Guest Commentary in Denver Post: Reviled clients and our Constitution
"The right of one charged with a crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is in ours." This memorable language was coined by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1963, when it issued its decision in Gideon vs. Wainwright, declaring that the Constitution guarantees the right to effective assistance of counsel to any person who stands to lose his life or liberty at the hands of the government.
But the fair pursuit of justice can be overshadowed — or even put asunder — by a community's desire to see the guilty punished. As the trial of James Holmes begins, Coloradans squarely face this very human dilemma. We hope that adherence to our country's constitutional precepts wins the day.
There is no doubt about, and perhaps even no words for, the unfathomable harm wrought by Holmes in a movie theatre in July 2012. Once the killing in Aurora was over, the wheels of justice began to turn — this time with the state seeking to kill one of its citizens. In a case in which the prosecution is pursuing the death penalty, the only way to circumscribe the awesome power of the government — in this case, a government seeking to legally execute one of its citizens — is to ensure that the lawyers assigned to represent the client are able to investigate and present to the jury an accurate picture of the underlying circumstances of the crime.