By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
I’m going over to me what are the top ten principles of defending people. To recap the list so far:
- #10 You Can’t be Judgmental
- #9 Be Organized
- #8 Be Optimistic & #7 Inoculate Your Client
- #6 Investigate
- #5 All Eyes are Equal & #4 Know the Enemy
#3 Believe Your Client
Your client deserves to be believed. Often no one else will do it beyond their family and loved ones.
My view is the failure to presume the accused innocent is the common denominator in any horror story you read about or hear about in the criminal justice system. This goes for the jury’s failure, the prosecutor’s failure, the police’s failure… and yes… their own lawyer’s failure to presume the accused innocent.
People have a lot of help in their cynicism. We’re barraged by story after story of terrible criminals, child predators, and repeat offenders. Many stories about criminals make fun of them. There is even a web page dedicated to laughing at people arrested at dumbcriminals.com.
There is much water-cooler or “locker-room” talk in the courthouse where many enjoy a good chuckle at a criminal’s expense.
But the cynicism takes a negative toll. I cringe when I hear criminals being made fun of in the media or in the docket room — even if they are laughably guilty. First is because the person they’re ridiculing is almost always human probably suffering from mental illness, addiction or worse. Second is it desensitizes everyone and feeds the narrative “everyone is guilty,” and finally I don’t like it when people pick on easy targets. Anyone can laugh at a person arrested for telling the police the drugs in their pocket wasn’t thiers… but if you want a challenge — try defending that person!
Do yourself and your client a favor. Just believe them for starters and go from there. If the facts you later flesh-out prove he or she is lying then deal with it at that point.
Don’t be part of the problem. Presume your client innocent and do your best to prove he or she is telling the truth.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas.