Friday, October 16, 2009

The meaning of client advocacy

Is not what one Texas attorney would appear to believe: self-righteous stubborness in your own personal opinion and to the point of ignoring the general consensus of the entire scientific community.

We had a post on the tragic case of Cameron Todd Willingham last month. Willingham was the father of three convicted of murdering his three children by arson back in 1991. Willingham was tried and convicted in August of 1992, the State's case was largely based on the "scientific evidence" gathered by two arson investigators: Manuel Vasquez and Douglas Fogg. We now know that the science used to arrive at this evidence was flat-out wrong.

So why are we revisiting this case? Well...the story has continued to be in the news thanks to Texas Governor Rick Perry's attempts to cover his ass by replacing four of nine members of the Texas Forensics Sciences Commission in recent weeks, just before the commission was to receive a report from the latest of the three investigations which find that arson WAS NOT the likely cause of the fire. One of those reports arrived on Perry's desk 88 minutes before Willingham was executed.

It is somewhat disturbing then, to watch Willingham's attorney get on national tv like he did last night and completely sell his client down the river. It is obvious from watching the video, that Martin is taking this case personal and has become offended that any outsider would question handling of the case. How an attorney can obtain such certitude in a field like the law is beyond me. The one thing I am sure of is we are all fallible. There is a reason it is called the "practice" of law. It can never be perfected. As such, I personally find Martin's comments ridiculous.

Hey, let me tell you what we did. Rob Dunn and I, who tried this case with me,
we went and bought carpet. We bought lighter fluid. We poured the lighter fluid
on the carpet. We set it on fire. And when it finished burning, it looked just
exactly like the carpet did in Todd Willingham's house.

If Mr. Martin was not so personally upset about this, he may realize how foolish those comments are. They fly in direct contention with the fundamental purpose of science. The scientific method, which is the root of all science, does not look for similarities. It's purpose is to focus on dissimilarities. Only through that way, can you be absolutely certain of something. It is apparent from his gung-ho belief in his own client's guilt, that Mr. Martin is blinded from seeing how that distinction is important, not only in science, but also in the courtroom.

1 comment:

PatriciaAJones said...

It is my understanding that David Martin was barred from defending a client facing capital punishment after the Willingham trial. Thanks to Anderson Cooper for showing up this jerk!