Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Patria-Kaye Aarons | Sometimes justice is too blind

Published:Tuesday | May 2, 2017 | 5:00 AM

Sam is charged with shoplifting. Sam admits to his lawyer that he took a watch, as charged. Sam's lawyer realises that the store's hidden camera videotape is fuzzy and practically useless as prosecution evidence. In addition, Sam's lawyer learns that the store's security guard was at the end of a long overtime shift and had been drinking alcohol. Sam's lawyer can use these facts in an argument for Sam's acquittal.

"Before trial, Sam's lawyer can argue that the case is too weak to prosecute. At trial, Sam's lawyer can argue to a judge or jury to acquit Sam. No matter what Sam has done, Sam is not legally guilty unless the prosecutor can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. But Sam's lawyer cannot ethically state in his argument that Sam didn't do it, only that they didn't prove that Sam did do it. While the line between ethical and unethical behaviour may seem like indeed, is a fine one, it is a line that criminal defence lawyers walk every day on the job."

I encountered the excerpt online in something called the Nolo legal encyclopaedia. I was trying to answer the question, "What if a lawyer knows his client is guilty?"

You see, let me declare up front that I'm ignorant about this legal business. I never went to law school and know very little about the rules and regulations that govern the legal fraternity. I have no idea about the intricacies involved in lawyering, but something makes me very uncomfortable about attorney-client privilege.

 

JUSTICE A JOKE

 

My discomfort comes from the fact that far too often, it appears that wit wins over justice in the Jamaican courtroom. The academic battle between factual guilt and legal guilt makes justice look like a joke. It appears that it's the better lawyer's pocket that comes out the only real winner, and since crime is a very lucrative business, big criminals can afford to hire big lawyers.

Attorneys, in my estimation, are to be bastions of justice. And in today's Jamaica where crime threatens to rob us all of our hard-earned bread, a peaceful night's rest and our very lives, you would hope that lawyers would band together to put the perpetrators of crime behind bars for a long, long time.

But it doesn't seem to be happening fast enough.

You sometimes get the feeling that court proceedings are a big conquest. A showdown of experience and spoils. A duel for bragging rights. And that justice is relegated to either a fortunate side effect or a casualty of the war.

The very public extradition to the United States of eight alleged lottery scammers last week brought into sharp focus the slow pace of justice in Jamaica in comparison to our counterparts in the north. It sparked much media attention, and Joshua Polacheck from the US Embassy ruffled a lot of feathers by stating that his government would be coming next for anyone who facilitated money laundering for lottery scammers. He mentioned quite a few groupings that would be targeted, to include even lawyers.

 

ILLEGAL MONEY

 

And so arose my question, "What if a Iawyer knew his client was guilty of lottery scamming; or any other crime for that matter?" How does that lawyer then pursue justice? What if he knew the very money he was being paid with couldn't possibly come from legal means because his client never worked a day in his life? Should he have an obligation to report that to the powers that be? Should he even defend the man?

And if he gets paid by his client with lottery-scamming money, should he not be subject to the Proceeds Of Crime Act here in Jamaica?

I think he should. If I benefit from the proceeds of crime, knowingly or otherwise, my behind is going to jail. Lawyers should be no different.

Crime Stop can't be urging us average citizens to tell what we know and the same doesn't apply to lawyers who have strong suspicions or who have been confessed to. Lawyers play such a critical spoke in the wheels of justice that I feel they have an obligation to make it harder for criminals to hide behind their money and technicalities.

From my layman's point of view, that side of justice is just too blind. If money can buy criminals, a not-guilty verdict, what a 'blow-wow' sham is the crime-free Jamaica dream.

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@yahoo.com, or tweet @findpatria.