Throughout their careers, many lawyers are faced with the question, “how can you defend someone like that.” The law profession deals with a complicated grey area that many other professions don’t face. While there are plenty of debates on the topic, we think it’s important to dive deeper into the question of why criminal lawyers choose to defend the innocent as well as the guilty.
There is no clear cut answer, but there are definitely many valid points to be made on this topic.
Legal guilt versus factual guilt
One of the most important points to understand within the context of this conversation is the difference between legal guilt and factual guilt. The purpose of a criminal trial isn’t to prove whether or not a person actually did it. The facts of the crime are what contribute to factual guilt. In court, the prosecution’s job is to prove without any reasonable doubt that a crime was committed. The attorney’s job then becomes to prove that the prosecution does not have enough evidence to prove that their client is legally guilty. It’s not an attorney’s job to determine whether or not their client is guilty, but to protect them from an outcome that does not represent the purpose of the trial, which is to prove legal guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. These checks are in place to keep the legal system fair and honest.
A voice for the innocent
A 2012 study estimated that there are as many as 10,000 wrongful convictions in the United States each year. So much of the focus of this debate revolves around how attorneys can defend guilty parties, but very few people ask how a prosecutor can send an innocent person to jail. An attorney’s job is to do their best to protect the interests of their client by protecting them from an outcome that they do not deserve. In many cases, the details of the crime are complex and have many layers. A lot of the circumstances can be misconstrued, and the prosecution has the potential to take specific information out of context to further their chances of winning the case. An attorney can navigate through this minutia and defend their client’s innocence against confusing legal tactics designed to try and force a guilty verdict.
Preserving the integrity of a fair trial
A criminal lawyer’s job is not to do whatever it takes to prove innocence, but rather to ensure the fairness of the legal process as a whole. These checks and balances are in place for a reason, and an attorney’s goal is to make sure that their client is well-represented in court. Ethically, criminal lawyers are there to represent any client, whether they believe that the client is guilty or not. This is the cornerstone of the fact that every American has the right to a fair trial.
In our modern society, it’s easy to become an armchair attorney, searching online for answers that you think will help you defend yourself in court. While you have access to more information than ever before, a criminal defense attorney is there to consider your best interests and protect you against the case the prosecution is building against you.
Criminal defense lawyers have a challenging job that can spark quite the debate. At the end of the day, they will always have their client’s best interests in mind.
If you are looking for a Houston criminal defense attorney, contact the offices of Christopher T. Gore to set up a consultation and learn more about how he can help.