Powerful Circumstances Require Powerful Actions
I am asked many times, “how can you represent a client who is actually guilty of committing a crime”. Frankly, the answer is quite simple – it is every criminal defense attorney’s job to represent their client to the best of their ability and within the ethical boundaries of the law.
Permit me to elaborate. First, at the outset let’s be clear about one thing. The American System of Justice solely concerns itself with issues of the accused’s “legal guilt”, not the accused’s “moral guilt”. It is NOT relevant whether or not my client is guilty of committing a crime in a “moral” sense.
As set forth under the American Justice System, the ONLY inquiry is whether or not the government can “legally” prove my client’s guilt by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Restated, the burden of proof rests completely with the prosecution, never with the defense. The prosecution either proves its case by proof beyond a reasonable doubt, in which case the defendant is found guilty. Or the prosecution does not meet its burden of proof and the accused is found “not guilty”. At no time does the burden of proof ever shift to the defense.
Similarly, as a criminal defense attorney, one bears the ethical responsibility to the system of justice not to suborn perjury. Meaning, I cannot ethically call my client to the witness stand to testify under oath, knowing that he/she is going to commit perjury or otherwise lie under oath. Again, one has a duty to vigorously defend one’s rights, but not at the risk of undermining our legal system of justice.
Once again, let me make myself perfectly clear. I am very passionate about my legal and ethical responsibility to my client. I love my work and I hate to lose my case in a court of law. I will do everything within my power to aggressively defend my client, but we all must operate within the rules established by our Constitution. However, whether or not a client is called to the witness stand depends on many factors. Just because a client does not take the witness stand, does not necessarily mean the client would be committing perjury.