Today I took two pleas for clients who I believe were absolutely innocent and who were begging to take the pleas, and I took one plea for a client who was guilty and was indignant and enraged with the system about taking a significantly generous plea offered today only.
I don't like to fault my clients for not liking the legal process. I don't particularly care for it either. But I'm not a miracle worker. I cannot get you out of jail just because you don't want to be there. I cannot get your case dismissed just because you don't believe you should have been charged with a crime. I cannot convince a judge to give you a 6th try at a program when you showed up once and failed to show up 4 subsequent times, despite repeated admonitions from all parties as to the ONE YEAR IN JAIL alternative. I cannot beat your case at trial, which you so badly want me to do, if you never once return my phone call and skip every appointment I try to set up for us to prepare your defense.
One of the innocent clients had a case that I was sure was a slam-dunk acquittal. He just didn't want to sit through a trial. He wanted it over, Now Now Now, and took the plea that would have gotten him out instead of waiting a week to walk out an innocent man. The other client I believed to be innocent had no way of winning at trial. There was no doubt in my mind he would have been convicted. The judge was giving him a really hard time about taking the plea. We had to try it several times. I was getting frustrated - my client could only allocute so much because he was innocent. He couldn't say every detail because he just didn't know the details that he would have been expected to know, had he committed the crime. I started to fear that my client would be forced to stand a trial he didn't want, to be convicted of a crime he didn't do, and experience and significantly harsher and longer penalty as a result. In the end, it worked out. But I didn't feel good about it.
I know I'm getting burnt out when I start minimizing my role in this crazy system. (i.e., I am not a doctor, I am not an immigration attorney, I am not the person who decides your bail.) I am completely overwhelmed by my caseload and the intense needs of handfuls of my clients.