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As a lawyer, when defending someone who has admitted guilt to you but asks for an innocent plea, how do you defend them? Having to keep it secret due to client confidentiality, does it affect your conscience and morals?

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Mary’s Answer

As a lawyer, you don't ever ask your client if they did it. You also tell them not to tell you. Criminal legal work is actually more simple than it is made out to be. Regardless of what you believe, you perform the work for your side. If you prosecute, you do the best work you can to prove that the individual is guilty. If you defend, you do the best work you can to prove the individual is innocent. If you know they likely did that, you provide an "affirmative defense" which states "I did it but..." in an attempt to get the lightest penalty possible. As a last resort, you often let your clients claim that your assistance was "ineffective counsel" even. I once worked with a criminal defense attorney I found inspiring. I asked her how she reconciled her conscience with defending people accused of crimes. Here is what she had to say, "I do this job because if I did my job to the best of my abilities and they still turn up guilty, I'm reasonably sure that they belonged there. If I do my job to the best of my abilities and they turn up acquitted, either they were innocent or someone else failed to do their job properly. Either way, I've done all I can and I'm ok with that." I hope this helps!
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Kim’s Answer

Yukina,


As a criminal defense attorney, your duty is to get the best possible outcome for your client. However, you are an officer of the court, and should not allow your client to commit perjury. So, you try not to put the client on the stand. If they insist on testifying, they will often "testify in the narrative." This means they simply tell their story, rather than the attorney drawing it out of them in the question/answer format. The problem is, most people recognize that this is being done simply because the attorney wants no part in assisting the client to lie under oath!


Your focus will be on attacking the prosecution's case. What evidence do they have, and does it prove your client's guilt? Are there other possible suspects? Plant the seed of doubt. If your client gets convicted, try to get the best possible punishment. And, if somewhere along the way a plea bargain is offered, evaluate it and make recommendations to your client.


I used to think that representing criminals would bother me. I am not a lawyer, but do some work for a criminal defense attorney. As a former police officer, I thought this would be difficult to do. However, everyone deserves a fair trial, and, if you look around, lots of people get second chances. Why should my client be any different?


If you are uncomfortable with this, keep in mind, there are many other types of law out there, you don't have to do criminal defense!


Kim

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