Digging Dirt

We defenders are, as New York criminal defense attorney Scott Greenfield writes, Diggers of Dirt.

In fact, one thing that distinguishes the zealous defender from the businessman-masquerading-as-defender is the alacrity with which the defender digs the dirt. While the businessman is typically thinking about how not to annoy the State, the judge, the complainant, the cops, and so forth, the defender is digging away, hoping for some nugget of information that might make a difference to his client.

We dig for dirt on the judges — their personal prejudices that might hurt our clients. We dig for dirt on the prosecutors — information from other lawyers about the dirty tricks that the prosecutors like to play. We dig for dirt on the cops — history that might make them less believable. Most of all, though, we dig for dirt on the accusers.

A guy came to me last week charged with a violent crime. He hadn’t been arrested yet, and hadn’t been to court. He didn’t know the name of the alleged victim in his case. He told me that the complainant had hit him, and he hit back. He hired me, and within a couple of days I knew who the “victim” was, and what criminal history he had. I knew that he had been convicted of the same crime that he was accusing my client of. I had ordered a copy of the police report from that incident, and ordered his booking photo. Now, I still haven’t made my first court appearance on this case, but when I do I will know much more about the complainant than the prosecutor does.

When I have the offense report, I’ll track down and interview the person the complainant was convicted of assaulting. I’ll get him primed to testify as a witness to the complainant’s character. I’ll also spread the word that I’m looking for other people assaulted by the complainant.

I don’t know what I’ll find, and I don’t know how much good it will do. But you have to dig for information, and when you’re trying to save a guy from prison, information is power.

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0 responses to “Digging Dirt”

  1. Just last week I had the pleasure of handing a prosecutor a printout of the complainant’s Web page on OnlineBootyCall.com.

    (I‚Äôm not making that up. It exists. I told the prosecutor it’s kind of like eHarmony, but with less emphasis on the ‘finding a suitable marriage partner’ aspect of the relationship‚Ķ)

    It was arguably somewhere between 99% and totally irrelevant to the case, but still, I think it accomplished a few things:

    #1) It started the negotiations off with a laugh, which is always a huge plus.

    #2) It let the prosecutor know I had done some homework already, or, as you call it in this post ‘digging’. Prosecutors change frequently. You gotta continually remind them you’re not just going to run in and plead guilty as soon as your fee has been paid.


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