Saturday, November 28, 2009

Defending the Guilty

There was a discussion at the Washington Monthly the other day about why a lawyer would defend someone like Major Hasan, the man accused of gunning down thirteen people at Fort Hood. The standard argument is offered; that every person is entitled to a vigorous defense. The argurment is offered in some detail and presents a compelling case, but it I think leaves an opening for an individual lawyer to decide that an individual is so obviously guilty and the crime so heinous that defense of that person by him is not justified.

There is, to me, a larger argument, one that goes beyond the individual crime or person. I believe there is an argument that the integrity of the system itself requires that even the most obviously quilty criminal should be defended by the best lawyers available and should be provided with the greatest possible defense in every single case.

Defending one bad guy is not about that one bad guy; it’s about maintaining the integrity of our entire system of justice. It’s not about who that bad guy is; it’s about who we are.

Back when I first entered sales I had a manager who told us never to denigrate our competition; never to think ill of them. “It is your competitor,” he would say, “that requires you to be as good as you are.” He would point out that we produced excellence and that we took pride in doing so. If we had no competition we could produce shoddy product and sloppy work and be successful, but we could not take pride in it. Our competition, he would remind us, was our best asset, our quality control.

That vigorous defense of the obviously guilty is the justice system’s competition, its quality control.

That we have high caliber defense lawyers is why the police investigating crimes and the attorneys prosecuting crimes can never pick the easy or obvious candidate for a crime and convict them on slack evidence. They will never bring to trial someone who “probably” did a crime, or is the “most likely” criminal; they will each and every time make certain to the absolute best of their ability that they “have the right guy.”

Defending one bad guy is not about that one bad guy; it’s about the integrity of the entire system of justice. For the system to work there has to be that defense every single time. If the legal system did not defend the “obviously guilty” then the system would fail altogether because the innocent could be made to appear “obviously guilty” and they would not be defended. The case that is presented in court is researched and tested by the prosecution for one reason.

Because they have high quality competition, every single time.

1 comment:

bruce said...

I guess that is Microsoft's problem with sloppy products? no competition?

But you do make a good point, and I like you sales manager.

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