton County. Scott, you will remember, is charged in the accident last Saturday that killed a young man who worked as an intern in Gov. Sonny Perdue’s office. Police said her blood alcohol level was almost three times the legal limit. Most of us would like to see this woman in jail until her hair turns gray; but first she must be convicted.

Aren’t you just in love with Wolfe for defending this alleged drunken driver in court? After all, an innocent man with a promising life is now gone. Let’s just toss her in jail now and save the taxpayers some money, right?

Actually, Wolfe deserves our thanks for representing Scott. So did Cochran and Shapiro and — forgive me for this — so did that crusty old lefty Kunstler.

In our country we all enjoy the right to life, liberty and property. These are natural rights that should be guaranteed to every person on the planet. There is, though, one entity that can deprive you of those rights, and can do this by using force — deadly force, if need be.

That entity is government. You do have something standing between you and government force, and that is the rule of law. While the government can take your stuff, your freedom or your life, there are legal procedures that must be followed. And just who is it that will step forward to make the government abide by the rules? Well, that would be your lawyer. Your Cochran, Shapiro or Wolfe.

I took a criminal defense case just once when I was practicing law. A national celebrity (who shall remain unnamed) was in town and doing a bit of drunken driving. After his arrest he hired me and demanded a jury trial. Trust me, this guy was plastered, but the jury said not guilty. I never handled a DUI trial again. I couldn’t bear the thought of helping someone escape a drunken-driving conviction and then going on to kill someone in a later incident.

Here’s the key: A defense attorney’s job is to make the prosecutor prove the client’s guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. If the prosecutor — the government — can’t meet that burden, then you get to keep your freedom, your stuff and your life.

This is the magic of a government of laws. The question is not whether or not you did it; it’s whether or not the government can prove you did it.

Trust me, you don’t want to live in a country where your life, liberty or property can be taken away because of political whim or the passions of the majority.

Celebrate the defense attorney, no matter how much you hate their clients. That attorney may stand between you and a false charge someday.

Listen to Neal Boortz live from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on AM750 WSB Radio. His column appears every Saturday.

For more Boortz, go to boortz.com

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I read "Letters to a Young Laywer" by Alan Dershowitz last summer and it was a great read. It provided alot of insight into being a criminal defense lawyer. It was obviously biased towards the criminal defense side, and from his very liberal view point, but it was nonetheless a good read.

The point Boortz makes is spot on - everyone hates criminal defense attorneys until they need one. I respect what they do, though I have no desire to ever practice criminal law. However, they are a necessary - scratch that - crucial part of our society.

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As a defense attorney, I get asked "how can you defend someone who is guilty?" all the time. People need to understand that when we are protecting a clients rights, we are also protecting the average citizen.

For example, if I didnt get a case dismissed due to a search being illegal, this would allow law enforcement to perform the same meritless search on you.

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I read "Letters to a Young Laywer" by Alan Dershowitz last summer and it was a great read. It provided alot of insight into being a criminal defense lawyer. It was obviously biased towards the criminal defense side, and from his very liberal view point, but it was nonetheless a good read.

The point Boortz makes is spot on - everyone hates criminal defense attorneys until they need one. I respect what they do, though I have no desire to ever practice criminal law. However, they are a necessary - scratch that - crucial part of our society.

Are you an attorney as well?

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I can't see how anyone could hate all defense lawyers. The right to counsel is guaranteed by the Constitution.

When a criminal who is obviously guilty and has a mountain of evidence to prove it is acquitted, I don't blame the defense attorneys as much as I blame a poor effort from the prosecution and/or a bad jury. The Simpson case is a prime example of that. The prosecution made so many errors from changing the venue to omitting several pieces of evidence that was very incriminating towards Simpson.

Many blame Cochran for making the case about race, but as despicable and improper as it was, (Ito should have not allowed much of it) with the amount of damning evidence arrayed against them, it was his only chance he had.

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Not yet, I've got to sign up for the bar and barbri here soon. I'm taking Georgia's next July, and then Alabama's the following February, and maybe even a third one after that.

those pmbr flashcards and lecture cds are really good. You can usually get them pretty cheap on ebay. The cds can be put on your ipod/mp3 player and listened to wherever.

