A question I often get is “how can you represent criminal defendants?” As a Maryland criminal defense attorney, the first thing I do when I hear that is remind folks that the foundation of our criminal justice system is “innocent until proven guilty.” This is important to remember because the government always has the burden of proving the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. For every open and shut case there are many wrongly accused individuals who will be exonerated due to the heroic efforts of a defense attorney. Unfortunately it is also true that sometimes an innocent person is convicted of crimes they did not commit, this is a harsh and unacceptable reality.
Some people believe that defense attorneys set criminals free. Our clients are doctors, fathers, and schoolteachers; regular folks who sometimes make poor decision and sometimes get caught up in the wrong place and time. Our job in all cases is to make sure that the system treats the accused fairly according to Maryland State Criminal law and the U.S. Constitution.
I am continually reminded of the saying “It is better to set ten guilty men free then send one innocent man to jail.” There is no more accurate way to describe the honorable pursuit of criminal defense. CNN is presently running a special regarding Michael Morton. Mr. Morton spent 25 years of his life behind bars in a Texas prison when he was wrongly accused and convicted of murdering his wife. This poor man lost his wife in a violent murder and was disowned by his remaining family. Aggressive and intelligent defense counsel worked for years and subsequently exonerated this defendant. Barry Scheck from the OJ Simpson case and other thoughtful counsel fought tirelessly for DNA testing at the crime scene; the result of which was freeing a wrongly convicted person. The government of course fought them tooth and nail, apparently having no desire to get at the truth, but rather to cover their own ass for the mistakes and lies they made! This is why it is so important to test every case that the government brings to trial. The government surely doesn’t care about the truth; they just want their conviction.
It is our job to protect the citizenry as aggressively as possible within the bounds of the law. Naturally, criminals need to be punished if they commit a crime; however, many times there is a lot more going on behind the scenes then what is observed. Sometimes “victims” aren’t truthful or they didn’t correctly see what they thought they perceived or the physical evidence does not support the contention, like in the Morton case.
If you think about it, the burden of proof in a criminal case “beyond a reasonable doubt,” is an interesting an amorphous concept that is difficult to wrap one’s mind around. In lay terms it means that after all the evidence is in, if you are basically persuaded by what you have heard, but there is something gnawing at you and you just don’t feel compelled, ie. you have doubts, then that is reasonable doubt and you are required to acquit the defendant, even if you think he “probably” did what he is charged with. That is “reasonable doubt.” It’s akin to making an important decision in your own life; it is that degree of assurance.
It continues to be our job as Maryland criminal defense attorneys to hold the government’s feet to the fire and make sure that every defendant did what he is charged with, to make sure that the government can prove their case beyond and to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt. As long as innocent people like the tragic case of Michael Morton are railroaded and taken advantage of by overzealous and uncaring prosecutors looking only to make a name for themselves, we will continue to do our job to fight and protect.
To learn more about our blog, Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer – Representing the Criminal Defendant, or to schedule your free consultation, give Robinson & Associates a call at 443-524-7395. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.