In 1994, Anthony Graves, a 26-year-old black man, was wrongfully convicted of murdering a family of six. Graves spent 18 years in prison and 12 years on death row.
He wasn’t released until 2010 after Robert Carter came forward and confessed that he had acted alone in the killing. During the investigations that followed, evidence revealed that the prosecutor, Charles Sebesta, had withheld testimony that would have cleared Graves.
“After a lengthy investigation, the State Bar found that Mr. Sebesta had violated five tenets of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, including making false statements at trial, knowingly presenting false evidence, failing to disclose potentially exculpatory evidence, knowingly violating professional rules of conduct, and engaging in ‘dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation,'” said the American Bar Association on its website.
“The worst nightmare of a lawyer is to walk into a courtroom where the opposing counsel knows facts and details about their client that were never mentioned in the consultations,” said Adv Shah Fahad,a practicing lawyer who resides in Pakistan told me.
“There have been instances where even minimum legal assistance is not provided to low-income groups, which leads to longer incarceration and the public at large developing a hostile attitude towards the profession of Law,” said Shah Fahad.
Lawyers–and even many judges–have reputations that resemble the traits of the Dark Triad; it’s not uncommon for some lawyers and judges to present themselves as authentically interested in the best outcome for their client, while their main objective is to manipulate, deceive, and exploit others to achieve their goals. Basically, their narcissism is both their blessing and their curse.
Sol Wachtler was once New York’s chief judge, but he went to jail for stalking his then-longtime lover. In his book,After the Madness: A Judge’s Own Prison Memoir,Wachtler opened up about his bipolar disorder, drug abuse, and the awful treatment he suffered while in prison.
Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti has appeared on TV, proclaiming his mission to take down disgraced singer R. Kelly during the upcoming trial for allegedly sexually abusing younger girls. Avenatti was representing one of the women.
He outlined what appeared to be a solid case from the onset until he found himself in jail, not for misconduct in the Kelly case but rather for extortion.
In 2020, a federal jury in Manhattan convicted Avenatti of trying to extort Nike. “During the two-week trial, jurors heard phone conversations Avenatti had with Nike in March 2019 in which he demanded millions of dollars in payments and threatened to release allegedly damaging information about the shoe company,” wrote authors Christina Carrega and Aaron Katersky in their article Celebrity Attorney Michael Avenatti Convicted in Nike Extortion Case.
“Many Lawyers undergo training in their law schools, consisting of client counseling and ethics, but this training is hard enough to tackle when the issues arise in the real brutal world of law practice,” said Shah Fahad.
“A client who has suffered trauma can sometimes be very reluctant to share details about the crime. Often, facts necessary to win a case may be overlooked if a client cannot trust their lawyer. Usually, a client may not feel comfortable sharing embarrassing details or habits, which may be crucial to the trial.”
The media often places the focus on the victim. Still, Shah Fahad warns that the accused also is up against their own set of issues, even outside the possibility of being convicted.
“A person accused of a crime can often be untrustworthy of his legal counsel, choosing to withhold information from his attorney to his/her detriment,” said Adv Shah Fahad. “A client may already be familiar with these laws or even have some misconceptions about them. A little empathy and relieving a client of their fears before a consultation by explaining the ethical standards maintained by their lawyer can go a long way in improving the law’s profession.”
A lawyer’s salary can be between $122,960 and $186,350 a year, and in high-profile cases, the money is even more attractive. Ex-NFL player and accused murderer O.J. Simpson acquitted of killing his ex-wife and her friend in 1994.
He paid his defense team $5 million. They turned the case into an issue of a black man who had been wrongly accused, rather than looking at the facts, which would lead to the conclusion that Simpson was the natural killer.
“A lawyer should never dilute their ethical standards and present reputation as an upstanding member of the bar for chasing the opportunity of a big future payout,” said Shah Fahad.
“A lawyer representing a David in his battle with a Goliath may face various financial and unethical pressures, and therefore, the bar at large needs to evolve methods of protecting lawyers from such scenarios by presenting a united stand.”
Shah Fahad went on: “The law of lawyering may be different depending on the jurisdiction, but certain universal issues are the heart of the dilemmas faced by lawyers in present times. And it is only the bar and its members that can effectively tackle these issues and prepare future lawyers. Ensuring compliance with…ethical standards…is not going to be a cakewalk. Still, it is the price to be paid to increase professionalism in the profession of law.”