In our previous post, we began speaking a bit about the Netflix series Making a Murderer. The wide popularity of the series is undoubtedly due not only to the human interest factor in the story, but also to the fact that the story taps into the fears folks have about the criminal process and the criminal justice system.
The prospect of corruption among government officials, the abuse of power, the short-circuiting of justice in order to achieve a vendetta or personal goals—these are all themes that speak strongly to people’s fears of the criminal justice system, and which are present in the Netflix series. In ordinary criminal cases, of course, these issues are not usually present to the degree depicted in Making a Murderer, though there is still a great need for strong criminal defense in every criminal case.
Criminal defense work is a vital aspect of our criminal justice system, and serves to balance out the authority, resources, and other institutional advantages possessed by the government. A good criminal defense attorney seeks the best possible outcome for his or her client, regardless of the circumstances.
The task of a criminal defense attorney, in any case, is to zealously advocate for his or her client’s rights and interests, which includes ensuring the defendant understands the charges and likely outcomes of the case, negotiating with prosecutors for the best possible resolution of the case, holding prosecutors to their full burden of proof should the case go to trial, setting up a good court record on issues that may need to be appealed later on, working to ensure the jury understands the facts of the case and the law surrounding their verdict decision, and advocating for the defendant in the sentencing phase and beyond, if necessary.