Monday, March 19, 2007

An undisturbing verdict

According to Jessica McBride, Avery defense counsel Dean Strang expressed the view that his client might be innocent and that it is sad that "in human life we haven't mastered justice any more than we have."

You certainly have to cut some slack for a guy who just lost a case, but this is a curious remark. It does not advance Avery's legal interests (at least not in any legitimate way) for Strang to publicly suggest his innocence. Attorneys are generally prohibited from making extrajudicial comments on the guilt or innocence of a criminal defendant of those statements are substantially likely to materially prejudice an adjudicative proceeding, so he presumably does not believe that it will help Avery with motions after, on appeal or on remand should the verdict be set aside. That seems right.

This suggests, however, that Strang may actually believe that Avery was innocent and, necessarily, that the cops framed him. (I'm not sure there is any other innocence scenario). That is an extraordinary claim in any set of circumstances but particularly after a trial in which, at best, the defense introduced speculation as to how Avery might have been framed and then essentially argued that the state hadn't proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he wasn't.

Unlike some folks, I am not offended by the idea of such a defense (although it seems to be full of ethical landmines). Based on what we saw here, however, I think we can probably feel ok about justice.

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