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  1. Everybody and their mother pleads not guilty when they are on trial for murder. You know a good percentage of them are guilty. If the defendant confides in his attorney that he is guilty, but wants to plead not guilty, do attorneys still defend them and try to get them off of the charges, even though the lawyer knows their client is guilty? Is there anything in the code of conduct for lawyers that prevents them from doing this? Like if they get caught defending a client that they KNOW is guilty, can they have their license taken away? Can they get in trouble legally?

    Take OJ for instance. Its pretty obvious he was guilty. Does he tell his lawyers that he did kill two people, but that he wants to plead not guilty, and he wants his lawyers to pull out all the stops to try to get him off the charges?
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  2. I'm pretty sure it would be unethical for the lawyer to say anything, or to set up his client to lie. So, if OJ told his lawyers he did it, they can still defend him, they just can't willingly put him on the stand, knowing he'll lie.

    But, this is how the process works. It doesn't matter your personal beliefs, the defense attorney must pull out all the stops to get a non guilty charge.

    Plus, I think most of us would want this. Say you are poor, so you don't have a choice of attornys. You are innocent, but the evidence points to you. Last thing you want is your lawyer to, because he figure you probably did it, to be half assed.
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  3. i mean its their job.

    im sure that they make it clear to their client (in lawyer like terms) basically that they dont give a fuck if their guilty or not they just don't wanna hear it. it is their job to defend people accused of crimes.
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  4. Actually, if a lawyer half-assed a defense because he knew the client was guilty, THEN he would get in legal trouble. As a lawyer, your job is to defend your client to the best of your ability no matter their innocence or guilt. Even if they are guilty, the lawyer can focus of making sure the prosecution proves each element of the case, etc.
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  5. Not a lawyer, obv, so I'm sure a lawyer will correct me where I am wrong.

    Lawyers cannot knowingly suborn perjury, meaning they cannot ask a question where they know the witness will lie. (Lawyers almost never ask questions if they don't know the answer that will be given.)

    I'm sure that OJ told his lawyers he was not guilty. Absolutely positive. I'm also sure that they all believed he did it. But their job is to zealously defend their client without breaking the law.

    An adversarial justice system is a terrible system -- except that it is better than all the alternatives.

    EDITED TO ADD: Also, as a matter of law, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, so if a case is still being tried, then no, lawyers don't defend guilty clients, because they aren't guilty yet. This might seem unnecessarily nitpicky, and obviouosly we all know what you mean, but the concept is actually important.
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  6.  
    Originally Posted by MUPokerPlayer View Post

    Is there anything in the code of conduct for lawyers that prevents them from doing this?

    no. but if you are so offended by having to defend someone, you can withdraw. usually granted unless you are within days of trial and it will prejudice the defendant.

     
    Originally Posted by MUPokerPlayer View Post

    If the defendant confides in his attorney that he is guilty, but wants to plead not guilty, do attorneys still defend them and try to get them off of the charges, even though the lawyer knows their client is guilty?

    yes, the burden of proof is on the state. you make them prove their case.

     
    Originally Posted by MUPokerPlayer View Post

    Like if they get caught defending a client that they KNOW is guilty, can they have their license taken away? Can they get in trouble legally?

    no, unless you do something unethical/illegal in defending said person. (secreting/destroying evidence, etc.)

     
    Originally Posted by MUPokerPlayer View Post

    Does he tell his lawyers that he did kill two people, but that he wants to plead not guilty, and he wants his lawyers to pull out all the stops to try to get him off the charges?

    perfectly fine, but in that case you would not want to question OJ on the stand yourself as you would be condoning perjury. If you know your client is gonna perjure himself, I believe you just let him tell a narrative and don't question him b'c every D has the right to testify on his behalf, but atty's cannot condone/assist in fraud upon the court (perjury).

