The Officially Jaded View of Criminal Defense

At lunch today, I was thinking about my previous post regarding the Charleston cops spotlighting deer, and it hit me. It all boils down to this:

Case in point: Cops have a suspect. Cops go to suspect’s house. Cops do not have a warrant. Cops illegally enter house. Cops look for evidence. Cops interrogate and get statement from suspect. Cops find what they are looking for. Suspect gets attorney. Attorney files a motion to suppress evidence found based on cops’ illegal behavior (warrantless entry of house). Cops lie and say on stand they were given “consent” to enter. Defendant/suspect says he/she absolutely 100% did not give consent to enter house. Defendant’s parents confirm his/her story. Defendant’s parent’s friend confirms the story. Cops cannot provide signed written consent form (yes, they exist). Judge denies motion to suppress, stating that defendant and witnesses have motive to lie, but that the cops have no reason to lie. Defendant takes plea agreement. Defendant goes to jail or on probation. The end. It happens day after day after day. And in the end, what judge cares if they know the person is guilty? Likewise, what do the cops care? If they fail to find evidence, then the apologize and go on their way. If they do find evidence, they show up in court and say the magic words: “consent,” and boom, the judge denies the motion to suppress. And no one cares but the poor sap who was convicted and the defense attorney banging his head against the wall.

Sometimes practicing criminal defense can be an exercise in futility. People think they have all of these constitutional rights… but, when it comes down to it, you only stand a chance if you can stand in front of a jury and, despite everything found by the police and prosecutors, convince them it would be an injustice to convict your client. Your only hope otherwise is to argue a constitutional technicality on appeal, and who wants to do that when they have some control over their destiny through taking a plea deal – especially in West Virginia where you don’t even have a right to an appeal, and even if you get there, the justices are elected through partisan elections (i.e., good luck Mr. Charged-With-Sex-Crime).

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney.

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