Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"To Seek Justice" Does Not Include An Acquittal

Several years ago I moderated a panel on ethics in criminal justice. A former senior prosecutor-turned judge said that he believed professionalism had diminished due to the atmosphere in "the office" that it's all about winning.

From The National Center for Prosecution Ethics National Rules and Standards:

3-1.2(c): The Function of the Prosecutor
The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict.


Seeking justice is a broad term, but attaching it to my trial last week, it appears that it means the prosecutor's duty was to present evidence to a jury and ask them to convict, because she believed the 6 Defendants were guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The jury disagreed. They acquitted 4 of the 6 Defendants.

That's justice.

But society disagrees. Our "Law & Order" society believes that an acquittal is not justice. Why is that? Because we thirst for the bad guy to be caught, and sent to jail. We are conditioned to believe that anything else is the result of a bad prosecutor or slick defense attorney.

We can't bring ourselves to believe that evidence is presented in a court of law and a jury determines that it's not enough, or God forbid, that the Defendant is innocent.

Helping this twisted notion of justice, is the Department of Justice and their method of announcing trial results.

The press release on my case:

"Jury Convicts 2, Acquits 4 in $21 Million Dollar Mortgage Fraud Scheme."

No, I'm kidding. Here's the title:

"2 Miami-Dade residents convicted in 21 million dollar mortgage fraud scheme."

Nowhere in the press release does it mention the acquittals.

Why? When the Defendant's were indicted a press release was sent to the media. Why aren't they entitled to a press release when they are acquitted?

Because that is not justice

Because the goal is not to seek justice. It is to seek convictions.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer.Share/Save/Bookmarkokdork.com rules Post to Twitter