On March 19 2011, Thomas Pogge responded to a question posed on March 17 concerning (inter alia) the morality of an attorney's decision to represent a person accused of a serious crime in circumstances in which the attorney has "very strong reason to believe" that the client is guilty. The response suggests that "in view of the enormous damage done by repeat offenders who have been wrongly acquitted earlier ...... such a defense attorney should decline the case or resign from it".
With all due respect to the learned philosopher, this suggestion overlooks a fundamental precept of procedural justice in all criminal trials - "an accused person is presumed innocent until proven beyond any reasonable doubt to be guilty".
Only a serious misunderstanding of the role of a defense attorney can give rise to a suggestion that my attorney should resign from my case simply on the basis of her own (subjective?) belief that my acquittal in a previous trial was "wrong" and that she believes that the prosecutor's case is well-founded. Even jurors are routinely instructed not to allow their own beliefs to form the basis for deciding that an accused person is guilty - they must examine the totality of the evidence placed before the Court, and only if they are satisfied beyond any reasonable doubt that the prosecutor has proved every element of the charges beyond any reasonable doubt, may they bring in a verdict of "guilty". Surely I am entitled to be represented by a qualified attorney in defending myself against whatever charges the prosecution may decide to level against me?
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