I hate posts that begin with a disclaimer.
I begin with a disclaimer.
My answer to the question at hand is my personal opinion that was most instrumental in deciding that my only interest in the practice of law was to defend those formally accused of crime. A trial of that sort was the fight of which I wanted to be part. And, yes, a criminal trial, its allegiance to due process and professional courtesy, notwithstanding, is a street fight. The opposing attorneys go after each other with the gloves off. The envelope is pushed to the max. The intense pressure takes over your life from the beginning of preparation to the jury's verdict. Your loved ones must be very patient with your overriding and passionate goal: to win the case. Your ego flies the plane and wants the ultimate reward of a "W", for only that will make the intensity and pressure of the trial understandable, even admirable, and even congratulatory, for the "winning" attorney gets the ultimate prize, to wit, the "juice" of victory. His is the center spotlight. He has thoroughly prepared for this ma-no a ma-no confrontation and a not guilty verdict is the ceremonial crown on his head.
And, what of the client? Shouldn't he/she be the sole beneficiary of an acquittal and not second in line to the attorney?
The answer is "no" because a win for the attorney reaps the same benefit for the client.
So, for a criminal defense attorney to unashamedly say, "I won it for me", the client is just as much the beneficiary.
The stock and most expected answer to this Post's question is, "Everyone is entitled to a fair trial, regardless of the nature of the crime charged. The constitution mandates this." This is technically correct.
In actuality, if the lawyer has that personal proclivity to be able to ignore the assumed guilt of the client, and, yet, be irresistibility drawn to the thrill of professional combat, ready to give his 100% effort, with no holdback, he's in it for the juice of winning, with the client reaping the ultimate and glorious consequence of victory. The constitution plays little or no part in this. That's the way it is, folks.
From the very first meeting with your client, you have a fairly reliable gut feeling as to whether or not, he has, in fact committed the crime(s) with which he is charged. He doesn't have to admit his guilt. Very, very, few do. For to do so requires your admonition that you cannot and will not call him to the stand for the purpose of maintaining his innocence. For, he would be committing perjury and you could face an indictment for subornation of perjury.
However, the client's protestations of innocence, notwithstanding, you may be convinced, after getting your arms around the case, of his criminal culpability. Most attorneys, under such circumstances, are unable to give their 100% in a defense effort. I can readily understand this, and respect their feelings.
They should not, therefor, engage in criminal defense work, but , rather, move on to other areas of the law where this consciousness of moral challenge is decidedly less present, if at all.
"A criminal trial shall produce the truth!"
Nice in theory, and, by coincidence, might be correct.
In the world of practicality, however, a criminal trial demonstrates which, of the opposing counsel, is the more effective persuader.
That is the art of excellence in a criminal trial.