    All this may vary slightly from jurisdicition to jurisdiction.
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  7.  
    Originally Posted by lordxixor101 View Post

    So, if OJ told his lawyers he did it, they can still defend him,

    see, that seems like its bullshit to me. if the dude tells you he is guilty, you should have to report him. i mean he fucking did it and admitted it! how more clear does it get? it is morally and ethically wrong to try to defend a person that you know is guilty. it should be legally wrong.

    i liken it to this: as a physician, patient confidentiality is maintained at nearly all costs. that is, unless the person is at risk of harming themselves or others. if a patient tells me they are going to kill themselves or someone else, or if I find out someone is abusing a child or the elderly, i am legally required to report this to the authorities, even at the expense of losing patient confidentiality.

     
    Originally Posted by lordxixor101 View Post

    Plus, I think most of us would want this. Say you are poor, so you don't have a choice of attornys. You are innocent, but the evidence points to you. Last thing you want is your lawyer to, because he figure you probably did it, to be half assed.

    this is different. in your hypothetical situation, the poor person with the shitty lawyer didn't tell the lawyer that he was guilty.
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  8.  
    Originally Posted by MUPokerPlayer View Post

    i liken it to this: as a physician, patient confidentiality is maintained at nearly all costs. that is, unless the person is at risk of harming themselves or others. if a patient tells me they are going to kill themselves or someone else, or if I find out someone is abusing a child or the elderly, i am legally required to report this to the authorities, even at the expense of losing patient confidentiality.

    most states follow this and the model rules contain a provision such as this. It is may report in some jurisdictions/ must report in others.

    But herein lies the rub.... you only may/must report future harm, not past harm. therefore, A/C confidentiality protects an addmission of past guilt, but you may/must report future harm. No duty on past admissions of harm.

    But here's a good hypothetical. If you have a former client that you know murderred A, but person B is serving a life sentence for that crime, in a must report jurisdiction are you required to disclose that your former client murderred A (they are not in danger of imminent harm)? What if the person is on death row? What if he is 10 days from execution?
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  9. ^^ this, except for the nitpicky edit lol
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  10. A person accused of a crime has the right to a vigorous and thorough defense because the state has enormous power of charging and imprisonment that you wouldn't want to be abused. The state has to "prove" its case. That's why a defendant is presumed innocent before the court because the state has to make the case.

    Some legal systems place the burden of proof on the defendant.

    Now, on the presumption of innocence (at the risk of being pedantic - because this really tilts me sometimes). All it means is that the state must prove guilt. It doesn't mean someone is innocent - they may be guilty as hell. The truth is always the truth whether someone knows it or not. You never have to believe someone is innocent until proven guilty - you can believe whatever you want - the court is the only one required to have a presumption of innocence.

    A finding of not guilty doesn't necessarily equate to innocence.

    Don't get me started on reasonable doubt either - it seems like it's become closer to "beyond a shadow of a doubt."
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  11. In a sense, the whole premise of the OP is flawed. As the jury instructions always say in any jurisdiction, the defendant is presumed innocent and the attorney can literally sit there drawing cartoons throughout the trial...and if the state does not prove the case beyond every single reasonable doubt, the verdict must be not guilty. So the attorney is not so much obligated to "defend" the client as much as the state is obligated to prove its accusations.

    Even some of the hypos in the OP are kinda flawed, in that an admission by a defendant should not remotely constitute definitive proof of a person's guilt. Contrary to popular belief, people confess to things that they did not do. Plenty of clients are mentally ill, some want notoriety (pretty sure some nut confessed to the JonBenet murder and had nothing to do with it). Regardless of how often or rare it happens, the point is that the premise of the system is that when the government accuses people, the government must prove it to a judge or jury.

    It is not the defense lawyer's job to play jury and make these factual determinations. Unless the attorney witnessed the crime, it is really close to impossible to know someone did it.

    Also, it should be noted that maybe 1 or 2% of serious criminal cases go to trial, and in the overwhelming majority of cases, the lawyer is simply attempting to get his client treated fairly (i.e. punishment consistent with what other offenders receive)...it is very rare that the attorney is "trying to get a guilty person off the hook."

