Jewish World Review July 29, 2002 / 20 Menachem-Av, 5762

Bill O'Reilly

Bill O'Reiley
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Blood money | Every American accused of a crime is entitled to a vigorous defense -- that's the mantra of many lawyers in the United States. But what exactly comprises a "vigorous defense"?

The parents of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion must be wondering about the defense the man accused of killing their little daughter got when he was tried on child molestation charges two years ago. Alejandro Avila was acquitted, as the jury did not believe two 9-year-old girls that testified Avila grossly misused their bodies.

Avila's lawyer, John Pozza, pounded away at the testimony of the young girls. He did what defense lawyers usually do -- he created reasonable doubt among some in the jury. He told them that Avila's ex-girlfriend encouraged the girls to make up the charges. And the jury bought it. Avila walked.

But now we know that one of those 9-year-old girls lived in the same apartment complex as Samantha. And according to the prosecution in the molestation case, Alejandro Avila made one major mistake during the investigation. He volunteered to take a lie detector test -- and he failed miserably.

Of course, polygraphs are inadmissible in court. But, according to prosecutors, John Pozza was well aware that Avila had failed the polygraph. And Pozza battered the girls' testimony anyway.

So my question is this: Does Pozza bear any responsibility for Samantha Runnion's death? It is a brutal question that makes many attorneys very angry. But it is a vitally important question in this time of escalating violence against children.

Article Six of the Constitution lays out the rights every American accused of a crime is entitled to, and one of those rights is "the assistance of counsel for his defense."

So what does "assistance" mean? Does it mean deception? Does it mean fabricating scenarios defense attorneys know to be false? Does it mean playing the race card, as we saw in the Simpson trial?

My belief is that a fair trial does not include deception, fabrication or racial tactics. My belief is that if an attorney knows for certain that his or her client is guilty, then that attorney must advise the client to enter a guilty plea.

It is flat-out immoral for a lawyer to attempt to deceive a jury when he or she knows the client did it.

A good defense attorney never asks an accused criminal about guilt. And that is fine with me. If there is uncertainty in a criminal case, the defendant deserves to have the best, most intense defense possible.

But again, once the lawyer knows the client is guilty, then any attempt to deny that fact to the jury is deception.

Many lawyers will tell you that they are mandated to defend people accused of heinous crimes. That is simply untrue. Rule 1.16 of the American Bar Association states that a lawyer has the right to withdraw from any case "when the client insists on taking action the lawyer finds repugnant."

If an accused criminal committed the crime but is hellbent on trying to deceive the jury, that is repugnant to any law-abiding person, including attorneys. Once in a while a judge will order a lawyer to remain on a case, but this is rare, as it almost insures an appeal. And if an attorney tries to withdraw from a case, the record will show his dissent and his disgust with the client.

But lawyers that try to free criminals they know to be guilty are accessories. I would like to ask Avila's lawyer a few questions: How do you feel now that your former client is accused of murdering a 5-year-old? Are you willing to defend him again? Would you like to sit down and explain yourself to Samantha's parents?

Accused criminals have a right to a lawyer's "assistance." But that assistance must be honest. Trying to free a child molester that fails a lie detector test would cause many people huge pangs of conscience. Justice is based on the guilty being punished and the innocent going free, not who can beat down the testimony of children and allow monsters to walk free.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author of the new book, "The No-Spin Zone: Confrontations with the Powerful and Famous in America" Comments by clicking here.


07/22/02: Suffer the children
07/15/02: Reaching critical mass
07/08/02: Believe it or not
07/01/02: Charity begins at home
06/24/02: Spinning a tale and the case for "Stupid White Men"
06/17/02: Blank those Europeans!
06/10/02: What does Bono want from us?
06/03/02: On fighting evil
05/28/02: A Tale of Two Churches
05/20/02: Crimes against humanity
05/13/02: Silence of the lambs
05/06/02: Hide the children
04/29/02: 'Paul, Paul, Paul!'
04/22/02: Barbarians in the Church
04/15/02: Pray for peace, polish the weapons
03/11/02: Do no harm? Time to spank "Dr. Phil"
03/04/02: Promoting the general welfare
02/25/02: Who's responsible?
02/19/02: Lay it on them
02/11/02: Buy dope, fund terror
02/04/02: Back room deals
01/28/02: From boom to bust
01/21/02: The Fairness Doctrine
01/14/02: Hey, Paula, take it to the bank and hush up
01/07/02: And justice for none
12/31/01: All that's left
12/24/01: Santa is appalled
12/17/01: Fight the power
12/10/01: The black challenge
12/03/01: How things have changed
11/26/01: Waiting in the Bushes
11/19/01: The sign of the Cross
11/09/01: Hollyweird strikes back
11/06/01: The fear factor
10/26/01: Show me the money
10/22/01: See no evil
10/15/01: Peace, but no quiet
10/08/01: The air war
10/01/01: I don't understand
09/24/01: We are all soldiers, and we have a job to do
09/14/01: Evil on display
09/11/01: Family matters!
09/04/01: End of summer blues
08/27/01: Summertime -- and the livin' ain't easy
08/20/01: The rap on rap
08/13/01: The truth hurts
08/06/01: Amnesty for illegals: Bush's political investment
07/30/01: The big picture on Condit-Levy
07/24/01: Silence of the Shams
07/16/01: Condit, Kennedy and cable news
07/09/01: Heather needs a childhood: The unnecessary loss of innocence
07/02/01: What would have happened if Steven Spielberg had recut "Schindler's List" for German audiences so they wouldn't be confronted with "emotional issues"?
06/25/01: Freak dancing
06/18/01: Work or die
06/11/01: Soundbite nation
06/04/01: Paying through the nose
05/29/01: Graduation Day 2001
05/21/01: Accepting the unacceptable
05/14/01: The Clinton legacy
05/07/01: Kerrey's ordeal
04/27/01: Is the party over?
04/20/01: Racism in public education
04/16/01: The fleecing of America
04/10/01: People who need perspective
04/03/01: Dubya's bottom line --- and ours
03/27/01: Don't tell, don't ask
03/20/01: Greenspan with envy
03/13/01: Clinton and Jackson
03/07/01: All that's left in America
02/27/01: The Letterman experience
02/20/01: Bread and circuses
02/06/01: How the Clintons do it
01/30/01: The Bush dilemma
01/24/01: I have been investigating Jackson's finances for the past two years
01/17/01: Sifting Ashcroft's record

© 2001 Creators Syndicate