Sacramento criminal defense, more like an art than a science

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Someone made the comment to me at dinner the other night, that for as long as I have been handling criminal defense cases in Sacramento, I ought to have it down to a science. I politely laughed when they said that. I think they meant it as a compliment, but I was not totally comfortable with the comment, as it seemed to suggest that at this point my job should be easy due to my experience and the repetition. However, I know that my job is very difficult. It never gets easy. I feel like I am constantly in a battle for the lives of my clients.

Since that evening, I have thought about that statement and I have come to the realization that criminal defense is much more like an art than a science. Good criminal defense requires me to be creative, to think outside the box, and to be passionate–Much like an artist and nothing like a scientist. Likewise, there is very little certainty in criminal defense as even laws that are well established are subject to interpretation and modification.

For example, when I am in trial, trying to describe the concept of reasonable doubt to a jury, there is no exact science to it. I am trying to read the faces and body language of the jury, and then respond to that to know when I have said enough, or to know when I need to keep painting the picture. Likewise, as I create a picture of my client, which I believe is most accurate, I am literally creating a picture for the jury like an artist creates a movie or a painting.
Earlier this week I enjoyed a tremendous victory in which I secured a misdemeanor plea bargain for a client who was facing serious felony charges. This client is a hunter and if he was convicted of a felony he would have lost his right to possess guns. This was an extremely challenging case which required some serious creativity on my part including seeking out knowledgeable professionals and experts on the topic to weigh in, which caught the District Attorney off guard. While me approach was not scientific and not orthodox, it worked.

The more I think about it, the more I suppose that it is a good thing that criminal defense is more like an art than a science. While science seems cold and passionless, my approach to my profession is one of caring, creativity, and passion. That is what makes me effective.

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