Posted May 10, 2014, by Edmund R. Folsom.
In today’s paper, there’s a story about a retired Portland cop I once knew, and worked with on cases, who’s been indicted for six-figure theft. This follows the recent indictment of the ex-chief of the Maine State Police on a child sex charge, preceded a few years ago by the child porn prosecution of a Maine Assistant Attorney General who committed the crime while heading statewide drug prosecutions. I can recall the prosecution of a number of Assistant D.A.’s and police officers over the years for drunk driving, and the drunk driving prosecution by the Cumberland County D.A.’s Office of the sitting District Attorney of another Maine county. That guy later became a judge. This is not to pick on police and prosecutors. I’ve seen plenty of non-prosecutor lawyers take hits for theft, money laundering, drunk driving, assaults, making bomb threats…you name it. And in case you’re snickering that everyone knows lawyers are an unscrupulous bunch to begin with, I recall the prosecution of doctors, businesswomen and men, college professors, school teachers, and the sons and daughters of all kinds of people for just about every type of crime you can conceive. Some of these people I have known personally, and it was sad to see them fall. I haven’t known them to be irredeemable dirt-bags or anything of the sort; just flawed human beings (my apology for the redundancy). To those who take pleasure in witnessing the fall, ’tis a gift to be simple.
Why do I bother telling you this? Because when people ask what I do and I tell them I’m a lawyer, and they ask what kind of lawyer, and I tell them I’m a criminal defense lawyer, far more often than not they toss back some comment about defending guilty people. Just the other day, I got: “Well it’s a good thing everyone’s innocent.” Seriously now, stop compartmentalizing for a minute, because I know that you know way more than you let on. I also know if someone stole $1,001.00 from me– not that I’m inviting it–that person could be charged with a felony theft, with a punishment range of up to 5 years in prison. As much as I don’t want to be ripped off, that’s a life-wrecker, and that, to me, is overkill. I know that loads of middle class and upper middle class people have taken a prescription pain pill that belonged to someone else or have given one of their own to someone else, and I know it was a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. That’s also a life-wrecker, and that, to me, is also overkill. And, etcetera… By and large, criminal defense lawyers have no problem trying to help people catch a break. To those who insist on asking us how we can do what we do, we’ll even be there to help you and yours if the need arises. Experience tells me that, at that point, the one thing you won’t be asking is how we can stand to defend the guilty.
HUMAN FALLIBILITY AND THE CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY