Unspeakable Crimes Defense Lawyers Reveal What It's Like Defending Someone They Know Is Guilty  

Bailey Benningfield
5.3k views 17 items

In criminal trials, it's often difficult to understand how the defendant's attorney can fight for a person who may have committed a heinous act. Especially in the case of serial killers or criminals convicted of sexual assault, the public often finds it hard to agree that the defense deserves a fair trial, as entitled under US law.  These Redditors who work as defense attorneys explain how they're able to do their job while defending people they know are guilty.

This Defense Lawyer Sees The Humanity In Everyone

From Redditor /u/ItalianByInjection:

It's a different fight each day. Honestly, I wanted to (and still wholeheartedly believe that one day I will) be a prosecutor. I rationalize my position as a defense attorney on the one hand by stating that no matter what, every single person deserves the right to a full and complete defense to the greatest extent of my abilities. A defense is guaranteed under the Constitution.

On the other hand, most of the people who need a defense attorney are regular people like you and I. Aside from the fact that maybe we chose to deal with the hard knocks in life by modifying our behavior and changing our course in life, we are all the same. We are all empowered to make decisions, some just chose differently. But they are people nonetheless.

Often times I sit and counsel someone who is facing eighteen years for what I would consider to be a minor offense. Even if he is 42 and it's likely when he gets out he will be in his sixties, I can see the humanity in his eyes. I tell a joke, and he still laughs. Because he is [a] person. I can see the trust, and see that he is putting his life in my hands, and at that moment it doesn't matter what he did or has done, he is a person. And that's what it's like.

The State Often Leverages Too Many Charges

From Redditor /u/F*ckTheModelRules:

Former criminal defense attorney reporting in:

Most of it comes down to overcharging, 99.8% of my clients have been guilty of a crime, but in a lot of cases probably not the ones that they have been charged with.

Overcharging is sh*tty, but typical, and is used for leverage in the plea bargaining phase or if State thinks they can get away with it and have a better public track record as a result. With poor defendants relying on an overworked/understaffed public defender's office the State gets away with it far too often.

So to answer [your] question it really makes no difference to me whether they are "innocent or guilty," I'm still going to make the state prove everything beyond a reasonable doubt and I'm going to fight for my clients whether they are a likable kid who got caught with dope or a scumbag who hits his wife.

That being said, over the years I've grown to dislike criminal defense and have found myself far happier doing bankruptcy work.

They're Competitive And Just Want To Prove They Can Win

From Redditor /u/FarkingReddit:

The guilty ones are the easy ones. Most of the time they end up pleading, because most of the time everyone can see they're guilty a mile away. You advise them of their rights and what you think will happen if you go to trial and then it's up to them. If they want to take it to trial, that's what you do, and you make your arguments and you sit down.

I had a case where not only was the guy most certainly guilty, I honestly couldn't find one redeeming quality about him. I tried the hell out of that case. The prosecutor shook my hand at the end of it and said, "You knocked that out of the park - he owes you a lot." That one wasn't for the client, who tried to fire me halfway through the case, that one was for me. I'm a really competitive person and I wanted that win. I wanted to win that case because of how terrible it was, if I could win that, I could win anything. Lost it, guilty on all counts.

There's a lot of motivations out there for why we do what we do, and not everyone is as committed as others, but at the end of the day, nobody in my office has a single qualm about whether you're guilty or not. It's all part of the job.

This Lawyer Helps Guilty Clients But Charges Them A Lot Of Money

From Redditor /u/Hypno-phile:

A friend of mine who is a cop arrested a guy for driving drunk, plus assorted other charges, and also arrested [the guy's] wife who assaulted him during the arrest. He says both seemed to be horrible people who went out of their way to make his life miserable. At trial, their lawyer was able to get most of the charges dismissed and the rest reduced. My friend was visibly unhappy, and the lawyer ended up telling him, "Weren't those two a piece of work? If it helps any, I didn't give them a single break and charged them for every minute I spent on their case - think of it as a $20,000 penalty on top of what the judge gave them."