Team Effort Results in Conviction
A Crimminal Defense Attorney's Perspective
September 6, 2020
The Post Newspaper
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series
of eight columns on the criminal justice system in Galveston County and
the first from the defense attorney’s perspective.
The basis of our criminal justice system is that every defendant has
the right to legal representation and a fair trial. Criminal defense
attorneys play a critical part in this process.
Byron Fulk, a defense attorney, told me “I typically carry
no more than seventy cases at any given time.” With court appointed
cases, attorneys can pass up cases, e.g., some lawyers will not take
sexual assault or sexual molestation cases. “I can’t in good conscience
take a case that I find morally repugnant because I know I will not be
able to provide a zealous defense for such a client,” Fulk said.
Representing Guilty Clients:
If a client is guilty it limits the criminal defense
attorney’s options. Fulk said in these situations he’d look for
reasons to throw the case out, like if the police did something wrong.
“I will not put my client on the stand if I know he is guilty because I
don’t want him to say something that suborns perjury by lying,” Fulk
said. In his experience a guilty person is looking for a plea deal.
Preparing for Trial:
In preparing for trial the defense attorney needs to convince his
client to trust him. The attorney needs to hear the truth in order to
do his job well. Then he looks at all the evidence, talks with the
witnesses and in some situations consults with experts. He’ll be
looking for mitigating circumstances that will help his client. Fulk
said “Regardless of whether my client is guilty or not, I need to
ensure that I do everything possible to represent him.”
Criminal defense attorneys have a different standard than the
prosecutors. Prosecutors must seek “Justice” which means they may not
take a case to court if they cannot prove guilt beyond a “reasonable
doubt.” The role of a criminal defense attorney is not to seek
justice, but instead to offer up a zealous defense for his client while
never attempting to defraud the court.
The defense attorney gives his client solid legal advice and then
the defendant decides whether to seek a plea agreement or to go trial.
“The DA’s office will usually offer a plea agreement. Then I’ll take
it to my client and advise him whether I think it is good or bad,” Fulk
said. “Or I may suggest a counter offer for a lesser charge.”
“If my client decides not to take my advice or we’re not seeing
eye-to-eye, then I may need to step down from the case, but this doesn’t
happen very often,” Fulk continued.
“In my experience when it comes to the validity of search warrants or
‘probably cause’ traffic stops, 95% of the time the police get it
right. But in 25%-33% of the cases I see, the police or prosecutors
are over charging my clients,” Fulk said. “The vast majority of
officers in our county are good people who do their job well, but there
are a few who should give us concern given the current climate. That
small minority should be culled from the force or retrained,” he