Behind the gavel- Life and trials of a criminal lawyer

A criminal lawyer’s work is intense, challenging, and deeply impactful. Many see these attorneys as dramatic figures in the courtroom, arguing passionately before a judge and jury.  The work of a criminal lawyer begins long before they ever set foot in a courtroom. Criminal attorneys on both the prosecution and defense sides must pour over thousands of pages of evidence, witness statements, forensic reports, and case law as they build their case.

Mark Boyd, a criminal defense attorney with over 25 years of experience says, “I’ve had cases where I’ve reviewed well over 8,000 pages of records looking for the shred of evidence that creates the reasonable doubt. It’s not glamorous work – I do most of it late nights sitting alone in my office – but every detail matters when someone’s freedom is on the line.” Lawyers spend hundreds of hours reading up on the relevant laws and precedents to support motions they will file or to prepare for arguments before the judge. The tiniest inconsistencies are highlighted and added to the arsenal of tools that a lawyer will use to build the most persuasive case.

Interviewing clients and witnesses

In the public’s imagination, qualified criminal lawyer in Scarborough spend most of their time making impassioned courtroom arguments. In reality, criminal attorneys devote many hours to interviewing their clients and witnesses for the prosecution or defense. This involves not only understanding the facts related to the alleged crime but also learning the backstory that brought their client to this moment or shaped the perspectives of witnesses. “When I meet a new client, the very first thing I ask is ‘tell me your story,’” says Maria Sanchez, a criminal defense lawyer with a practice focused on representing youth. “I don’t just need to learn what happened during the alleged offense. I need to understand who my client is as a person – their upbringing, the challenges they’ve faced, strengths they have. Establishing trust and making an individual feel comfortable sharing intimate and at times traumatic details requires emotional intelligence and sincere compassion from attorneys on both sides.

Most criminal cases are highly complex, with no clear right or wrong answers when evaluating the intersection of facts, law, and ethics. Defense attorneys must strike a balance between defending their clients vigorously while also honestly assessing the ethics and legality of strategies. “I take my ethical obligations extremely seriously,” says Michael Boyce, a prosecutor known for his meticulous case preparation. “The law requires that I disclose any evidence that could be favorable to the defense, even if it likely weakens my case. So I go overboard in providing anything that I think could be relevant. I must seek justice – not just convictions.”

Thomas Morgan, a career public defender, says, “My allegiance is to my client above all else. But that doesn’t mean I’ll defend unethical actions on their part or mine. I just provide the strongest legal advocacy possible given the real facts and the law.” There are wins and losses, ups and downs – sometimes things completely outside your control. So I focus on feeling good about my preparation and the advocacy I provided rather than judging myself too harshly on the result,” explains Aisha Wright, a 10-year veteran of the Public Defender’s Office. At the end of the day, I have to appreciate that I’m just one part of the system. I control only what I can control.

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