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Criminal defense attorneys are critical for due process

By Scott Tibbs, August 1, 2013

Why would an attorney defend someone like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev or Ariel Castro? Due process is critical, even for the worst of the worst. That's why I recommend this editorial by Abbe Smith in the Washington Post last week.

My main problem with the editorial is including George Zimmerman, who killed Trayvon Martin in self-defense after Martin attacked him and slammed his head into the sidewalk. But if you can look past that, it is a good read.

Criminal defense attorneys are a critical part of our justice system, and they are needed to ensure justice is done. Far too often, innocent people (like the Central Park Five) are convicted of crimes they did not commit, which is a double injustice - both for the innocent person unjustly punished and for the victim, because the guilty person is not punished.

It is easy for us to look down on attorneys who defend Tsarnaev and Castro. It is even easier to damn shysters like Walter Bansley, who defended savage barbarian Joshua Komisarjevsky after he committed a brutal home invasion in Connecticut along with Steven Hayes. Komisarjevsky and Hayes sadistically beat a man and tied him up, and then proceeded to rape and murder his wife and daughters.

Even so, criminal defense attorneys should represent their clients in a moral and ethical manner. Walter Bansley, the thoroughly corrupt shyster who represented Komisarjevsky, is a dirty black stain on all attorneys. Bansley blamed the rape/murder victims and the survivor for the crimes committed by his evil client. How much of a sick, depraved pervert do you have to be to blame the victims in a horrific home invasion and multiple murder?

With his disgusting antics at the trial, Bansley proved he is every bit as evil as Komisarjevsky and Hayes, and is perhaps even more evil than those men. He should have been disbarred.

But even that should not cause us to take our eye off the ball when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of even obviously guilty criminals like Komisarjevsky, Hayes, Castro and Tsarnaev. It is important for them to have representation - not because they deserve it but because we as a society deserve it.

We need to have due process rights protected even in the most extreme cases, because that is where our commitment to the rule of law is most seriously tested. Once the precedent is established that anyone's constitutional rights can be violated, we can be assured that government will expand that precedent to violate the rights of more and more people, including those who have committed no crime.