Why Criminal Defense?
I’m often asked “How can you defend someone who’s guilty of a crime?” My first response to the question is “How do you know someone’s guilty?” In the United States there have been 303 individuals who were convicted by a judge or a jury and who were later cleared of wrong doing through DNA testing. Additionally, as a result of DNA testing, the true perpetrators/suspects in 147 cases were identified. In Texas alone forty-seven people have been exonerated through DNA testing; this is in spite of the fact that someone testified in court that the individual charged was in fact the one who committed the crime.
Although the number of persons exonerated through post-conviction DNA testing represents a small percentage of the total number of people convicted of crimes in Texas and across the United States, it clearly represents a failure of the criminal justice system to not only protect the innocent, but also to hold those who are actually guilty accountable. Victims, their family members, and society as a whole have a vested interest in making sure the right person is brought to justice. This is often only possible through the work of criminal defense attorneys who are willing to speak for those accused of crimes.
The job of the defense attorney is to ensure that the police and prosecutors are held to the highest standards of proof and that the criminal justice system treats the accused fairly. Our adversarial system of justice places the burden of proof on the Government and requires it to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Unfortunately, due to the sheer volume of cases in our criminal justice system, there is an tendency for prosecutors to loose sight of the individual person accused of a crime and to consider them “just another case.” Without zealous representation and advocates who are willing to defend their clients the courts are apt to focus on speed and not accuracy when it comes to disposing of criminal cases.
The next time you wonder how or why an attorney would chose to defend someone accused of a crime I hope you will consider that the attorney is not merely defending an individual, but also defending the rights of every American and the our fundamental freedoms.