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  #1  
Old 05-12-2006, 08:55 PM
athelas athelas is offline
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Do you tell your lawyer the whole truth?

Suppose I commit murder and am arrested. Is it to my advantage to admit my guilt to my lawyer, so that he can better prepare for whatever evidence the prosecution can come up with, or am I better off not doing so, for fear of limiting the extents of his defense efforts?
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  #2  
Old 05-12-2006, 08:59 PM
silenus silenus is online now
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Never lie to your doctor or your lawyer. Try not to lie to your priest or wife. Lie like hell to the boss.
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  #3  
Old 05-12-2006, 09:38 PM
roger thornhill roger thornhill is offline
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Not many of us do murder. Golden rule with lawyers is to remember that they got to go with whatever you tell them. So, if you don't want them to be in possession of a piece of information which, were they to be in possession of it, would affect their ability to give you what you consider to be important assistance, then keep your mouth shut.

The decent and honest lawyers are not for that reason, i.e. by dint of being decent and honest (mostly - like all of us), dumb and ingenuous. All law, all judicial undertaking more broadly, is about CONSTRUCTION. There's much in the legal-semiotic, legal-linguistic literature about this. Hell - I've even had a paper published in 'Forensic Linguistics' on a civil case and witnesses/lawyers "massaging the evidence" (a phrase coined by a judge, incidentally). (Most stuff is to do with criminal law - more sexy, I s'pose.)

All sides - plaintiff, defendant, attorneys, witnesses, judge, jury, even the clerks - are part of an elaborate (semi-)ritualised "game" (cf. game theory for what I'm trying to get at by "game". Litigation is most certainly not a joke.)

When lawyers say "All's fair in litigation and war", they mean you got to play the game in order to win. And in order to play the game you gotta understand the rules - and not just (and not most importantly) the written procedures, BUT the unspoken rules of the game, like, for example, numero uno, "Don't piss of the judge!"
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Old 05-12-2006, 10:25 PM
pravnik pravnik is offline
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If you tell me "yeah, I murdered him, but can you get me off?", I can't allow you to get on the stand and commit what I know for a fact to be perjury. If you insist on testifying, I have to ask the court to allow me to withdraw, or barring that, to do something like allow you to testify in the narrative to avoid my participating in a fraud on the court. I would fully encourage you to be forthright and tell me only the truth; don't lie to me. The flipside of that is that you might also want to think very, very hard about what you tell me and what you leave to my imagination.
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  #5  
Old 05-13-2006, 02:08 AM
Jodi Jodi is offline
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url="http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=208054"]Here's a thread from -- gosh, almost three years ago -- where we discussed this.

Can't believe I remembered that old thread . . . and it was no small project to find it either.
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  #6  
Old 05-13-2006, 02:09 AM
Jodi Jodi is offline
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Dang. Let's try this again.

Here's a thread from -- gosh, almost three years ago -- where we discussed this.

Can't believe I remembered that old thread . . . and it was no small project to find it either.
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  #7  
Old 05-13-2006, 06:38 AM
blueserge blueserge is offline
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Some defense attorneys will tell you that they don't want to know whether their client is guilty, for fear of suborning perjury, as was said on the old thread.

This is a lawyer thing.

I know I'd have a hard time mounting a serious defense when I knew whodunit, and that he was paying my salary. On the other hand, how do you mount a serious defense when you don't know that your client is innocent?
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  #8  
Old 05-13-2006, 11:24 AM
Walloon Walloon is offline
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If you ask criminal defense lawyers, most will freely admit that something like ninety percent of their clients are guilty as charged.
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  #9  
Old 05-13-2006, 04:55 PM
MLS MLS is offline
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Going by what a friend of mine who is a criminal defense lawyer tells me:

1. You should never lie to your lawyer.

2. You should answer all the questions your lawyer asks you.

3. You should probably not volunteer information your lawyer does not ask you for.

My friend says that he feels no guilt about defending people who very likely did perform the actions they are accused of. First of all, he is trying to help see to it that the system is working as close to the way it should as possible. For example, if illegally acquired evidence is allowed to be used against John Doe, who probably did do what they say, the powers that be will become accustomed to flauting the rules, and this will eventually be to the detriment of people who never did anything wrong.

