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From the President: The Truth Be Told: The Criminal Defense Lawyer and the Importance of Truth
By Steven D. Benjamin
From the President columns.
I recently asked a preeminent defense lawyer whether it was his practice to encourage his clients to tell him the truth. Criminal defense lawyers do not often discuss this aspect of our practice, and asking the question felt a little awkward. His thoughtful answer was that he avoided questioning a client about the truth, preferring to use other means and sources to determine what he needed to know. This reluctance, he said, was especially applicable to cases that would ultimately turn on intent as opposed to the facts of what had occurred. This approach is the exact opposite of my own.
What is the role of truth in the criminal defense function? This topic arises more by reflex or joke than as a lesson in our training or as a principle in our standards of practice. Many make fun of it, pretending that the defense function has nothing to do with the determination of the truth. They fear that knowledge of the truth will impede effective advocacy, and compromise our efforts to
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