Monday, July 11, 2005

Hey Nancy Grace - Your "Objection" is Overruled

On my birthday a few weeks ago I received a personalized, signed copy of Nancy Grace's book Objection from a friend.

Boy, she is much angrier than I ever thought.

Nancy Grace is the most divisive legal pundit on TV today. She represents a faction of society that simply believes judges and defense lawyers are at the root of all problems in the criminal justice system. Although she personally "loves" the late Johnnie Cochran, she despises the fact that the Constitution protects both the innocent and guilty and allows defense lawyers to argue what Nancy doesn't want to hear - that the evidence submitted by the state is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

In Nancy's world, the tragedies in the system are not-guilty verdicts, and the fact that defense lawyers have their own set of ethics.

Don't take my word for it - buy the book.

I lost count of how many times in the first few pages of her book, including the cover, the former self-proclaimed "viscious" prosecutor mentions "defense lawyers" as the cause of her disdain and complete lack of respect for the American Criminal Justice System.

Nancy is angry. She lives every day waking up and going to bed angry at people like me who are on the side of the law actually written in to the Constitution. She is bothered by the Fifth-Amendment Right to Remain Silent, as well as that pesky little Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, which says:

"In ALL criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

Nancy even says she is "troubled" by guilty pleas. So what is it you want Nancy? You don't want a defendant to walk in to a courtroom and tell the judge they committed the crime and receive a lesser sentence for not forcing the state to spend days or weeks or months in trial? You want every case to go to trial? Talk about a waste of taxpayers money. (Nancy refers to a defendant in the book as having a lawyer paid with taxpayer money - we call that a public defender. They are routinely appointed for people who cannot afford a lawyer.)

Ninety-seven percent of all criminal cases do not go to trial. They either result in a guilty plea or a dismissal. The reason acquittals at trial are news, is the same reason everything else is news - it doesn't happen all the time. If it happened every day, it wouldn't be news. But Nancy is angry at even one acquittal - forget if the reason is that the jury does not believe the state proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. If they didn't convict, its NEVER the prosecutor's fault - just the lousy judge, bad jurors, and the unethical defense lawyer.

In Nancy's world, only certain arguments by defense lawyers are acceptable.

Nancy, let me tell you what I do.

I review the evidence against my client and advise him or her what I think. They then determine whether to take a plea or proceed to trial. If they proceed to trial, I prepare a defense.

Although I advise what I think a jury may do, I do not determine guilt or innocence. If my client tells me he wasn't there, didn't do it, or didn't do what they said, I still prepare a defense because I do not know if my client is guilty or innocent. I do not take the state's word for it, nor my client's. My job is to protect my client's rights and force the state to meet their constitutionally mandated burden of proof.

I do not apologize for that to you, nor anyone else.

I do not lie in court or put on pejured testimony or false evidence, nor do I advance arguments that have no basis in fact. The ethics rules do not permit this. I do not harass, threaten, or otherwise abuse witnesses. I believe the system works when a good, ethical prosecutor, along with a good, ethical defense attorney, present arguments to a fair and impartial jury in front of a fair judge. You, Nancy, seem to think the system would work much better if a prosecutor was permitted to walk into a courtroom, tell the judge what happened, and have the defendant sentenced to the maximum sentence.

Most good prosecutors appreciate a good defense attorney, so that they do not have to deal with the defendant returning on appeal to argue ineffective assistance of counsel.

I am passionate about what I do. I exist because of the United States Constitution, and am proud to walk into an American courtroom each day and defend the principles this country stands for and lives by.

I am not just "doing my job," as you say Nancy, I am doing the job that the American People and Constitution demand.