Although its not the major part of my business, I do occasional criminal defense cases for some top notch, ethical defense attorneys. As a retired police detective, I’ve been asked numerous times by current and former police officers why I would do any criminal defense work. When I do get asked that question, I always respond with the fact that in the United States, every defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a defense. I then bring up the fact of the Duke Lacrosse players who were filed on for serious criminal charges by a rogue prosecutor, convicted in the press in a trial by media, then ultimately, completely exonerated. If not for a spirited defense team, these young men would have been sent to prison for a crime that never happened.
On a personal note, I was the defense investigator in a case in which a police officer was accused of excess force in apprehending a suspect. Criminal charges were filed against him and he was facing prison if convicted. I was able to find an independent eyewitness whose testimony cleared the officer of any wrong doing, which resulted in a not guilty verdict.
A person’s whole life can change in a blink of an eye. Sometimes, like in the Duke Lacrosse players case, the judicial system can do terrible things. In police work, officers have to make split second decisions that can go horribly wrong. When it seems like the weight of the whole criminal justice system is aligned against you, it’s just your attorney and your defense investigator that stands between you and jail. Pray that you’re never placed in that situation, but if you ever have the nightmarish experience of being arrested and formally charged with a criminal offense, you’ll understand why I do criminal defense work.