    As others have said, the simple answer to "can an attorney knowingly lie or knowingly allow a client to lie on the stand?" is obviously "no." I have had some clients where it seemed like there was a ton of evidence showing guilt, and in those cases, you try as hard as you can to convince them to take some plea agreement (and ALOT of great lawyering falls into that category). If they refuse, you go to trial and do what you can to show the flaws in the state's case.

    EDIT: and as far as the initial statement about everyone and their mother pleading not guilty to murder charges, they are pretty much forced to, because pleading guilty would almost always mean life in prison, or death. Usually people are reluctant to willingly embrace or accept such punishments, even if they have committed a horrible act.
     
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  12.  
    Originally Posted by inissint View Post

    Also, it should be noted that maybe 1 or 2% of serious criminal cases go to trial, and in the overwhelming majority of cases, the lawyer is simply attempting to get his client treated fairly (i.e. punishment consistent with what other offenders receive)...it is very rare that the attorney is "trying to get a guilty person off the hook."

    This all makes perfect sense, inissint. Your whole post does. Thank you for your input. However, is it really "very rare" that the attorney is "trying to get a guilty person off the hook"? Have you ever had a client confide in you that they are guilty, but they wanted you to try to "get them off the hook"?
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  13. I have always wondered this too and am very interested in whats in this thread. Being a defense lawyer now is one of the most gutless professions in the world to me. No amount of money could make me argue on behalf of a guilty murderer or something trying to get reduced sentence because he is emotionally unstable or was coerced into doing it or something.

    That's sick.
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  14. thanks MUPP...i have definitely had clients who confessed to stuff (and said "just do the best you can to help me" meaning get me the best deal you can)...and i have also had clients who simply said "you gotta help me beat this shit, man" (without saying they did or did not do it)...but amusingly (and i guess to some extent understandably), i have rarely had clients who said BOTH of those things

    mainly cuz i think it is just human nature that most people think that if they tell an attorney "i did it" and also want to go to trial and fight it, the attorney will not try as hard as they would if you say you are innocent

    so i cannot recall anyone ever having said "i did it" and also say "but i want a fng trial and you need to get me off"...it is usually one or the other

    does that make sense?

    EDIT: sry, forget to address the first ques

    I guess how often (or whether) we are trying to "get them off the hook" is kinda a matter of perception...i mean i think any good defense attorney HATES to go to trial (as ironic as that sounds) because you never want any client's fate in the hands of 6 or 12 complete buffoons (sry, but that is usually who constitute the jury)...so then most good lawyering comes down to communicating well with the prosecutor and making a good argument for a good plea agreement and persuading clients that it is in fact a good deal.

    Even if all of that breaks down, and you have to go to trial, then there is the additional issue of whether you think the client committed the type of crime the state is charging.
    In other words, I have had clients found with cocaine in their possession...and they also had $2000 in their pocket. And the state charges them with possession WITH INTENT TO DELIVER (based on having alot of cash). Possession has a 5 year prison max...intent to deliver has 15. So I may go to trial not to get my guy "off the hook" but simply to be punished for what he ACTUALLY did, rather than the overcharging of the state.
     
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  15.  
    Originally Posted by MUPokerPlayer View Post

    see, that seems like its bullshit to me.* if the dude tells you he is guilty, you should have to report him.*** i mean he fucking did it and admitted it!* how more clear does it get?* it is morally and ethically wrong to try to defend a person that you know is guilty.* it should be legally wrong.

    There is no such thing as &quot;knowing he is guilty&quot;. I don't care if you have autographed pictures of the defendant doing it. There is only convicted, and not convicted. In order for a person to be justly convicted, he must have had a defense. This is as it should be, if we are to be a country of laws and not <strike>men</strike> lynch mobs.
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  16. makes perfect sense, innisint. but what if someone told you &quot;i did it&quot; but also said &quot;but I want a fng trial and you need to get me off&quot;? is it just up to you if you want to be unethical and defend that person even though they admitted guilt to you?

    still seems weird to me. again, i liken this to my example of a patient telling me they are going to commit suicide or homicide, or that they have been abusing their children. it my situation, i am legally required to report it. i don't get why you don't have to legally report it.
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  17.  
    Originally Posted by emcee21 View Post

     
    Originally Posted by MUPokerPlayer View Post

    see, that seems like its bullshit to me. if the dude tells you he is guilty, you should have to report him. i mean he fucking did it and admitted it! how more clear does it get? it is morally and ethically wrong to try to defend a person that you know is guilty. it should be legally wrong.

