On “Belief”

From the day I was appointed to represent [my client], he told me the same thing.  Every time we met.  He loved [the victim].  He didn’t kill [the victim].  He believed that low blood sugar had caused her to faint and drop the cigarette on herself.  He would answer any question the police had for him and he would take any polygraph.  He would cooperate to the fullest extent humanly possible.

And my belief was that [my client] was telling me the truth.  His case was set for trial in November.

[The prosecutors] would ultimately become the prosecutor handling [my client’s] murder case.  I had dealt with him on a few minor cases here and there over the years and always found him to be a reasonable guy.  He listened to every last thing I said about [my client’s] case.  He pulled every last record and report and read them from start to finish.  He listened openly when I told him that I thought it would be physically impossible for [my client] to have set [the victim] on fire and then run to the completely opposite side of the park and return to the scene of the fire within a matter of seconds.

It isn’t an easy thing for a prosecutor to dismiss a murder.  The victim’s family is guaranteed to be devastated and angry.  The police investigators won’t be happy either.  Dismissing a murder case is rarely a popular decision.

With such horrible circumstances as a death by burning, it is only human nature to believe that another person must surely be held accountable for it.

But [the prosecutors] set those beliefs aside and looked to where the evidence led them.  They met with arson experts.  They went to the crime scene and met with the witnesses who had first seen [the victim].  They had them point out where in the park they had seen [my client] coming from.

[The prosecutor] called me yesterday afternoon to tell me they were dismissing the case.  As much as I would like to take credit for a dismissal on a murder case, it was his open mind and willingness to look into the facts independently that brought this sad case to the just resolution.

Murray Newman, Belief: The Darryl Tindol Case,  Life at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center

Words that should never be forgotten as criminal defense attorneys get out of bed and get ready for court.  If you can’t believe what your guy says, how can you get the prosecutor/judge/jury/appellate judges to believe what you’re saying?


This is the Third Most Important Thing to Know About my Job

The truth is really that those questions are things that have never crossed my mind in any real way. And the reason why I do what I do for a living has nothing to do with simply making sure that defendants get the minimal constitutional protections that come with having a lawyer to represent them. While I like to view myself as a constitutional warrior, fighting to protect the rights that we have all been given, preserving those rights for everyone is merely a fringe benefit of the job.

The reality, for me and many of my criminal defense lawyer colleagues, is that I get to spend my days caring about and making a huge difference in the lives of some really great people. “Those” people, the people who are accused of crimes, are people that I fall in love with on a daily basis. They are your father, your sister, your cousin, your child. They are people.

Keeley Heath, “How Do Criminal Defense Attorneys Sleep at Night?”

In case you’re wondering, this is the second most important thing and the first is below:

This is the Second Most Important Thing to Know About my Job

So, I guess the short — but by no means “simple” — answer…is that as a Defense Attorney, I look at cases in terms of the person charged, as opposed to the act.   A Prosecutor has more of a tendency to look at the act alleged and then judge the person. 

That’s the difference.  Everything else flows from that.

Murray Newman, An Important Breakfast, Life at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center.  

FYI, in case you were wondering what is the most important thing: