. . . but I internalized the norms of the legal profession early. I first became a lawyer at Badger Boy’s State. My first case was to defend a floormate who was accused of throwing water out a window on a counselor. I knew he did it because I was there. I also knew that he was far enough from the window that he could not be identified. Great cross (for a 17 year old) and an acquittal. Since then, I haven’t been clean a day in my life. My name is Rick E., and I believe in the adversarial system . . . .
I’m not stalking Mr. Samis through the Blog, but his post on the demands of confidentiality when a client has disclosed evidence of a past crime reflects a timeless ethical dilemma. Here’s another good one.
Assume that your client has told you that he committed the crime. You now can’t call him to deny it, but you were probably never going to do that anyway. How else should that impact the way in which you present a defense?
Say there is an eye witness who claims (as you now know, accurately) to have seen him do it? Do you point out the weaknesses of her testimony on cross? That one may be easy; the prosecution must prove its case. But do you go after her credibility? Suggest she is lying? Conjure up a motive for her to do so? Should you call witnesses other than your client to attempt to suggest what you know to be a false version of the crime?
I don’t teach ethics and had very little experience as a criminal defense lawyer. Even if the trial strategy is permitted, is it right? What would be the cost of restricting it?