Ever since I was a young man and decided to be a lawyer those who knew, or asked this standard “occupation” query of any young person, there were always 2 more questions to follow: 1) What kind of lawyer do you want to be? And when the answer i gave was “criminal defense,” the second question always followed: “but how can you defend someone who is guilty?” The answer from me was always very simple and quick to leave my lips: “everyone is innocent until proven guilty.” Until a jury of peers renders a guilty verdict, a person is, in fact innocent. The defendant is quite simply Not Guilty. Not only that, but many, and all too often those charged with a crime are in fact innocent, yet found guilty due to the “guilt” of others in the system. They are a form of collateral damage. It is the guilt of those who prosecute, that create this damage. By virtue of their failure to adhere to ethic’s, their failure to investigate, and sometimes their failure to simply present ALL facts; good and bad for their case. Not every prosecutor is guilty of this, in fact the vast majority are very ethical, but even 1 in our system is too many.
Recently a story was run in USA TODAY. The story documents the failures and ethical lapses above. Specifically, in the headline case a man was convicted of a crime he did not commit because the prosecutors handling the case did not let the jury hear all the facts. The prosecutors intentionally covered up evidence that discredited many of the defendant’s accusers; they failed to revealed that their eye witness struggled to identify the defendant’s photograph; and they hid the fact that promised were made to other witness in exchange for their cooperation. These types of facts are required to be disclosed all defendants in every case. These issues are called “exculpatory” evidence, meaning evidence that tends to disprove the prosecutors case. While the lawyers for the defense do not need to be spoon fed the information, the fact that it is exits does need to be disclosed. It is these ethical lapses that get in the way of the system working properly. It is these prosecutors who are blinded by the goal of winning who seek only a conviction, rather than the truth and justice, where the problem lies. it is started with the attitude of “because i can” that begins this harmful process. Attorneys are responsible for adhering to a code of ethical conduct and the failures of these sorts are the most egregious.
As explained in the story, these abuses have put innocent people in prison, set guilty people free and cost taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees and sanctions. While Judges around the nation have warned for decades that misconduct by prosecutors threatens the Constitution’s promise of a fair trial, this behavior still exits despite the Congressionally enacted law aimed at ending such abuses. From the average citizen’s tax paying perspective, the prosecutors are the lawyers who are supposed to be working for the citizen’s and in so doing also supposed to uphold the law, ethics, and the US Constitution. In situations like this each and every one of those requirements was disregarded, broken, and violated beyond belief. In this instance, the prosecutor were criminal because their actions stole a US citizen’s most precious right: freedom.
These types of misguided attempts are not rare, as others in the justice system routinely cut corners and use the explanation and justification of their actions with stating that “it doesn’t really matter because they are guilty.” Admittedly, some shortcuts may not affect the end result but system cannot be short cut that way. When there are rules they are exist for the protection of not only the accused, but they protect the citizen’s who look to and rely on the system. In the case above, far to many resources were expended upon making a man look guilty when he was in fact not. They wasted resources to hide the evidence and facts that contradict their interest and seek to convict a person who in fact was NOT GUILTY. While all this was being manufactured, the true culprit escaped a charge. Rather than follow the rules and investigate, prosecute, and let the chips fall where they may, these prosecutors looked only for a “W” rather than simply presenting the facts.
This attitude from these types of prosecutors is infectious and eats away at the principals of the system and ultimately leads by bad example. Consider the recent crime lab problems that are beginning to surface in the news and headlines that exposed such behavior this past summer that were discussed in this forum. Washington DC, Alaska, and yes here in Washington state where the crime lab was found to harbor these very troubling short cuts all under the defense of “well it is so insignificant that it does not matter.”
When these attitudes surface, when these types of prosecutions are engineered, when these types of prosecutors are exposed for what they are, others are likewise exposed because the problem is not isolated. Consider the links above and these crime labs that create otherwise non-existent evidence were exposed for what they are: actors looking for a win.
So I look back on the answer I gave as a young man and remember my answer and add to it: “everyone is presumed innocent and is entitled to a FAIR trial. A trial that is not engineered to circumvent the very basic rights our system of justice is founded upon, a fair trial because the end result is not a forgone conclusion. While these may be simplistic, they are after all basic rights of everyone. In this day and age where some prosecutors, law enforcement, and crime lab personnel are all too quick to take a short cut, exposing these shortcuts and providing my clients with the best defense possible means challenging their evidence, presenting the best evidence available, and the findings things that many say does not matter. In the end, what is said to not matter, can mean Not Guilty.
Jonathan Rands limits his criminal defense practice to those charged with the crime of DUI, or other alcohol related charges. These charges almost always involve scientific principles as a result of breath testing. These charges also rely upon “sobriety tests” that are also said to grounded in science but only a DUI defense attorney highly trained in both these areas who possesses the skill and creativity to expose the limitations of this “evidence” can provide a successful defense to those charged with a DUI. Jonathan Rands is an experienced, dedicated, and a tenacious DUI lawyer with proven DUI defense success. He has been apart of every major breath test challenge in the various courts where he practices in the last 8 years.