When it is apparent that someone has committed a serious crime, there are many people who deride the defense lawyer(s), especially if the crime is controversial, heinous, and or highly publicized. Maybe you have been tempted to do that too, but you should know that there are solid reasons why every defendant deserves a good defense within the US justice system.
To Keep the System Balanced
The justice system has five components:
The Court, represented by the Judge
The Corrections System.
At trial, the prosecution should present evidence that the person committed a crime. The defense should show that either it was not possible or even probable that the person accused did it, or there were mitigating factors in the commission of it. As the trial goes on the judge is to make sure the process is fair and that laws and proper procedure are followed.
If any one of these components is weak, the scales of justice are going to be unbalanced.
To Ensure Every Person Has Civil Rights
The criminal defense attorney(s) in the case will examine how the evidence was collected by the police and how it is used by the prosecution. If it has been collected or used with disregard for law and civil rights, then the defense can object and bring it before the judge where it will be thrown out of court for good reason. This safeguard keeps the police and the prosecution honest.
To Ensure a Fair Trial Based On Principle
Two principles are very important to the justice system: 'the presumption of innocence until proven guilty' and that 'guilt needs to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.' It would seem that these principles mean virtually the same thing, but there is a fine distinction that makes both very important in a criminal case.
The presumption of innocence is based on the belief that most people have good intentions and will obey the law. It is an optimistic view of people that puts the burden of proof on the prosecution. The part about the proof needing to be 'beyond reasonable doubt' dictates the degree of proof needed to convict.
To Help an Innocent Person Retain their Freedom
A chain of evidence is like any other chain. If there is just one weak link, the whole chain is weak. It may look good and strong, but the logic is flawed because it is based on a false premise. It is up to the defense attorney to find the weak links and bring them to the attention of the judge and jury. After all, a person's freedom and reputation are at stake, and justice is not served when an innocent person is incarcerated while the guilty are free. A defense lawyer will also want to present evidence that disputes the prosecution's case and shows that the defendant could not have done the crime. An alternate explanation for the event could be offered so that the jury can understand that there is more than one way to look at the evidence.
To Make Sure the Guilty Receive Just Punishment
At times a client may freely admit he or she committed the act, but it was under duress, there were extenuating circumstances, or the mental state of the defendant was such that they were unable to restrain themselves. This is also an important distinction that needs to be recognized in a trial.
For example, a teenager who murdered a parent who was sexually abusing him or her is a different case than one where a teen killed their parents because they didn't like the parent's rules. Taking circumstances like these into consideration can ensure that the 'punishment fits the crime,' and defendants need their attorneys to point these things out in their defense, because this aspect is not the prosecution's job.
So, a good defense is an important part of any trial. It makes sure the prosecution follows the law, it forces the prosecution to prove their case and makes sure the logic of the case is sound, and it keeps innocent people from being convicted and punished. It ensures justice for persons who have committed crimes under extenuating circumstances. This is the great thing about the justice system. It is based on being a balanced pursuit of justice.