INTRODUCTION: A HOSTILE CLIMATE FOR CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYERS AND OUR CLIENTS
Criminal defense work is an increasingly difficult undertaking in these harsh times. Blame is a favorite pastime. Vengeance follows close behind. Compassion for those who commit wrongdoing out of misfortune seems either nostalgic or naive. Instead, there is a universal call for individual accountability; wrongdoers ought to be held strictly responsible for their actions, no matter the circumstance.
Along with blame and vengeance comes a lust for punishment. The public cannot seem to get enough of it. The United States is building prisons at a record pace. If the current trend continues, the number of Americans behind bars will soon surpass the number of students enrolled full-time in four-year colleges and universities. Incarceration remains a popular solution for a wide array of social problems. As one criminologist has noted, "jail has become the social service agency of first resort.
If prisons were not enough, there is the ever-popular death penalty.' For some prosecutors, every homicide is a capital case. The few prosecutors on the "other side-those who have been long-standing opponents of the death penalty-seem to be changing their minds or getting out of the prosecution business altogether." Politicians and judges opposed to the death penalty are practically an endangered species; they pay a steep political price if they stick to their principles.
It is not that those accused or convicted of crime have never before been reviled or reproved. Prior to the advent of penitentiaries in America in the nineteenth century, there were all sorts of cruel punishments inflicted upon convicted criminals, including whipping,
Smith, Abbe and Montross, William
"The Calling of Criminal Defense,"
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 50:
2, Article 2.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol50/iss2/2