Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Actual innocence

One of the hardest tasks for a criminal defense attorney is to defend a citizen who is (absolutely) innocent of the charge filed against him. The actually innocent citizen expects a dismissal or, if the prosecutor won't listen to reason, an acquittal.

The job becomes thankless as the process drags on and the innocent citizen is inconvenienced by having to take off work, drive downtown, pay for parking and sit in the courthouse for hours.

I had a client who had been charged with stealing books from a university bookstore. We had a dozen alibi witnesses who would have testified that he was in class at the time of the theft. There was an eyewitness who described the thief to the police -- but her description bore no resemblance to my client. Given all of that, it still took multiple settings before the prosecutor found the courage to let the case go.

After the ordeal was over, my client looked at me and asked how he could get his reputation back -- I had no answer for him. We couldn't even get an expunction because the statute of limitations hadn't run and the DPS would oppose it.

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