I often find myself wondering how seemingly normal people ever wind up being criminal defense attorneys. When even Harvard law professor and one-time member of O.J. Simpson’s so-called dream team Alan Dershowitz claims that over 90% of all criminal defendants are guilty, why would any sane person want to devote his life to trying to spring hundreds, maybe even thousands, of felons?
I realize that our legal system insists that every murderer, rapist, pedophile and kidnapper, is entitled to the very best defense his lawyer can provide, but what sort of human being wakes up in the morning and, even before brushing his fangs, is busy thinking up ways to aid and abet those monsters? And just how is he morally superior to the goon who drives the getaway car?
Some years ago, I recall that a lawyer pleaded the case of a murderer who was on Death Row, awaiting execution. His argument was that because his client had gained so much weight while in prison, it would be cruel and unusual punishment to hang him because the rope might break. Death by hanging, by the way, had been his client’s own choice.
Now, really, how does anyone with even a modicum of self-respect and a sense of humor, make that argument to an appeals court without bursting out laughing? Frankly, if I had been on the bench that day, I would have assured the mouthpiece not to worry about the rope because even if it broke, the fall would no doubt kill his gargantuan client.
But these legal beagles clearly make up in gall for what they obviously lack in other areas. Just the other day, I read about a case that lawyer Cara DeVito was arguing before the California Supreme Court. Her client, Dennis Louis Nelson, was convicted and is now serving a life term for the 1976 rape and murder of a young woman named Ollie George back in 1976.
Mr. Nelson was only charged and the cold case solved after DNA from the crime scene was run through the state’s DNA offender database. It was Ms. DeVito’s contention that the long delay in prosecuting the case had made it impossible to put together an adequate defense because witnesses had died, evidence may have been lost and memories may have faded.
It’s true that I never went to law school, but it appears that, essentially, her argument is that because Mr. Nelson eluded the authorities for all these years, it isn’t cricket to use modern technology to nail him at this late date, when he had every reason to think he’d gotten away with it.
If I were hearing the case, I’d point out to Ms. DeVito that if Nelson had turned himself in back in 1976, a life sentence being what it is, her client probably would have been let out of prison 25 years ago.
What truly astounds me, though, is that I’m quite willing to wager that if Ms. DeVito had decided to become a streetwalker, her family would have disowned her, but because she got a law degree, she’s the apple of their eye.