    There is no such thing as &quot;knowing he is guilty&quot;. I don't care if you have autographed pictures of the defendant doing it. There is only convicted, and not convicted. In order for a person to be justly convicted, he must have had a defense. This is as it should be, if we are to be a country of laws and not men.

    this makes 0 common sense
     
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  18. My mom is a defense attorney who has had to deal with several capital murder cases. In instances where they are guilty or she knows the case against them is too strong, she begins working a plea bargain, either to reduce sentence or get them away from possibility of the death penalty.

    Of course, the jailhouse lawyers will try to screw her and get her client to request what I believe is a Rule 32 hearing (ineffective counsel) and get a new trial...

    I know of at least 2 cases from when I was a teenager that this happened to her.

    If the defendant does not want to bargain, then they put up the best case possible and have to use legal loopholes to get either a dismissal, an acquittal, or less prison time. It is their job to do this, even if it is against the opinion of the lawyer.
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  19.  
    Originally Posted by Aaron_Hacker View Post

    this makes 0 common sense

    Understanding of the law is not very common.
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  20.  
    Originally Posted by emcee21 View Post

     
    Originally Posted by Aaron_Hacker View Post

    this makes 0 common sense

    Understanding of the law is not very common.

    neither is sense for that matter =)
     
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  21.  
    Originally Posted by MUPokerPlayer View Post

    makes perfect sense, innisint. but what if someone told you &quot;i did it&quot; but also said &quot;but I want a fng trial and you need to get me off&quot;? is it just up to you if you want to be unethical and defend that person even though they admitted guilt to you?

    still seems weird to me. again, i liken this to my example of a patient telling me they are going to commit suicide or homicide, or that they have been abusing their children. it my situation, i am legally required to report it.

    ok IF that happened (and again, i think it is more a great Bar question since it is a cool issue to discuss but would almost never happen), i think you can do a couple things

    first of all, i think you could go to the judge and ask to withdraw from the case WITHOUT telling the judge about the confession (and i am sure some people would do that, depending on the nature of the charges)...you would simply withdraw based on something like irreconcilable differences with the client

    or you could go to trial, and as we talked about, you could simply put the state's feet to the fire by poking any holes in their case...cuz remember, the system is premised on the state having to prove their case, and the famous cliche our system was founded upon is &quot;better that 100 guilty men go free than an innocent man be punished&quot;...i am not saying whether i agree with the premise or not, just that is how our system is run...and as Underdog kinda said &quot;our legal system completely sucks...i just don't know of a better one&quot;

    of course you could not lie during the trial, but there are tons of ways to poke holes in the state's case without being unethical or lying...like um...let's say the state put on a supposed eyewitness, who testifed to seeing the defendant commit the crime...and you know that the witness has despised your client for 20 years and wanted to screw him over...obviously you could hammer away at that on cross examination, which would clearly hurt the state's chances but not be remotely unethical by you
     
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  22. Lawyers probably do that thing where they say, &quot;I didn't just hear that&quot; when clients divulge certain infromation. For example:

    Client: You know I did it, right? I fucking killed that bitch.

    Lawyer: (glaring at client) I didn't hear that.
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  23.  
    Originally Posted by inissint View Post

    obviously you could hammer away at that on cross examination, which would clearly hurt the state's chances but not be remotely unethical by you

    You don't think its unethical to try to get a person off the hook when you know they did it, even if it is through loopholes or whatnot? odd ethical standards imo.

