In late 2012, a new documentary about the infamous West Memphis Three case hit theaters. The last in a series of documentaries, 18 in total, West Of Memphis is an engrossing detective story by filmmaker Amy Berg. The film showcases a story of corruption, coercion and redemption. The case of the West Memphis Three is arguably one of the most famous examples of wrongful conviction in recent history.
If you have watched any of the documentaries or read any of the various books on the subject, you know that this is a clear case of judicial misconduct. It is cases like these that give the criminal justice system a bad name.
It is cases like these that inspire criminal defense attorneys to protect the rights and liberties of all no matter their presumed guilt. These purveyors of justice believe in the old sentiment by Sir William Blackstone “it is better to let ten guilty men escape than one innocent suffer”.
The top priority of any criminal defense attorney is to protect the rights of the accused as stated in The Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution. As American citizens we have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. We have the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures. These rights also include among others, the right to a trial by a jury of their peers, the right to a speedy trial, and the right to effective legal counsel. These rights were put into law to protect both the innocent and the guilty of government overreach.
Another priority of criminal defense is the protection of the innocent. Like the case of the West Memphis Three, it is all too often that an overzealous police force or prosecution will take matters into their own hands, persecuting the innocent. In these cases the prosecution may use tactics of coercion or fear to convict people of crimes they did not commit. Unfortunately there have been many instances where the prosecutorial misconduct has sent innocent people to prison. While rare, these cases are what criminal defense experts fear the most.
One of the most common questions asked of a defense lawyer is “how can you defend the guilty?” Their response is that everyone, no matter who they are or what they have done deserve a proper defense.