ON THE DEFENSE
Just writing to thank you for your article about defending those accused of horrible acts (“How Can You Defend Them?” January 25). As a public defender in Oakland, California, a city struggling with violent crime, I’ve indeed represented my share of those facing charges for acts with lifelong consequences for the victims. Your piece struck a chord with me and was the most insightful piece of writing I’ve read on this subject.
Seth Morris / Oakland, California
All good American lawyers must believe in the integrity of one of the greatest achievements in jurisprudence: “innocent until proven guilty.” With that belief, one goes forward and acts as a legal defender. I often tell skeptics that I am a lawyer, not a judge. Individual defendants are not as important as the integrity of the legal system.
Robert S Lowe / Gloucester
In your article about defending the indefensible, I believe you left out one salient point. Many criminal defense lawyers do what they do for one basic reason: self-aggrandizement (coupled with heavy-duty compensation). They feel they can rightfully stick their thumb in the eyes of the victim as well as the public, take millions in fees, and chalk it up to the “just doing my job” mentality. Well, as Paul Newman said to the corrections officer in Cool Hand Luke, “Calling it your job don’t make it right, boss.” I have been a lawyer for more than 30 years and spent my time suing insurance companies and corporations on behalf of injured plaintiffs. Those are the kind of defendants who allow me to sleep like a baby. I could not imagine representing John Salvi, Whitey Bulger, or Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for $1 million or $10 million. The evidence is compelling that they are evil and undeserving of compassion.
Tim Cagle / Andover
Very revealing article about Judy Clarke and others who represent high-profile killers. Yes, the right to a fair trial is given to all, no matter what the circumstances, as attorneys from John Adams to Clarke strive for justice. My only complaint is against those lawyers who know their client is guilty, grandstand, and employ every trick and ruse they can devise to get their client off the hook.
Joseph Couture / Ipswich
We always glorify this activity by defense counsel, but I am not sure why. Why is it necessarily a good thing to convince people not to sentence a murderer to death? Is it better for us as a society? Is it better for the convict? Is it a lawyer’s job to decide? Does the Sixth Amendment require or even accommodate this kind of mission? I get the zealous advocacy, sure, but I don’t grasp the extent to which it goes in these cases.
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