The Snitch Lawyer
Yesterday we attended a pretrial conference on a 19-defendant federal cocaine conspiracy case. Such cases are few and far between in Houston nowadays; the 15 lawyers in the room were in high spirits. When we were making our appearances on the record, the appointed lawyer for one defendant announced that he was asking to withdraw from the case because his client had hired the Snitch Lawyer to represent him.
The Snitch Lawyer is notorious for rushing every client to the U.S. Attorney’s office to cooperate with the government. He has not — and he will freely admit this — tried a case in the last 15 years.
A few people charged with federal crimes should indisputably plead guilty; a few people charged with federal crimes should indisputably go to trial.
The Snitch Lawyer doesn’t have a small docket. He represents lots of people at a time. In the last 15 years, he has, without a doubt, pled guilty some people who should indisputably have gone to trial.
Most people fall in the grey zone in between, in which either trial or plea might be appropriate depending on the accused’s tolerance for risk. These people need the advice of a competent lawyer who can explain all of the options to them before they make the plea/trial decision. In order to explain all of the options, the lawyer has to consider all of the options. The snitch lawyer, who doesn’t try cases, won’t try cases. That’s not an option open to him. If your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail; if your only tool is cooperation, every client looks like a cooperator.
The Snitch Lawyer doesn’t even bother looking at the government’s case against his clients before running them down to the courthouse to plead guilty and cooperate. He couldn’t possibly be informing his clients truthfully of their chances of winning at trial.
Without being informed, they can’t make a meaningful decision. The Snitch Lawyer would probably say that his clients have made the decision to cooperate before they hire him, that that is what they have hired him for. But no person accused of a crime is competent to make the key decision in his case without the advice of competent counsel, and a lawyer who has not, in 15 years, seen a case worth trying is not competent to represent people in federal criminal court. Many of the people the Snitch Lawyer has represented would, I do not doubt, have prevailed at trial if they had hired competent counsel who saw trial as an option.
The Snitch Lawyer might, as evidence that he’s doing the right thing, point to his clients who have received longer sentences if not for him. I would point to his clients who would have been acquitted if not for him, and ask how many people he’s willing to sacrifice to get lower sentences for the others. Charles Sevilla, writing as Winston Schoonover, coined the term “V-6” for a walking violation of the Sixth Amendment. To me, the Snitch Lawyer epitomizes a V-6. The government couldn’t have a better ally in the criminal defense bar if it paid him.
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