During my time with the District Attorney's Office, I can honestly say that the vast, vast majority of all defense attorneys that I had the pleasure of dealing with were hardworking, ethical, and rational groups of professionals. Unlike on shows like Law and Order or other silly legal dramas, their wasn't seething animosity. Cases were discussed rationally. Search issues discussed. Witness testimony debated. Negotiations were entered into. If cases were set for trial, they were set for trial because either a) a good defense attorney felt that it was in their client's best interest; or b) their client wouldn't listen to their advice.
But on occasion, prosecutors dealt with members of the Defense Bar that we labeled as "True Believers" -- a handful of defense attorneys who knew no such thing as a guilty client.
It didn't matter if their client had been caught on video, identified by a pack of nuns, and gave four audio-taped confessions. Dammit, their client was not guilty. It was all part of a broad State conspiracy of planted evidence and coerced confessions.
There was no entering into plea negotiations, because it was dismissal or nothing. More often than not, these cases went to trial with disastrous results for the clients. Although having a True Believer for a defense attorney was probably heartwarming prior to a verdict being read, in the end, the client wasn't served.
Now before anybody starts doing any commentating in the comments section, I'm not going to name any names of any particular defense attorney that fits under this particular description. And I ask you not to either. Those of us who practice in and around the CJC know the handful of folks I'm talking about, and those names don't need to be broadcast here. I will say that the few I dealt with were always on retained and not appointed cases.
The reason I bring this up now is that the comments in my post last week on Keeper Cases indicated that there are some prosecutors that fall under the category of "True Believers", as well.
One of my commenters pointed out:
Has it occurred to you that there might be a very good reason that there shouldn't be "keeper cases?" You will find out the reason when you eventually run across a prosecutor who is so emotionally invested with the victims and the case that he or she has lost the ability to reason and be objective about the case.
You can't be objective and do what you need to do when you are emotionally attached to your client or family, and neither can prosecutors.
I thought a lot about what that Anonymous commenter said, and I ultimately found that I agreed with him or her in some regards. Although I still believe that the policy of banning "Keeper Cases" by the Lykos Administration is a bad idea, I do agree that when an attorney becomes so attached to a Defendant or a Victim (or victim's family) that they can't rationally evaluate the strength and weaknesses of their case, they are not serving anyone -- especially not those that they are hoping to.
But there is a fine line between being a "True Believer" and a dedicated advocate of one's side.
The idea that a prosecutor who believes strongly in his case and tries it with all of his or her might is "dangerous" is silly. The prosecutor who believes so blindly in their case that they are overlooking relevant evidence is obviously an idiot, but the one who works hard to prove their case is just being a good prosecutor in my opinion.
The same applies to the Defense. The defense attorney who busts his butt to make sure his client has the best damn representation he can provide is somebody I admire. And I admired that type of defense attorney when I was a prosecutor, too.
I've always considered myself to be a pragmatist and my assessments of cases when I was a prosecutor was usually extremely multi-faceted. I tried to take into account all relevant factors from the severity of the crime, the provability of a case, and the background of all involved. I tried to look at cases through the eyes of both a prosecutor and a defense attorney. Doing so helped me immensely in preparing for trial (and usually helped me avoid those Nasty Little Surprises that Mark Bennett talks about).
I guess the point I'm trying to make here is that there is nothing wrong with believing in your case strongly from either the defense side or the prosecution side, as long as you always have logic and reason as your ultimate guiding light. A defense attorney would (and should) be highly offended if someone suggested to them that their heart shouldn't be in their case. Why should a prosecutor be any less offended when the same suggestion is made to them?
Every client that I've handled thus far has gotten my full level of attention and devotion to them and their cases. I'm scouring offense reports for problems with probable cause and search warrants. I'm searching for every issue that can be used to my client's advantage.
And I've genuinely liked my clients and I've wanted to do a good job for them.
I've been accused of still sounding like a prosecutor in my writings. Perhaps that is what my writings sound like, but at the end of the day I'm a pragmatist and a rational thinker.
In the end, I know if I was in trouble with the law, I'd want to have a critical thinker whose mind will be racing on how to help me effectively and knows the ins and outs of the legal system. In my opinion, that's going to do a lot more good than having a person represent me who is a True Believer.