How About a Week in Cabo for a Death Penalty?

by Rick Wetzel on April 1, 2011

As a criminal appeals lawyer, I have noticed a disturbing trend developing in a number of prosecutor offices around the country.  Supervisors and elected prosecutors are offering prosecutors in their offices bonuses based on their conviction rates or number of cases tried in a given year resulting in criminal convictions.  The bonuses have taken the form of cash, time off, paid vacations, bowling parties, and gold coins.  The bonuses do not apply to cases resolved through guilty pleas or plea bargains.     

Duty to See Justice Done 

The law is clear that the primary duty of all prosecuting attorneys is not to convict, but to see that justice is done in a given case.  TEX. CRIM. PROC. CODE art. 2.01.  A prosecutor has the responsibility to see that justice is done, and not simply to be an advocate.  TEX. DISCIPLINARY R. PROF’L CONDUCT 3.08, 3.09 & cmt.1.  A prosecutor has the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply that of an advocate.  MODEL R. PROF’L CONDUCT 3.8 cmt. 1. 

No Contingency Fees 

Whether a trial lawyer, criminal appeals lawyer, or habeas corpus lawyer, a defense lawyer cannot accept a contingent fee in a criminal case.  Many justifications for this ethical ban have been offered, the most compelling of which involve the disincentives to plead guilty that such an arrangement might create to the benefit of the defense lawyer and detriment of the defendant.  

The Gander and the Goose 

The prohibition on contingency fees in criminal cases should apply across the board to both prosecutors and defense counsel.  Paying a bounty for an unnecessary trial can result in plea bargain offers being artificially high simply because a prosecutor is trying to achieve a conviction quota vacation or win some gold coins.  A criminal appeal lawyer or habeas corpus lawyer should be able to assist a defendant forced to trial under such circumstances, especially if the trial resulted in a conviction with an outrageously high sentence. 

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz

Related posts:

  1. Challenging a Guilty Plea
  2. Communicating The Plea Offer, or “I Thought I Told You About That”
  3. Dismissal of Criminal Appeals
  4. When Lawyers Become Criminals

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: