After doing this for 15 years, one can get a little complacent, jaded, and awfully cynical. Criminal defense attorneys know what I am writing about here. Seeing the same crimes over and over. Dealing with the same prosecutors and the same judges. Hearing the same excuses from clients and families. Seeing people get in more trouble because they don’t listen to you. Basically being everyone’s villain – that can be the life of a defense attorney. It can seem sometimes like defense attorneys just don’t matter.
Last week, I had two very important cases come to conclusion. Both were very different, but drew me to the same conclusion:
What we do DOES matter.
The first case was that of a truly innocent man. My client did something stupid but not illegal (yelling at his neighbor), was attacked and framed, and was charged with three crimes! We went to trial, and he was acquitted – the judge dismissed one count, and the jury found him not guilty of the other two. This was all while I was telling the prosecutor that my client was overcharged, and that they should drop some charges. I was very happy for a good man – now he can have his life back.
The other case was a victory in the Florida Supreme Court. I had a murder conviction overturned based on a bad jury instruction way back in 2007 in the trial court. Now, I was not the trial attorney, but I have read the trial record. I am not passing on actual guilt or innocence here. What I am happy about is that there was a defective trial, and I got it corrected. Whether the client gets convicted or acquitted at the retrial . . . we’ll see (I likely wont be doing that trial, either). What is important is that the client will get a shot at a fair trial.
Two different cases, two different clients, two very different victories. We do DOES matter – we make a difference as defense attorneys. We matter to one person and his or her family. We matter to the entire system of justice.
That puts some pep in my step going into November. Happy Halloween, everyone.