I used those and Micromash. Its not as popular as Barbri but fit perfectly for me.

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those pmbr flashcards and lecture cds are really good. You can usually get them pretty cheap on ebay. The cds can be put on your ipod/mp3 player and listened to wherever.

I used those and Micromash. Its not as popular as Barbri but fit perfectly for me.

Yeah I've got to figure out whether I'm moving to Atlanta or Macon for 2 months next summer to do the BarBri course. Not excited about either. Apparently Atlanta is the only one that actually has a live instructor, though you still can't ask questions. In Macon and Athens you just watch a video every day.

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I can't see how anyone could hate all defense lawyers. The right to counsel is guaranteed by the Constitution.

When a criminal who is obviously guilty and has a mountain of evidence to prove it is acquitted, I don't blame the defense attorneys as much as I blame a poor effort from the prosecution and/or a bad jury. The Simpson case is a prime example of that. The prosecution made so many errors from changing the venue to omitting several pieces of evidence that was very incriminating towards Simpson.

Many blame Cochran for making the case about race, but as despicable and improper as it was, (Ito should have not allowed much of it) with the amount of damning evidence arrayed against them, it was his only chance he had.

But that last line sums it up for me. I don't hate their JOB. It's not their job that damns them. It's their choice to take the job of defending child molestors and the like, and sometimes ons so obviously guilty and they get off on a technicality. Police are like anyone else, human, and no human ever does their job 100% correctly. Not you, me or anyone. So if a cop forgets to cross a T or dot an eye, and some slime lets a child molester free, I can't just say " well, he is doing his job" Because it was his choice to defend the Chester in the first place.

Hey, Nazi guards were just " doing their job"

Those salesmen that call you during dinner are just doing their job. Nah, screw them all for choosing such a profession. Like I said, someone has to do it. It doesn't have to be me or you. No pass.

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But that last line sums it up for me. I don't hate their JOB. It's not their job that damns them. It's their choice to take the job of defending child molestors and the like, and sometimes ons so obviously guilty and they get off on a technicality. Police are like anyone else, human, and no human ever does their job 100% correctly. Not you, me or anyone. So if a cop forgets to cross a T or dot an eye, and some slime lets a child molester free, I can't just say " well, he is doing his job" Because it was his choice to defend the Chester in the first place.

Hey, Nazi guards were just " doing their job"

Those salesmen that call you during dinner are just doing their job. Nah, screw them all for choosing such a profession. Like I said, someone has to do it. It doesn't have to be me or you. No pass.

You're missing the point. The Constitution and its provisions are not "technicalities." They are the guarantors of our liberty. If they are not followed, and someone lets it go, it could be your liberty that is next.

We protect the innocent by ensuring the guilty are treated fairly by the system. If that means that someone goes free because the police and/or prosecutor fails to do that which you label a technicality, that beats the **** out of imprisoning innocent people because we decide as a society that we don't like "i" dotting and "t" crossing.

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You're missing the point. The Constitution and its provisions are not "technicalities." They are the guarantors of our liberty. If they are not followed, and someone lets it go, it could be your liberty that is next.

We protect the innocent by ensuring the guilty are treated fairly by the system. If that means that someone goes free because the police and/or prosecutor fails to do that which you label a technicality, that beats the **** out of imprisoning innocent people because we decide as a society that we don't like "i" dotting and "t" crossing.

I didn't say LIKE I dotting and T crossing. I said cops, like anyone, make mistakes. I am not defending crooked cops. But if a technical ERROR is made, you are scum taking the job to defend a child killer and getting him off on it. ( not YOU) You can wash your hands till eternity, and having long spent the money from the case, still have it on your hands ( again, throughout this, not YOU)

And people keep trying to get personal and say YOU may need defending next. Okay, lets play that. Say I commit some heinous crime and get caught. Will I need a defense? Yes I will. Are you forced to defend me? No you're not. You CHOOSE to take me as a client, even if I'm Ted Bundy 2.0. No excusing that. You're scum, even if you're defending me.

