I tried a first degree murder case last week in Minneapolis. It is important to illustrate the relationship between lawyer and client. During the State’s case we completely decimated their witnesses. The supposed eye witnesses were revealed on cross examination to be liars of the first order. The ballistic witnesses were shown to be nothing but incompetents and the jury was sending signals to this experienced trial lawyer that we were winning. The client was facing life without parole if convicted of the major charge. At the conclusion of the State’s case the defendant was presented with an offer to plead guilty to an unintentional homicide and do eight years in prison.
He asked me what I thought and I told him I believed that we were going to win. He asked me if I could guarantee him that we would win. The answer, of course, was no. He thought about it and asked my advice again and I told him if it was my choice I would go on with the trial. He decided to take the offer.
Whether to plead guilty or not is the client’s choice. The lawyer can advise but the decision is the client’s after consultation and if I was wrong I go home and he goes to prison forever. The jury was interviewed afterwards and would have acquitted him but that is after acquired knowledge and I cannot fault my client’s decision. If I was wrong I would not have done the time for him. It is a personal decision he made and who knows if the decision would have really been as I now believe when the rubber hit the road for the jury.
Criminal trials are passion plays for lawyer and client. The relationship is personal and close and it must be a good solid relationship. It is between me and my clients.