Saturday, February 19, 2011

A legal reform for the ages...

I once met a guy at a bar.  Ok, I have met a lot of people at bars.  But this guy was special.

He claimed to be an attorney, and not just any attorney.  He claimed to be the youngest attorney to have argued a case before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Wow.  Cool story, bro.

What, I asked, did you argue.

He proceeded to explain that he had defended a death row criminal and gotten the guy sprung out of jail.  He had murdered a bunch of people, but the cops screwed something up, and so the guy ended up walking away.

Curious, I asked the attorney if he was concerned that he had released a dangerous and guilty criminal back into the world.  He, of course, was shocked that I would ask such a thing.  His job, he said, was to do his best to defend people, even the guilty, and get them out of jail in anyway possible.

Hmm.  Really? 

It seems to me he is applying the wrong standard.  What he ought to be interested in is Justice.  Yes, with a capital J.

Attorneys are too far removed from the consequences of their actions.  Prosecutors only care about getting convictions, defendant's attorney's only care about getting their client off.

I would proposed the following changes to the system:

1.  If any defendant is convicted of a crime and it later comes to light that the prosecution withheld evidence, committed fraud, or otherwise engaged in misconduct, then the defendant will be released and the prosecutor and anyone else involved in the wrongful conviction will be sentenced to serve time equal to the original sentence of the defendant.

2.  Any attorney that argues for the release of a defendant and wins shall have the defendant released into their custody for 30 days.  The defendant will then live in the same house as the attorney and their family for the 30 days. 

In this way, over zealous prosecutors will be punished for committing fraud or misconduct.  And if defendants attorney's think that the criminals should be released to spend time with the rest of us, then they wont mind having them under the same roof for a few weeks.

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