I know I've been bringing this show up a lot but I genuinely find the law compelling and I inhale legal dramas like they're going out of style. It doesn't help that my mom works in the law and I grew up on SVU. I think in another life I'd have been a legal scholar.
Anyway, what I want to talk about now is defense attorneys. One of the running themes of The Practice is that question of "how can you sleep at night knowing you set murderers free?" It comes up again and again and I think they do a pretty good job of showing how much the different characters deal with that on a personal level.
Usually they give the stock answer of them being part of the system yadda, yadda, and that they defend you because of the presumption of innocence etc, but as the show goes on, it becomes pretty clear that none of them really believes that, especially since they do criminal defense work, and they've become the go-to Boston firm for murder cases. It really kind of starts to unhinge them because they know that even though they think a client is guilty, they are mandated by law to give the best possible defense.
My thing is... they should sleep at night because they are part of the system, and it would fail without them. It's easy to see it as scumbag lawyers putting criminals back on the street, but the thing is, especially if we're talking about a trial, it is the defense attorney's job to do everything he legally can to get his client off. Not to find the truth, not the get the real killer, but to get his client off. The burden rests with the prosecution to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. I see it not as defense attorney's getting criminals off, but prosecutors not making their burden.
The system is (supposedly, but we're not gonna get into the OBVIOUS flaws) set up so that if the prosecution can make its case, the accused will be convicted. Obviously things are unfortunately not set up to protect against personal biases of judges, juries or lawyers, so human error tends to fuck shit up. (*cough* Zimmerman *cough*)
But really, the whole system is supposed to be based on that presumption of innocence. Obviously, it doesn't actually work that way for a variety of reasons, but I think it's unfair to scapegoat defense attorneys. The point is supposed to be that if you are innocent, the system will catch it, and you'll go free. If you're guilty, the prosecution will be able to make its burden and you'll be convicted. Those are the basic tenets.
Even in the Zimmerman trial, as much as I want to *insert violent act here* him, I don't blame his lawyers for getting him off. That's their job. I think his lawyers were smug, despicable little shits, but I also thought that before he was acquitted. But on the other hand, I am actually 95.5% sure that those prosecutors purposely didn't do their best in that trial because of their own biases. I watched those post-trial interviews; even though tons of people were able to poke holes in their legal strategy, they kept going on about how they did the best they could and it was the jury's fault.
I (and everyone else) have no doubt that the jurors were full of shit, but I also think they could only work with what they were given, and those prosecutors didn't give them very much, or at least not everything they could have.
All this is to say, is it just easier to blame the attorneys for the system failing? Because barring actual illegality, they are just doing their jobs, and its the same job I'd want them to do for me if I was ever falsely accused of a crime. I dunno. It just seems like everyone hates defense attorneys until they need one.