In my career, I’ve worked both sides of the fence. I’ve been a prosecutor before, both in the military and in the civilian world. Many defense lawyers are former prosecutors, and I believe that makes us better at what we do. I know that’s true for me. There’s no substitute for being experienced at examining a case from both points of view, with insight into how the government is going to try to construct its case.
I say “its” case, because government is an “it.” Yes, of course it’s made up of individual human beings who may be good or bad people, but the government itself is a monolith. It is remorseless. It grinds. It does not have compassion, because it has no soul. And it frequently acts with an arrogance that is breathtaking in its scope and depth. Government is big – way too big. It does not easily accept criticism from outside itself, and seems entirely incapable of self-criticism. It’s difficult to find another organization that is so convinced – almost religiously convinced – that it is in the right, and everyone else is wrong. And, to be fair, many times it does have the facts more or less straight. But it almost always demands a price that is too high.
It is this attitude that we face every time we look at their charge sheet, stand up, and say, “No.”
No, we don’t accept your view of the facts here.
No, we will not agree to accept an unjust punishment just to save you time and effort.
No, we are not here to make this easy on the government or on a prosecutor.
No, nobody is guilty of a crime just because “law enforcement” says they are.
No. We plead “not guilty.”
By pleading not guilty, we refuse to run and hide. We stand, and we fight.
I’m lucky I never drank the government Kool-Aid, and never sold my own soul to the monolith. Because many, many people do. They don’t care what the facts are; if your name is at the top of a charge sheet, or if you’re the suspect in a “law enforcement” investigation, then you’re the bad guy. Because someone, somewhere, in law enforcement, thinks you’re a bad guy. And to the government, bad guys are to be crushed without pity. Your children, your spouse, your career, your freedom, the truth – none of that matters to them. They want their conviction, and they want their maximum punishment.
The government is worth fighting, folks. It is a foe worthy of our steel.
I’ll leave it to each of you to decide whether our government is more or less evil, more or less stupid, more or less incompetent. I certainly have my own opinion. What we all have to agree on, though, is that the government is powerful. But you know what? So is a bully. Brute force alone has never made ANY cause righteous. I’ve always believed that fact to be the moral bedrock beneath our Constitution – the simple idea that one man or woman can stand against the vast power of the government, and can prevail. Our nation’s founders understood that, and enshrined it in our Bill of Rights – specifically in the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments. And I think it’s fair to say that the story of the American criminal justice system since that time has been a gradual and insidious eating away at each one of those Amendments, and at the Bill of Rights as a whole.
All of us who served took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
What did we NOT swear to do? We took NO oath to support and defend the government, or politicians, or anything else. Just our Constitution. That’s a very big part of what makes us not just American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and guardsmen – but simply Americans.
And I believe when the government subverts our Constitution, or weakens it through political acts, or ignores it altogether, we ALL move further and further away from what it means to be American.
Believe me, that’s worth fighting.