Saturday, January 14, 2006

Law and Order Trial By Jury

I don't think I should watch court TV shows ever again. LOTBJ is a terrible show regarding legal ethics! From this first episode I watched, the defense attorney contrives a legal defense by treating his clients like idiots to be led around into unethical /perjurious behavior. The defense is all about suborning perjury! The insanity defense he contrives is so half-baked, and anyway, these rarely work. And the perjury that is suborns is not even effective because the attorney cannot properly direct his own hostile witness (the mother of his client, a woman who pays the client's bills).

The prosecutor is just as bad. When the prosecution has gets an expert that gives her the wrong opinion, she tries to hide her and then gets upset when the defense uses the expert. They both ask objectionable questions without any basis in reason at all, simply to make a statement which they then withdraw. Its all about asking impermissible questions and then withdrawing them.

In the second episode I watched, the prosecutor describes how she was going to ignore the ruling by the judge and ask the question anyway, saying that the judge 'favors us, she's just hamstrung by the law.' Man, that's horrible! Then the judge is seen discussing with others how she is so disappointed about having to follow the law.

The judge makes editorial comments regularly during trial, ug! It's not like Judge Judy, but getting there. When the defense attorney objects to the prosecutor making a statement of fact, the judge berates him. What a horrible situation.

The prosecutor asks a witness 'can you tell me if this corrupt detectivewith a common last name spoken about by the defendant is the same person murdered by the defendant?' Geez, sure, if the prosecutor would be able to decide whether a murder occurred, this would be simpler, but they aren't!

Then the defense attorney says 'ethically, I'm supposed to talk you out of risk?' Huh? What is that about? A lawyer is not obligated to talk a client out of taking a risk, but is simply supposed to ensure a client is aware of a risk and makes an informed decision. When a client of mine wants to take a plea, I talk up the best parts of their case to make sure they know there are options. When a client wants to go to trial, I talk to them about the weakest part of the case.

Man, I was watching when the defense attorney says to his client "Oh, you better make it one hell of a story." Are there no defense attorneys who don't suborn perjury? Like all defense attorneys, I demand that candor from my clients and of course I can't put them on if they are not telling the truth. I do believe them, but if they say something fantastic, I try to question them to determine if they are lying and just so they can be aware how crazy what they are saying sounds. Again, the perjury suborning is so stupid, it didn't even take into account that the facts were clearly in contradiction of the facts. So, no duh, the client loses. That's exactly why I demand the truth from my clients. If they lose because they lie, that's understandable.

Admittedly, it is sad when clients lose because state witnesses perjure themselves, but on the other hand, catching the state's witnesses and the prosecution in a lie is usually the best way to win.


Coming from sunny South Florida, this blog will highlight not merely the bad, but also the good things from defending poor people accused of violating the law. Contrary to popular opinion, many heartwarming things occur. For example, everytime I win a trial, I get a hug!

More often than one might imagine, clients tell me I care and they appreciate it. Many clients don't care, yet some take the idea of justice seriously.

There's always the 'you're not a real lawyer' comment directed at public defenders / appointed lawyers. I say, I am a real lawyer. I choose this career because I believe all people deserve the same amount of justice, regardless of the amount of money they have. I would be happy if some of my clients can retain a private attorney. I know plenty of competent ones to refer them to. Clients a lack of defensiveness.

Clients with a bad plea offer might wonder if they can do better with a private attorney. They seek confirmation that I care. I don't take it personally. Some have helped create the reputation of PDs as lazy and uncaring. Because of the heavy caseloads and the stress of the job, PDs often can't do as well as privates.

In sum, when seemingly heartfelt thanks come from those I simply explained a plea in a kind way rather than telling them what to do, it feels great. Some people complain about a lack of pay, but that is priceless. Even representing juveniles, who would often say little, I could tell my representation meant a lot. There is great value in thanks from kids, clients with low IQs, clients with mental health issues, or clients who have suffered greatly in their life.