What can someone do to find the best results in a criminal case in Florida if there’s overwhelming evidence of guilt? In one way or another I’m often asked this question by someone charged with a crime. Yet the corollary question from folks not facing criminal charges is something like this – how can you represent someone who is guilty or how can you represent someone when you know there’s ample evidence of guilt?
Each question goes to the heart of being a criminal defense lawyer in Clearwater. Our criminal justice system is based on English common law in which defense counsel has an ethical duty to zealously fight for his client. The guilt or innocence of my client does not drive my obligation, rather it’s finding the best result. When lawyers fail to give the best defense possible in every case, they fail not only their clients, they cheat justice. For justice to succeed the judge and prosecutor’s expectation from the defense should be nothing less than the forceful presentation of every fact in mitigation linked with every scenario of possible innocences.
The goal I set out for myself in every criminal case I agree to handle is to find the best possible results. Otherwise I make no promises. Achieving those results requires more than knowledge of the facts and law, it means pestering the very hell out of prosecutors and judges until they’re sick of hearing from me. And it means hard work, dedication and preparation not only from me but from my client. Clearly, that’s what good defense lawyers and their clients should be doing in every criminal case to obtain the best results – results that are worthy of our hard work
If the best results will be found by going to trial, then let’s pick the jury. If the evidence makes going to trial a foolish exercise in futility, then let’s persuade the prosecutor to be reasonable by reducing the charged offense or getting an offer that won’t ruin my client’s life. If the prosecutor has tunnel vision and won’t be reasonable, then let’s go to the judge. There’s never one immediate answer as every criminal case is different. But the goal is always the same – find the best results.
So how can I represent someone that I know is guilty? I’m not the prosecutor, nor am I the judge. It’s the prosecutor’s duty to pursue guilt, to build the case, demonstrate the evidence and win a conviction. It’s the judge’s duty to sit in solemn judgement by finding a fair sentence if guilt is established. And it’s the juror’s duty in deliberations to make a choice of guilt or not guilty based only on the evidence presented without bias, prejudice or hatred.
In years of practicing law I’ve seen prosecutors, judges and jurors make the foolish mistake of abandoning their true responsibilities. But it doesn’t matter, because I know my responsibility is to my client finding a way – no, finding every way – to get the best possible result.