A women in my church once told me, “I just don’t see how a Christian can be a lawyer.” Stunned by this rebuke, I asked “Would you prefer if all the lawyers were non-Christians?”
Defending the criminally accused is a necessary, and dare I say noble, endeavor that we must undertake if we value our freedom. I’m not just talking in the kind of platitudes normally reserved for reenactors dressed as Thomas Jefferson. Obviously, crime must be punished. But it must be punished fairly and consistently. Perhaps more importantly, determinations as to whether someone committed a crime must be fair, objective and impartial, and based solely on the facts of the case. Without independent criminal defense attorneys, our entire judicial system, and even our very freedom, is at risk. Hopefully you’ll never need the services of a criminal defense lawyer. But if you are someday charged with a crime, you’ll have the right to get help from someone that understands the law. And that, as they say, makes all the difference.
“A society should not be judged on how it treats its outstanding citizens but by how it treats its criminals…” Fyodor Dostoevsky
Well, Perhaps being a lawyer is very difficult especially if he/she is defending a client whom he/she knew is guilty of a crime. That’s true lawyers can hardly be Christians if the lawyer is in that kind of practice.
You seem very concerned with the criminal being treated just and fairly. I didn’t notice anything about the victims in your article. How do the victims go about getting just and fair results?
Excellent point. The victims of a crime deserve justice, but it can be tough to determine what is just. A victim of violent crime may be awarded restitution to pay for hospital bills and similar expenses, but that’s certainly not a sufficient way to compensate them for what they’ve suffered. Seeing the perpetrator imprisoned may provide some closure, but whether or not the period of incarceration gives the victim a sense of justice is probably hit or miss at best.
Conversely, it is not at all unusual for a victim to disagree with a sentence of imprisonment. I have seen many cases where the victim would have preferred to see the charges dropped or the sentence reduced.
The problem is that our criminal justice system is not victim based. We instead have an adversarial system where the prosecutor and the defense battle it out, with each side trying to get a “win”. (Although I must point out that there are good people on both sides of that system that will at times work toward obtaining a just result rather than a so called “win” for their side.) The victim is almost forgotten in this battle, except as a potential witness to bolster the position of one side or the other. It is the Commonwealth (or state) that brings the charge and appears before the court as the injured party seeking retribution. The actual injured party is not really a party to the case at all.
Fortunately, the court does permit the victim to at least have their “day in court” at the time of sentencing. Most judges will permit a victim to speak at the time of sentencing and say how the crime has impacted them. Good judges give such testimony serious consideration before passing sentence.
Most counties have a victim’s rights advocate or victim impact coordinator that can assist the victim in obtaining restitution and having their position heard by the prosecutor and the court.