Sunday, January 11, 2009

What type of law?

Everytime I tell someone that I am a law student, I get this cautious, "What type of law?" I have said prosecution in the past. The next response is, "Well, good, as long as you don't do defense." And honestly, as I have posted before, I have always felt kind of sick in the stomach when thinking about doing defense work. But since the Don Turner competition, I have really been thinking hard.

Our legal system is unique. We are one of the few country's with attorney-client privledge. The only country who can plead the fifth. We are the only country that limits the power of the police to search whereever and whenever they want. We have a beautiful, enduring Constitution. A Constitution in which our founding fathers, whom I respect deeply, had the foresight to grant the right of the accused to confront thier accusors and the right to a jury trial in criminal proceedings [also rare in other societies.] I believe this nation is the best country for law and order.

So, if I believe in this then I have to believe that an accused has the right to council, otherwise, how would the system work effectively? It wouldn't. Do guilty people go free from the work of defense council? Why yes.....look at OJ Simpson's first crime spree [although he was convicted after his more recent brush with the law]. But simply put, Innocent people are convicted as well. Innocent people are placed on death row. The system is imperfect, but for it to work correctly, the defendant must have adequate council to mount a defense.

I may not like everything that happens, particularly when violent offenders are not punished, but defense attorney's safeguard the constitution. Maybe more than any other attorney's do. They are the ones that are the gatekeepers and check on power within the system. Only 3-5% of all crimes go to trial. The rest are plead out at the DA's instigation. The defense's job is to make sure that the power that the DA has is used correctly. That is an honorable and important job.

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