It is a common misconception that the role of a criminal defense attorney is to acquit an individual of the charge with which he or she has been charged. Yes, at times criminal defense attorneys can clear their clients’ names and reputations, getting charges thrown out, but just as often the role of a lawyer is to mitigate a sentence and protect his or her client’s rights during a trial. So, when Minneapolis residents read cases of a defendant pleading guilty or being sentenced to prison, it is not necessarily because the attorney failed in his or her job.
It was likely this second role that the criminal defense attorneys for three men charged with breaking into a Minneapolis home and fatally shooting the owner took on when defending the young men. There was considerable evidence against the three men, all of which clearly indicated their guilt, but their attorneys worked with prosecutors to secure plea deals.
The three men ultimately pled guilty in exchange for sentences that likely could have been worse. While they will still be in prison for 35-40 years, the men could have potentially been facing longer sentences, potentially even life. By admitting their guilt and accepting the plea deals that their attorneys worked hard to obtain, the young men were able to face sentencing knowing what they were going to get.
Though this story ends with the three defendants being sentenced to prison, it also demonstrates an important role of a criminal defense attorney — someone who mitigates the damage associated with a conviction. It also shows that trying to defend against criminal charges without a lawyer could be a huge risk.
Source: Star Tribune, “Three ‘career criminals’ receive 35-40 years for deadly Minneapolis break-in,” Absimons, March 26, 2013