Tag Archives: duty of candor to the court

The Damage Incompetent Pundits Do: Criminal Defense Misconceptions

See? I WARNED you not to listen to Mercedes Colwin!

A couple of months back, I flagged some outrageously mistaken commentary on Sean Hannity’s radio talk show given out by Mercedes Colwin, who is a lawyer but prone to howlers whenever she shows up on Hannity or Fox News, which I suspect favors her for qualities that have nothing to do with her law practice. On the occasion that roused my ire, Colwin suggested that she could not defend a criminal client who told her he was guilty, because she was “an officer of the court.”

This is pundit malpractice grafted to legal incompetence: a defense attorney MUST maintain a client’s legal innocence whether the attorney knows the client is guilty or not, and being an officer of the court has nothing to do with it.

Colwin, who was discussing the Casey Anthony trial, represented herself as an expert and then reinforced the most persistent and most damaging popular misconception about the legal system, which is that there is something unethical about defending guilty criminal clients. The system has to be held to a high standard of due process, and even an “obviously” guilty defendant must be proven guilty with admissible evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. Defense attorneys are there to make sure the state meets its burden of proof by making the strongest argument for their clients’ innocence as possible, whether the defendant has confessed his or her guilt or not. For one thing, a defendant often doesn’t know if he is legally guilty, even if he “did it.” For another, even if he did it, the state still has to prove it.The defense’s job in to make sure it does, Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunce: Mercedes Colwin

It's a mystery: why would Fox News choose her as a legal analyst?

Attorney Mercedes Colwin, an attorney and Fox News commentator, just committed pundit malpractice while discussing the Casey Anthony verdict on Sean Hannity’s radio show. Her professional biography says that she has practiced criminal defense law. If so, she has done so laboring under some serious legal ethics misconceptions.

Said Colwin, in response to Hannity’s query about her past representation of guilty defendants:

“If my client says he did it, then I can’t defend him. I can’t then go into court and say he’s innocent; I’m an officer of the court, Sean!”

What??? Wrong, wrong, outrageously wrong, inexcusably wrong! And also: ARRRRRGHHHHH! Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Professions, U.S. Society