Second, suppose John actually did sell somebody weed. If he is not convicted, one of two things will happen: A) He will see the error of his ways and stop selling weed. B) He will continue in his wicked ways. If (B), then eventually, if law enforcement is doing its job, he will be caught again. This time perhaps the establishment will do things by the book and John will be convicted. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Another lawyer I know (not a criminal attorney) said he doesn't give a rat's behind whether his client is guilty as charged or not. His job is to see to it that, if possible, his client is found not guilty or, if found guilty, to have the lightest possible sentence. In reality, most of the time he is able to use his skills to keep the case from ever going to trial.
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  #10  
Old 05-13-2006, 07:21 PM
Cunctator Cunctator is offline
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If you tell your lawyer that you are guilty it certainly affects the way in which he can mount any defence arguments.
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  #11  
Old 05-13-2006, 07:29 PM
David Simmons David Simmons is offline
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I think one important thing is to make sure that you don't conceal things from the attorney. A thorough investigation by the police is quite likely to find out the vital things and if your lawyer doesn't know them in advance he can't prepare for them and is likely to be surprised. That's not a good thing to have happen during a trial.
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  #12  
Old 05-13-2006, 07:42 PM
MonkeyMensch MonkeyMensch is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Simmons
I think one important thing is to make sure that you don't conceal things from the attorney. A thorough investigation by the police is quite likely to find out the vital things and if your lawyer doesn't know them in advance he can't prepare for them and is likely to be surprised. That's not a good thing to have happen during a trial.
My legal training comes from watching My Cousin Vinny. Isn't disclosure in place to prevent that very sort of surprise?
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  #13  
Old 05-13-2006, 09:13 PM
David Simmons David Simmons is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MonkeyMensch
My legal training comes from watching My Cousin Vinny. Isn't disclosure in place to prevent that very sort of surprise?
I don't know. However, that is placing your trust as to how much your attorney knows in the hands of the opposition.

And is the disclosure in civil cases the same as in criminal cases?
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  #14  
Old 05-14-2006, 10:29 AM
Lemur866 Lemur866 is offline
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Thing is, your attorney isn't going to bluntly ask you, "Did you do it?"

There's no particular reason for them to do that. As an officer of the court, your defense attorney has an obligation not to allow testimony that he knows is perjury.

And anyway, to a lawyer, "guilt" and "innocence" mean different things. Your lawyer is perfectly capable of arguing that you are innocent, even if the facts alleged by the prosecution are pretty much accurate. So, don't lie to your attorney about the facts. But they aren't going to pressure you to admit that you stabbed grandma, unless they want to argue a self defense or insanity angle.
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  #15  
Old 05-14-2006, 10:52 AM
LiveOnAPlane LiveOnAPlane is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lemur866
... Your lawyer is perfectly capable of arguing that you are innocent...
I agree with everything but this.

Not an attorney, but from some law classes taken, I do not think your lawyer can possibly argue that you are something that the law specifically (cloak of innocence) says you have going in.

This is why, when juries elect to not convict, the verdict is not guilty, instead of innocent. Innocent is a given in the US, juries are not there to affirm, and trials are not there to affirm, what you already have at the very start.
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  #16  
Old 05-14-2006, 11:52 AM
Walloon Walloon is offline
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Rather than "innocent until proven guilty", it is more accurate to say that the judicial system assumes you are "not guilty until proven guilty". No one assumes that 100% of those found "not guilty" are "innocent" of the crime.
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  #17  
Old 05-14-2006, 07:38 PM
vpriest vpriest is offline
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From a psychiatrist's point of view.

Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus
Never lie to your doctor or your lawyer. Try not to lie to your priest or wife. Lie like hell to the boss.
My patients lie to me all the time. As a doctor, I think they do the same thing if/when they see me as an M.D.. I've had a few occasions to deal with a lawyer and I mince my words very carefully.

I guess you'd say, I would lie if I had to.

It all depends on what you're lying about.

Everyone lies.

Anyone who says they don't, is lying.
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  #18  
Old 05-14-2006, 07:45 PM
silenus silenus is online now
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Liar.
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  #19  
Old 05-15-2006, 02:11 AM
Jodi Jodi is offline
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WALLOON --

Quote:
Rather than "innocent until proven guilty", it is more accurate to say that the judicial system assumes you are "not guilty until proven guilty". No one assumes that 100% of those found "not guilty" are "innocent" of the crime.
I would not quarrel with this if you had said "society assumes" instead of "the justice system assumes." But as written, IMO this is not strictly correct. In the American justice system, not guilty = innocent, by definition and by presumption. Perhaps the distinction you are drawing is between a person who is proven guilty and a person who is not proven guilty? This is a distinction other judicial systems observe -- the Scots system for one, IIRC -- where a defendant may be found "innocent," "guilty," or "not proven," the last meaning "we're not sure if she did it or not, but the prosecutor did not prove the case."

But in the United States, the justice system presumes a person is innocent -- that is, not to have done the crime -- unless or until he or she is proven guilty. If he or she is not proven guilty, he or she is presumptively innocent -- not merely "not proven guility," but actually innocent. This is the presumption that holds prior to verdict, and after verdict as well if the verdict is "not guilty."

How that works or the ground is perhaps best proven by someone like O.J. Simpson, and the thousands of people who think he's guilty as sin. But while "not guilty" = only "not proven" may be an assumption that society makes, it is not one our justice system makes. In the eyes of the American law, if you are not guilty, you are innocent.
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  #20  
Old 05-15-2006, 02:53 AM
Walloon Walloon is offline
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Then why isn't the term "innocent" used when jury verdicts are rendered?
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