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All writing is a form of prayer - John Keats

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Do we like the prosecutor or the defense attorney? Depends on the case!

 “...as an attorney I’m neither a judge nor a member of the jury. My job is not to decide or even to be seriously concerned with whether the defendant is guilty. My job is only to advocate on behalf of my client and insist that she is afforded all of the rights she is entitled to under the law.  Sam Johnstone, fictional attorney in James Chandler’s legal thriller, Misjudged. 

Ever since I met Maurice Carter in the mid-1990s, I’ve been a strong supporter of criminal defense attorneys and public defenders. 

I’m thinking about this today, as the developing story of a Grand Rapids police officer charged with second-degree murder continues to make the headlines. In that case, Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker rightfully deserves credit for making that controversial decision. We share the opinion that prosecutors tend to go easy on cops. 

But there’s another strong player in this story, and he’s getting much fewer accolades. It’s the defense attorney for officer Christopher Schuur. His name is Mark Dodge. Mark Dodge is doing exactly what the attorney in the novel suggested. He’s making darn sure that his client gets proper treatment under the constitution. The defendant has rights. 

Now it’s Prosecutor Becker’s turn to prove that the charge was accurate and deserved. It’s up to him to convince a jury of the police officer’s peers that he was guilty of second-degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Here’s the deal. When you think the jury reached an incorrect verdict and freed someone you’re convinced is a criminal, do not blame the defense attorney! He/she was just providing services guaranteed in our democracy. Blame the prosecutor! Reasonable doubt was not proven. 

I’ve had good friends, fine upstanding citizens, who say they cannot imagine how defense attorneys sleep at night, knowing that they are defending some snake who committed a terrible crime. Ladies and gentlemen, these attorneys are the backbone of our justice system! 

What really should be keeping us awake is the threat of losing this democracy to forces who prefer alternative styles of government. 

Back to attorney Johnstone again: “What everybody knows is maybe there is evidence tending to indicate guilt, but a person is not guilty until he or she is adjudicated as such by a judge either following a plea of guilty or after a finding by a judge or jury. Until then, the person is not guilty.”



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