    I could see if you replaced the word &quot;unethical&quot; with &quot;illegal&quot;, then your statement would make sense.
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  24. in my line of work I have become friends with several prosecutors and defense attorneys. There are officers everywhere (and defense attorneys) that believe they should have an adversarial relationship but I believe that is just plain stupid. Anyway, I have talked to several of the defense attorney and they find that their clients just want them to do something for them. If they are truly innocent obv they want the whole nine yards. If they did the crime they want to see the attorney fight somewhat and get them the best deal they can.

    I have worked with defense attorneys on deals that are so standard but they present it to the client like they got them a gem. A lot of it is perception. Believe me, and innisint may back me up here, scumbags are scumbags to everyone.
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  25. *plugs ears* &quot;la la la la la la&quot;
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  26. There are def those types of lawyers, as there are in any profession. I am sure there are lawyers like the one Tony Soprano used all the time. Money will corrupt people in all lines of work.
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  27.  
    Originally Posted by MUPokerPlayer View Post

     
    Originally Posted by inissint View Post

    obviously you could hammer away at that on cross examination, which would clearly hurt the state's chances but not be remotely unethical by you

    You don't think its unethical to try to get a person off the hook when you know they did it, even if it is through loopholes or whatnot? odd ethical standards imo.

    I could see if you replaced the word &quot;unethical&quot; with &quot;illegal&quot;, then your statement would make sense.

    But again MUPP, i dont KNOW that they did it...your hypo was that they SAID they did it, but tons of clients are mentally ill and fd up in many ways...i am not the jury...to me, ethics means following the rules set up in the context with which you work...i did not set the rules...i am following them by making the state prove their case

    and if the state put someone on the stand who has a motive to lie, the only UNETHICAL response would be to NOT question them about this motive to lie
     
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  28. ugh. your responses keep reminding me of Bill Clinton: &quot;It depends on what the meaning of the words 'is' is&quot;.

    in my hypo the person isn't lying. they are confiding in you, telling you they did it. they are not mentally ill. they really truly committed the murder. hell, they even tell you they have a video of them committing the murder. they are confiding in you, saying that they did it, and they want you to help them try to get off.

    you don't think its unethical for you to try to get a jury to acquit this person?
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  29.  
    Originally Posted by ess286 View Post

    in my line of work I have become friends with several prosecutors and defense attorneys. There are officers everywhere (and defense attorneys) that believe they should have an adversarial relationship but I believe that is just plain stupid. Anyway, I have talked to several of the defense attorney and they find that their clients just want them to do something for them. If they are truly innocent obv they want the whole nine yards. If they did the crime they want to see the attorney fight somewhat and get them the best deal they can.

    I have worked with defense attorneys on deals that are so standard but they present it to the client like they got them a gem. A lot of it is perception. Believe me, and innisint may back me up here, scumbags are scumbags to everyone.

    well said...one of the amusing things i have found is that the real professional/ethical officers who have done this awhile understand the role/job of the defense attorney and treat them with respect and answer the difficult questions without an attitude...and i have often had very friendly relationships with them...it is the lying scummy (often young) officers who treat attorneys with disdain and hostility
     
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  30. Excellent explanation innisint.

    Too many people make assumptions about the system from looking at it closely only when it doesn't work. Overall, it works pretty well, maximizing the number of people who get what they deserve and minimizing convictions of people who are not guilty.

    As Underdog, said it may not be perfect but until someone comes up with a better one it is the best we've got.

    It is the openess and adversarial nature of the system that keeps everyone somewhat honest and requires that the best efforts of both sides be put forth.

    There is nothing dishonest or unethical about making the government prove its case against even a guilty person. Individual rights are for everyone, not just the innocent and the assertion of a guilty person's rights is necessary to ensuring that an innocent person maintains his rights as well.

    Your rights are not something that can be discarded because of some preconceived idea of guilt by the accused person's attorney, the government or the public.

    People always like to cite the OJ case for what is wrong with system and that's fine as long as you understand that the OJ case was not the norm. I like to cite the John and Patsy Ramsey (Jon Benet's parents) as a textbook example of how the system can work for innocent people in the face of a tremendous government effort against an individual and the public pressure of preconceived guilt.
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