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Defending Defenders

April 28, 1985

Apparently not content with the sparse issuances of the Grand Jury, U.S. Atty. Peter Nunez has now personally indicted the entire defense bar for being unaltruistic, antisocial and mercenary. (Even so, he paradoxically allows that some of us may be honest and ethical.)

While exalting the beneficence of prosecutors, Mr. Nunez explains that, unlike the government, defense lawyers "have no obligation to make sure the guilty are convicted."

Ignoring for the moment the obvious truth that no one is guilty until convicted, Mr. Nunez's partisan prejudgment on this question may from time to time be fallible. It might include the innocent, the overcharged and those whom the prosecution would punish too severely.

Even those found guilty by judge or jury may have something to be said for them. Guilt has gradations. It is affected by levels of intent, provocation, deliberation, justification, mitigation and myriad other considerations that motivate human behavior.

To see the possibility that Mr. Nunez should not be the sole arbiter of these matters, that his approach may be inconsistent, rigid or wrong, is to see the need for defense lawyers to oppose his office.

BARRY D. UTSINGER

San Diego

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