When a defense attorney gets their client off scot-free from a serious charge, is he or she committing an act of dirty hands or is it a cut and dry circumstance of evil going unpunished? Let’s look at the charges brought upon Casey Anthony who was acquitted of murder this past July.
For those of you who don’t know the background to the story, Casey Anthony was charged with the murder of her 2 year old daughter and in the months leading up to the verdict it appeared that she had indeed committed the crime that she was accused of. Despite the fact that the opinion of the media and the general public who followed the case were heavily in favor of a guilty verdict, her defense team led by attorney Jose Baez were able to convince the jury to acquit her of the murder charge (she was convicted of lesser charges but was let off with credit for time served).
Beyond the question of what could have possibly gone wrong for our legal system to fail and allow such a horrific act to go unpunished (assuming she did it), does this acquittal serve any greater purpose for society in general? Many defense attorneys justify their position by stating that everyone deserves fair representation, and that their position as devil’s advocate strengthens our legal system by putting pressure on the prosecution to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the act.
This brings us back to the question of what happens when the system fails: did Jose Baez dirty his hands by “winning” the case or was this nothing more than a tragic miscarriage of justice?