Hearing about the release of inmates previously found guilty of crimes they did not commit is very unsettling. This makes the public defender’s position even more important. We have come to respect and depend on our justice system, but to discover its imperfections creates a growing sense of doubt. It is important that our public defenders be given enough tools to do their very best job for each accused person. Beginning with their education and on the job training, they need to be able to present excellent defense for each and every one of their clients. Then groups like the Innocence Project in California would bring a needed opposing view that brings balance to the so-called justice system. Public defenders and all civic minded attorneys should be working in concert to insure the innocent go free and the guilty are the only ones occupying out prisons.
Defender or Prosecutor or Innocence Project Lawyer
A career pursuing the freeing of innocent convicts is a new option for those who wish to desire a career in criminal law. Potential lawyers will not be limited to the choices of being a public defender, a private defending lawyer or a prosecuting lawyer. Today, they can continue to seek out justice after the gavel has fallen and the sentence given by seeking true justice for those who have been wrongfully convicted.
The Facts Support the Finding of Innocence
The law clinic is called the California Innocence Project and is closely associated with the California Western School of Law. Its student volunteers are instrumental is gaining justice for previously convicted persons. Working in concert with experienced criminal lawyers, these students examine every detail of each case until they reveal some substantial piece of factual evidence. There are Innocence Projects around the country being spearheaded by many different law schools in all 50 states. A few of those schools are listed below
- The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in NY, NY
- University of Washington in Seattle WA
- University of Wisconsin in Madison, WI
- Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, MI
- Duke University in Durham, NC
- University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, VA
- California Western School of Law, CA
A Career as a Public Defender
The public defender is a licensed lawyer who may or may not have more experience than a private practice lawyer. The public defender is provided for the accused free of charge. Their fees are paid by the state. The benefits of having a public defender are their familiarity with the court system in which they are participating and great experiential opportunities the position affords. The negatives are the position is often underpaid and lawyers generally have a heavy work load. The excellent experience gained in this position will prepare a lawyer for work in the private sector where they are sure to command a much higher salary. It also encourages many attorneys to pursue an improved justice system and thus, the public defender may decide to become a staff lawyer for an Innocence Project.
Public Defender’s duties
The duties of the defense lawyer are to provide good representation. He or she must examine evidence, conduct investigations, interview witnesses and engage experts for collaboration of evidence and court room testimony. He or she must prepare for evidentiary hearings and file motions on the defendant’s behalf. They must insure the validity of all evidence, especially factual evidence such as fingerprints, DNA evidence and eye witness reports. By checking and double checking each piece of evidence presented, the public defender can give his client the very best representation. This thorough public defender is not likely to have represented a client who will later need the help of an Innocence Project. Unfortunately, most of the nation’s overturned convictions are for persons who were represented by underpaid and overworked public defenders.
The public defender that pursues justice will find his calling as a private attorney or maybe even an Innocence Project staff attorney. Whatever his long term career choices, a public defender plays an important role in the justice system. His responsibility is great; he’s responsible for a life. Because of the public defender’s education, experience and efforts the accused will be freed or incarcerated for years or for life.
Andrew Deen is a writer who creates informative articles in relation to the field of law. In this article he describes a career as a public defender and aims to encourage further support such as the work of the innocence project.
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