A favorite question to ask a criminal defense attorney seems to be “how can you represent a criminal?”
It takes a certain kind of person to enjoy being a lawyer. It takes an even smaller group of the population who can find satisfaction in representing the citizen accused. And the answers to the above question can vary based upon who is answering. But one of my favorite answers to this question is illustrated quite well by a news article I read earlier this week about a man named Omar Sullivan (if you would prefer to skip the rest of my answer to this question, I’ll just put a link to the news article here).
In short, we enjoy many liberties and rights as American citizens that we might not otherwise enjoy if we lived in another country or at another point in history. But if we expect these liberties and rights to survive and be available for you or me, we have to defend them. I.e., if these rights are to be available for anyone, they have to be defended for everyone. And that is a large part of the job for a criminal defense attorney in my mind – defending these rights for everybody.
Returning to the story of Omar Sullivan (these facts come from a news article that you can view by clicking here), Sullivan is an innocent man who was wrongly incarcerated for 27 days for crimes that he did not commit. Essentially another man had stolen Sullivan’s identity and committed crimes in Sullivan’s name. To make a long story short, Sullivan was arrested for these crimes, transported across many states to face the allegations, and told everybody he could along the way that he was innocent. Once finally before the appropriate court, Sullivan’s criminal defense attorney worked with the area District Attorney’s office to finally have Sullivan released. And according to news writer Barry Carter, in that time Sullivan loses much more than just 27 days of his life:
[H]e loses his job as manager of a storage company. He loses the apartment he’s about to move into, his car gets impounded and his dog dies at a cousin’s house after it stopped eating with him not around.
Unfortunately, this is not the only case out there where someone was innocent. Often too a person might be guilty of something, but not the thing for which they are charged. And yes, it is true that sometimes people are flat-out guilty of the crime for which they have been accused. But at the end of the day, it is not the criminal defense attorney’s job to judge whether or not a person is guilty, nor to what degree. It is the criminal defense attorney’s job to fully advocate for their client, for by defending each client’s rights, each attorney is helping ensure that these rights will survive.
The author of TNLawyerLee is Nicholas W. Lee, Esq., an attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you or someone you know need an attorney, please click here for Mr. Lee’s contact information and contact him today for a free consultation. Also, please feel free to visit Mr. Lee’s website, www.TNLawyerLee.com or follow his page on Facebook for updates as to his law practice or new posts to TNLawyerLee by clicking here.
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