The Shame of a Criminal Defense Attorney

By Steve Haney posted in Hiring Competent Counsel on Sunday, February 9, 2014

Murder, sexual assault, drug delivery, …  I have been involved in my share of court cases defending individuals charged with such offenses.   A common question in casual conversation asked of me is “how can you represent those people?”  It is, typically, asked with a tone suggesting I should bow my head in shame upon providing an answer.

But, my head does not lower in shame, as there is no shame.  I have practiced criminal law for close to 30 years.  Several of those years were as a prosecutor, observing and experiencing the criminal justice system from the perspective of one pursing guilty verdicts or pleas from the accused.

However, the vast majority of my years practicing criminal law has been defending the accused,  observing and experiencing the criminal justice system from the opposite perspective.   And, it is a rarity that I represent a person composed of pure evil.  The vast majority of people charged as “criminals” are just regular everyday people.  Usually, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and, very likely, never to be charged as a “criminal” again.

Even in such a situation … representing a person charged with a horrible crime, and a person who should be removed from civilized society … is it not in the interest of such a civilized society that he be provided the presumption of innocence, fair and competent counsel, and the requirement of our government to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?

That is how I answer the question of “how do you represent those people?” I answer their question with a question.   It has the intended effect of silencing the questioner.  It invokes such silence because no reasonable mind in this free country of ours can deny the power of those fundamental rights to maintaining a free society.  And that is why there is no shame.