The answer is not difficult, but to understand it, you must first understand how criminal defense attorneys actually handle cases. Obviously, the following is not true or reflective of all attorneys, but many will fall into one of three categories:
The Standard Defense
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- The attorney is retained and, shortly thereafter, they file a Motion for Discovery, requesting that the State provide all material the defense is entitled to.
- The attorney may have an associate, or a private investigator they have worked with, interview potential witnesses, take statements or complete other tasks in order to prepare the case for trial.
- The attorney obtains the discovery from the State. Some read it, some don’t. Some have their paralegal or associate go over it. Many do not read it when it is received, but they will just prior to trial when they are preparing their client’s defense.
- Then begins the waiting game. Many defense attorneys believe that the longer the trial is delayed, the better off the defense will be. Some evidence can change, some can be destroyed or disappear and the memory of some witnesses can fade, even to the point where they may no longer have credibility. In most cases, waiting can be an excellent strategy, so that is usually a normal practice.
- Just prior to the trial, the attorney will review all material and prepare their case. Now, in reality, that makes sense. Say an attorney has all the defense material, but the trial won’t even be scheduled for months. It can be a complete waste of time to break everything down so far in advance of trial, especially when some circumstances could actually change so again, this is more or less a standard practice.
- Now, during the time between the client’s arrest and their trial, usually most defense attorneys do very little. In reality, there is very little for them to do. They follow a set of guidelines, if you will. They file their discovery motion, they have someone interview witnesses, they investigate the case, they wait for trial and then they prepare. Some very good criminal defense attorneys defend clients in exactly this manner and, in most criminal cases, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach at all. It works.
The High Profile Cases
- Obviously, most cases do not fall into the category of an O.J. Simpson or a Scott Peterson, but when they do, you can expect the attorney to use investigators and associates to gather evidence and then go through everything with a fine-tooth comb.
- You can expect numerous depositions, hearings and a great deal of use of experts.
- You can expect almost a non-stop flow of motions to be filed.
- In short, in high profile cases, the attorney is usually being paid very well. In addition, they are aware that every eye is on them so you can expect a great deal of activity on a daily basis.
The No Defense
- The shame is, in these cases, often attorneys sell a client by giving them a virtual laundry list of things that must be done, things they plan to do but, for whatever reason, nothing really ever gets done.
- It is not surprising that when this is seen, the main thrust of the defense is how to get the client the best possible plea.
Many attorneys will fall into the first category, “The Standard Defense,” and many of these are excellent criminal lawyers. They have found a system that works well for them, they follow it and, more often than not, it works, at least in most cases.
One of the biggest problems is that many clients are not realistic about the time that their attorney can actually apply to their case. Most cases are not high profile cases and most clients do not pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees. In an average case, the attorney will apply their client’s fees and/or retainer to where it can do the most good, but that will normally not include spending days reading boxes of material that was supplied to them by their clients. Simply put, they do not have time. It is not that their clients and their client’s cases are not important to them. They are, but again, they are managing a number of cases and usually one is no less or more important than another.
Now, the problem with the above is that, while it may work very well in most criminal cases, it usually does not in a child sexual abuse allegation case. One reason is that emotions are far different, especially with prosecutors, law enforcement and social services. Another reason is, the longer the delay the more time that someone will have available to them to work with, coach or influence the child into either making their initial allegation stronger, giving it credibility or, on some occasions, even adding to their prior allegations.
Many criminal attorneys do not have real experience in defending serious criminal offenses. They may tell a client they have, but in most cases, that is simply not the truth. When a criminal attorney, even an excellent one, attempts to handle a serious felony crimes in the same manner they handle their other smaller criminal cases, it can quickly become a disaster for their client.