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I didn't say LIKE I dotting and T crossing. I said cops, like anyone, make mistakes. I am not defending crooked cops. But if a technical ERROR is made, you are scum taking the job to defend a child killer and getting him off on it. ( not YOU) You can wash your hands till eternity, and having long spent the money from the case, still have it on your hands ( again, throughout this, not YOU)

And people keep trying to get personal and say YOU may need defending next. Okay, lets play that. Say I commit some heinous crime and get caught. Will I need a defense? Yes I will. Are you forced to defend me? No you're not. You CHOOSE to take me as a client, even if I'm Ted Bundy 2.0. No excusing that. You're scum, even if you're defending me.

It's an adversarial system. You implied that people who defend criminals are bad people (you actually compared them to Nazis -- "just doing their job"). You call them "scum" in this very post. But the difference, of course, is that this is a NECESSARY job. If no defense is given, the government gets whatever it asks. The system is set up of necessity to require a defense.

And it is the criminal's moral responsibility to plead correctly to the crime, not the lawyer's. If the criminal says "I did not do it," he is entitled to a defense. Period. That's how the system works. I wouldn't want to defend a child molester or a murderer, and that's why I don't do it. But I won't say those who do are "scum." If anything, they are of a stronger moral constitution than I. They are able to do the right thing (providing the most effective defense) even when it is the hard thing (it risks a guilty person going free). You belittle that, but it's quite literally one of the very few things standing between us and a police state.

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It's an adversarial system. You implied that people who defend criminals are bad people (you actually compared them to Nazis -- "just doing their job"). You call them "scum" in this very post. But the difference, of course, is that this is a NECESSARY job. If no defense is given, the government gets whatever it asks. The system is set up of necessity to require a defense.

And it is the criminal's moral responsibility to plead correctly to the crime, not the lawyer's. If the criminal says "I did not do it," he is entitled to a defense. Period. That's how the system works. I wouldn't want to defend a child molester or a murderer, and that's why I don't do it. But I won't say those who do are "scum." If anything, they are of a stronger moral constitution than I. They are able to do the right thing (providing the most effective defense) even when it is the hard thing (it risks a guilty person going free). You belittle that, but it's quite literally one of the very few things standing between us and a police state.

^ Truth.

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It's an adversarial system. You implied that people who defend criminals are bad people (you actually compared them to Nazis -- "just doing their job"). You call them "scum" in this very post. But the difference, of course, is that this is a NECESSARY job. If no defense is given, the government gets whatever it asks. The system is set up of necessity to require a defense.

And it is the criminal's moral responsibility to plead correctly to the crime, not the lawyer's. If the criminal says "I did not do it," he is entitled to a defense. Period. That's how the system works. I wouldn't want to defend a child molester or a murderer, and that's why I don't do it. But I won't say those who do are "scum." If anything, they are of a stronger moral constitution than I. They are able to do the right thing (providing the most effective defense) even when it is the hard thing (it risks a guilty person going free). You belittle that, but it's quite literally one of the very few things standing between us and a police state.

No I said using the EXCUSE of " just doing my job" could be compared to a Nazi using that excuse. And I agree it was a necessary job, just like being a tax collector. But you don't have to be the guy who chooses to do it.

One could say, using your example here, that Pontius Pilate had a stronger moral constitution than we do, but he is not to be remembered very fondly after the fact.

In the end, it doesn't matter what you or I think. But I wouldn't want it on my hands.

( let me add, yes I know what Pontius Pilate did was not the same job as that as a defense lawyer but I am saying that just doing your job is no excuse and certainly does not constitute moral fiber.)

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No I said using the EXCUSE of " just doing my job" could be compared to a Nazi using that excuse. And I agree it was a necessary job, just like being a tax collector. But you don't have to be the guy who chooses to do it.

One could say, using your example here, that Pontius Pilate had a stronger moral constitution than we do, but he is not to be remembered very fondly after the fact.

