…you’ve had someone come in to your office who you thought had a good post-conviction claim.
Unless you regularly handle those type of cases though, maybe you either weren’t sure, or didn’t know what steps to take. If you’re like most criminal defense lawyers, you have the choice of telling them you can’t help, or referring them to someone you think can. In the back of your mind you might be thinking you would like to take the case. But you remember that ethics rule about not taking a matter you aren’t competent to handle.
What if you had another choice?
I would like to offer you another choice - The chance to handle the case together. You can be as involved – or uninvolved – as you want to be. In most cases, you will start as the main point of contact for the client - after all, you’re the attorney in their community who they trust. If you are local, you could be the primary contact with the court, and assist with filing documents and scheduling court dates. More involvement is certainly welcome.
Why am I doing this?
There’s a reason why I’m ding this – besides the obvious one getting more business. I love reviewing records, doing the research, and drafting writs. I don’t love all the administrative tasks that go with it. You’ll be the logistics captain, driving the case forward. And since I know that requires your time, and that of your staff, I am prepared to make it very much worth your while. By partnering with you, I’m able to do what I love, and not worry so much about the logistics of doing it. For these reasons, I’m also willing to be more than generous when it comes apportioning fees. The typical fee for a writ case is between $5,000 and $15,000, depending on the type and complexity of the case; difficult and complex cases can be even more. Since the “logistics portion” of any case takes up a significant amount of time, we will agree on an arrangement that takes into account the amount of time each of us will spend on the case.
If you want more information on the options available when a defendant has been convicted based on bad science, or simply want to know more about this topic, request a copy of our free book, Freedom through Science.
There’s also another reason I’m doing this.
Over the last several years, I’ve become convinced there are a significant number of cases where clients have been convicted based on bad evidence, or bad lawyering. Most of those cases are never questioned – either because the clients don’t know there’s a problem, or the lawyer they talk to doesn’t recognize there’s an issue. Those convictions need to be challenged not only for the benefit of the individual client, but also the criminal justice system. The more often evidence is challenged, the more likely it is that courts will start becoming aware of the problems. If you want an example, look at arson cases. Ten years ago, few judges or lawyers were aware of the problems with arson investigations. Now almost everyone is aware, and the way arson cases are investigated has changed.
What about the ethics of sharing fees?
If you are worried about the ethics of sharing fees – like you should be – we will cover that. After all, a couple of thousand dollars isn’t worth risking your license. The client must be informed that another lawyer will be working on the case, and agree to that arrangement.
There are more and more opportunities to help clients with old cases
I’m sure you’ve seen news reports where some scientist has been caught falsifying records, or engaging in other types of misconduct. You’ve probably also seen reports where a lab has been sanctioned for not following protocols. Fortunately, there are now more options available to seek relief in those situations.
Sadly, you’ve probably also seen cases where a lawyer has botched a case, and the client paid the price. That mistake follows them for the rest of their life, unless someone steps up to fix it.
What should I be looking for to know if it's a good case?
If you're interested, you probably wonder what should I be looking for. Here are few things:
- Did forensics play a significant role in the case?
- Is the forensic discipline one that has been discredited or questioned? (e.g. arson, bite marks, hair analysis)
- Is there some reason to believe the lawyer wasn’t competent to handle the case?
- Has there been a report or finding concerning the lab or analyst who handled the case?
- Has notice been provided by the prosecutor, a law enforcement agency or lab?
- Was there a defense that wasn’t presented?
- Is there evidence that wasn’t disclosed during the discovery process?
I look forward to hearing from you!