We have all heard the harsh jokes about attorneys. Moreover, we have heard the lewd comments, and these my friend, were not jokes. Instead, these comments revealed the hatred, distrust, and lack of respect that many people have for lawyers. Why? Why do so many people think so poorly of attorneys, especially defense attorneys? Is it because they represent or defend what many would consider scum…lowlifes…worthless…vile individuals? Like many of you, I have heard these questions over and over again: “How could you defend him? He killed his wife and children. How could you defend a child molester? How could you defend that drunk driver that killed an innocent family? How can you sleep at night, or how can you look at yourself in the mirror?” Here is one that beats them all: “How can you defend these criminals and call yourself a man of God? You are such a hypocrite.”
Well, I have learned that everything is not always as it appears. Believe it or not, there are truly innocent individuals out there that have been accused, convicted, and executed for crimes that they did not commit, and as an attorney, I am obligated to seek the truth. Mind you, there are instances where the clients are guilty; however, they have a constitutional right to legal representation, according to the Sixth Amendment. My job is to ensure that the clients receive a fair trial, necessary treatment if applicable, and reasonable sentencing if found guilty.
Recently, former number one golfer, Tiger Woods, was arrested. The headlines read: Tiger Woods Arrested in Florida for Suspicion of Drunk Driving. There was also a mug shot showing a disheveled, unshaven, droopy-eyed Woods. People quickly assumed that Woods had been driving while intoxicated. They made the assumption without any evidence confirming their beliefs. These preconceived and inaccurate assumptions have ruined the lives of many individuals. Fortunately, for Woods, he is an intelligent, calm, and sensible individual who knows how to appropriately communicate with officers, the media, and fans. In addition, he is a wealthy man who undoubtedly sought the advice of an attorney before offering a logical explanation to the public, which was that he had back surgery last week. As a result, a reaction to prescribed medication, not alcohol, caused him to appear unstable with slurred speech when stopped and arrested by the police. Later, evidence confirmed that Woods had not been intoxicated while driving. Specifically, two breathalyzer tests indicated that Woods scored a .000 after being arrested for suspicion of driving drunk. Once again, this brings me to the point that I made earlier: Everything is not always as it appears. Therefore, we all have a constitutional right to be represented by an attorney.
Let me provide a more heart-wrenching example where the defendant was not quite as fortunate as Woods. In 2000, Claude Jones was executed for the murder of liquor store owner, Allen Hilzendager, in San Jacinto County in 1989. Allegedly, Jones entered the store and shot the owner while his accomplice remained in the car. Witnesses were unable to identify the killer; however, Jones and two other men (Kerry Dixon and Timothy Jordan) were linked to the crime. Jones stated that he did not enter the store, but Dixon and Jordan stated that Jones did shoot and kill Hilzendager. As a result, both Dixon and Jordan escaped the death penalty. The only admissible evidence and deciding factor was a strand of hair found at the scene. Unfortunately for Jones, a forensic expert determined that the strand of hair found at the crime scene belonged to Jones. Consequently, the jury sentenced Jones to death. During this time period, forensic technology was underdeveloped and unable to match Jones’ DNA with the hair sample. Therefore, prior to his execution, Jones’ attorneys filed petitions for a stay of execution and requested that the hair be submitted for more accurate DNA testing that was now available, but the courts and former Texas Governor George W. Bush denied all requests, and Jones was executed. In 2007, the Innocence Project and the Texas Observer filed a lawsuit to obtain the strand of hair, requesting to have it submitted for DNA testing, hoping to prove Jones’ innocence. After the completion of testing, results showed that the strand of hair did not belong to Jones but to the victim, which once again, brings me to this point: Everything is not always as it appears. In this case, there was no valid evidence proving that Jones killed Hilzendager, which means that there is a strong possibility that the true murderer escaped accurate punishment.
Being a defense attorney is not an easy job. Of course, I have had my doubts; however, I use the information that I have available, and I use it to the best of my ability. Earlier, I mentioned some of the questions and comments that have been made towards me and other defense attorneys. Here is one that often catches my attention: “How can you defend these criminals and call yourself a man of God? You are such a hypocrite.” To these critics, I have this to say:
First John 3:17 “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”
If you see someone in need, how can you ignore that need? If your brother or sister is in need and you simply ignore him/her, how can you honestly say that the love of God lives within you? It is impossible. The love of God cannot truly live within you because the love of God should compel or drive us to want to help each other. As a defense attorney, I have the skills and knowledge to offer my assistance to ensure that a client receives a fair trial, necessary treatment if applicable, and reasonable sentencing if found guilty. As an attorney and steward of God, how can I not share what God has entrusted to me?