In the end, it doesn't matter what you or I think. But I wouldn't want it on my hands.

( let me add, yes I know what Pontius Pilate did was not the same job as that as a defense lawyer but I am saying that just doing your job is no excuse and certainly does not constitute moral fiber.)

I'm glad you added, because the difference between a defense lawyer and Pilate is EXACTLY one of vocation. The defense lawyer is exercising his vocation, and in the eyes of God, is doing a good work for his neighbor, the accused (and this is true even if the accused is guilty, for the lawyer also does a good work for society as a whole).

Pilate, contra, shirked his responsibility to JUDGE, and in the eyes of God did evil. Ironic, then, that you would use him as an example.

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I'm glad you added, because the difference between a defense lawyer and Pilate is EXACTLY one of vocation. The defense lawyer is exercising his vocation, and in the eyes of God, is doing a good work for his neighbor, the accused (and this is true even if the accused is guilty, for the lawyer also does a good work for society as a whole).

Pilate, contra, shirked his responsibility to JUDGE, and in the eyes of God did evil. Ironic, then, that you would use him as an example.

Well, I believe Pilate, like Judas had to be. Scripture had to be fulfilled after all. However I believe it did not have to be them in particular, it's just that I believe they were of the right heart/mind condition to be put in that slot. I believe a defense lawyer who would put himself in the position of defending a child molester is in that same spot. I don't think it's of stronger moral fiber to defend someone like that, much less see that they are set free on a technicality. Is justice being served when they go free like that? I don't think so. Maybe the letter of the law is but that's a whole 'nother story. Now I agree a lawyer who takes the case may be obligated to do what he can to see his client go free. But that carries us back to square one. Should not have taken the case in the first place to put yourself in that position.

But you are correct. I do think Lawyers serve society as a hole. :P

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No I said using the EXCUSE of " just doing my job" could be compared to a Nazi using that excuse. And I agree it was a necessary job, just like being a tax collector. But you don't have to be the guy who chooses to do it.

One could say, using your example here, that Pontius Pilate had a stronger moral constitution than we do, but he is not to be remembered very fondly after the fact.

In the end, it doesn't matter what you or I think. But I wouldn't want it on my hands.

( let me add, yes I know what Pontius Pilate did was not the same job as that as a defense lawyer but I am saying that just doing your job is no excuse and certainly does not constitute moral fiber.)

Nah, this is the truth. Jdave just gave justification.

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Well, I believe Pilate, like Judas had to be. Scripture had to be fulfilled after all. However I believe it did not have to be them in particular, it's just that I believe they were of the right heart/mind condition to be put in that slot. I believe a defense lawyer who would put himself in the position of defending a child molester is in that same spot. I don't think it's of stronger moral fiber to defend someone like that, much less see that they are set free on a technicality. Is justice being served when they go free like that? I don't think so. Maybe the letter of the law is but that's a whole 'nother story. Now I agree a lawyer who takes the case may be obligated to do what he can to see his client go free. But that carries us back to square one. Should not have taken the case in the first place to put yourself in that position.

You're viewing "justice" as applicable to only the one case. Our legal system is founded on the notion that justice as applicable to the whole of society is based on an adversarial system and certain rules of fair conduct. To that end, "justice" in the narrow sense may be abrogated where a criminal is set free, and yet the very thing (what you derisively refer to as "technicalities") that sets the criminal free is exactly what ensures justice for the whole of society. It ensures, far more often than not, that a conviction is fair and correct, while still ensuring that the guilty are (again, far more often than not) punished for their crimes.

It's Jefferson's "I'd rather 10 guilty men go free than for 1 innocent man to be imprisoned" caveat. Yes the flaw in the system is that some who are guilty go free. But that's a flaw in ANY system. Ours ensures fairness far more often than not on balance precisely because it includes safeguards to ensure the innocent do not go to prison. That, too, fails, but it would fail far more often were it not for the rules that you are so adamantly against. You want to blame the lawyer for the system.

And for the record, a whole lot of lawyers are court appointed in criminal cases. Not every lawyer who defends a guilty client does so because he "chose" the case.

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