Us v. Them II

 Posted on June 18, 2007 in Uncategorized

Shannon Quadros wrote, in comments to Us v. Them,

Don't you think McKinney is being a tad rough. I know that the DA's office isn't a bunch of angels but it's not like they are the spawn of Satan either. Well not that I know of anyway.What I would like to see is what someone who has been on both sides, say former ADA now criminal-defense lawyer (or possibly, though I think rarer, criminal-defense lawyer turned ADA) seems to think about prosecutors and defenders.I admire McKinney's passion and yours as well in advocating your clients' rights. And that your ardent advocacy of them deserves praise but don't DAs and ADAs have clients too – the ‘People'?

Short answer: no, I don't think Troy is being even a tad rough. I think his post is truthfully descriptive.

In criminal court you can fight for people against the government, or you can fight for the government against people. There is no third way. When DAs say they represent "the people" (they don't say it in Texas), it's a legal fiction; they represent the government. As agents of the government all they can do is reduce people's freedom. Their only tools are imprisonment and probation. If a prosecutor wanted to be sure he wouldn't hurt any people, he could simply not show up for work.There are many prosecutors with good intentions, and more with good rationalizations. The common factor in prosecutorial intentions and rationalizations is this: they think that they are competent to say who should be free and who shouldn't. The unfortunate belief that one person is somehow above (better than, more moral than, more valued than) other people is a prerequisite for prosecutorial work. Prosecutors' targets are certainly not people for whom most people have any sympathy. Defender Mike Ramsey says (attributing the quote to A.E. Housman), "Who God forsakes, I defend." One of Clarence Darrow's biographies was entitled "Attorney for the Damned." (Neither Ramsey nor Darrow was, as far as I know, ever a prosecutor.)

The late great Stuart Kinard (who, I am told, had been a dedicated prosecutor) described the work of a defender as "Protecting those of the Lord's children who have fallen short of perfection from the wrath of those who believe they have attained it." Believing one has attained perfection is a sad affliction. It is possible for a former prosecutor to overcome this affliction, realize that the difference between her and the accused is nothing more than a bad roll of the dice, and become a passionate defender of the less-fortunate.

Technorati Tags: criminal defense, philosophy, prosecutors

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