Defending Justice by Defending People
Defending Justice By Defending People http://www.nysacdl.org/
How can you defend criminals? The question comes in many forms and many voices. Sometimes with an air of arrogant intolerance, sometimes with a tinge of anger, rarely with a sense of admiration. Why did you pick that career? How can you defend "those" people?
What would happen to America if defenders of fellow human beings did not exist? In the absence of the criminal defense bar, who would fulfill the duty of constant vigilance and ensure that no conviction is obtained unless supported by legally sufficient evidence obtained in a constitutionally acceptable manner? The power of the police and prosecution and the powers behind the politicians would be absolute. Americans would seldom be angered by a "not guilty" verdict because none would ever occur. Other nations have adopted systems where prosecutorial accusation equals conviction. Other people have lived under the "protection" of such an infallible system. Those who are in power prefer such a system. The only rule of politics is once you get power, keep it at any cost. People in power hate constitutions and bills of rights because of the limits placed on their power. Those who are governed prefer limits on power.
Patriots of our American Revolution had a healthy, justified skepticism of people in power. Our founders believed only fools or slaves gave blind obedience to power. Our founders understood that a citizen left unprotected by a defender of fellow human beings armed with the Bill of Rights must pray that their government is righteous, virtuous, perfect. Without guilt or malice, slow to anger, tolerant of dissent, racially and ethnically blind. Our founders understood that a citizen without rights must pray that they or their loved ones are never accused, for without the protection of an adversary system and a presumption of innocence, simple accusation equals conviction.
We are advocates because we understand that while you may be able to guarantee that you won't commit a crime, you cannot guarantee that you won't be charged with a crime. We are advocates because if you are charged with a crime, or if your mother, father or loved one were charged with a crime, wouldn't you want every protection afforded by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights? Or would you feel that you had too many rights? And if you or your loved one was wrongly accused, then who is the victim?
When we walk into the courtrooms, we are not merely defending the human being who stands accused. We are defending a legal system that guarantees the presumption of innocence and every citizen's right to equal protection under the law. The only way we can be assured of our right to a fair trial is if every citizen in our land is assured of his/her right to a fair trial. When one of us is denied justice, we are all denied justice.
What Thomas Jefferson said 200 years ago applies today - - trial by jury is the anchor of all of our liberties. By giving power to the people through the jury system, our Founding Fathers created roadblocks to police and prosecutorial misconduct and prosecution-oriented judges. Our Framers understood all too clearly that control of the police, control of the prosecution, control of the government and control of power takes place in the courtrooms of this Country or it does not take place at all. And they enshrined these principles by providing for the right to counsel in the Sixth Amendment.
The lawyers most critical to protecting the constitutional rights of Americans are not the ones watched and adored by the media. The heroes in the trenches are the devoted criminal defense lawyers who, following the commands of our Founding Fathers, do their work in empty courtrooms, without the press, without an audience and, in far too many instances, without the family of the fellow human being on trial. On a daily basis in every county of this State, a diminishing number of lawyers for our less fortunate speak on behalf of all of us by championing the rights of those wracked desolate by poverty, circumstance, class, color or hatred.
Let's be clear and let's make no mistake about this - - while an indictment may be captioned People v. Human Being, each time that a courtroom is brought to order, we are all on trial, every one of us, and we all are the people and we all are entitled to zealous representation by a committed defender of fellow human beings.
We are advocates. We have had many clients but a single cause. Justice must be served.