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Should a Lawyer Defend a Client Who He Knows Is Guilty?

  • Date Submitted: 03/15/2011 05:42 PM
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Criminal Law
[ 11 March 2011 ]
The Role of a Defense Attorney
        How can an attorney who believes his client is guilty defend him to the best of his ability? This is one of the questions that will be addressed in this paper.   An attorney takes an oath when she is sworn into the bar, to protect the rights of her clients and agrees to attorney-client confidentiality.   The attorney has sworn to defend each client to the best of her ability, regardless of her opinion about the innocence or guilt of the client.   It is not up to the attorney to be a judge of moral character.   She is required by law to provide her client with a vigorous defense.  
          If a defense attorney truly believes his client is guilty and then he is found "not guilty", is that immoral or unethical?   The answer to that question is simply, no.   It is not immoral or unethical for someone to be found not guilty.   It does not matter whether or not the attorney believes that the client was guilty of committing a crime.   The attorney’s job is to provide a rigorous defense for his client.   The matter is then up to the jury or judge to decide on guilt or innocence.   That is the way the justice system works.   Morality or immorality makes no difference.
In the case where the defendant is found "not guilty" and then confesses to his attorney that he malingered and did indeed commit the crime, should the defense attorney have a legal obligation to turn over the new evidence?   Once again, the attorney has already done her part by providing the client with a vigorous defense.   There is no such thing as “double jeopardy,” which means a client cannot be tried twice for the same charge.   If the attorney were to turn over evidence, she would be violating the attorney-client privilege and could face disbarment.        
Do you think it is proper that confessions are covered by attorney-client privilege? What would you do in that situation if you were a defense attorney?   It is absolutely proper that...


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