Last Thursday the National Republican Committee launched an attack website against incumbent democrat, David Cicilline. Mr. Cicilline’s apparent “malfeasance” was that, during his tenure as a lawyer, he defended folks found guilty, ultimately, of heinous acts. The national Republicans should know better. The website is actually anti-American and bound to hurt their candidate, Brendan Doherty, unless Doherty quickly eschews its content, even though his campaign is not responsible for it. He should ask the D.C. boys to pull it. Hopefully, by the time you read this, Mr. Doherty has done so.
Defense lawyers play a critical role in the delivery of justice. It may seem strange that I, as a former attorney general, am defending defense attorneys but the reality is that they do preserve the constitutional rights of all of us. They are an integral part of the legal system. The defense bar should be hailed as protectors of rights that all of us should want were we on the receiving end of an indictment. Our justice system is predicated on the fact that defendants have to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Law enforcement is supposed to operate by the rules. Confessions cannot be coerced. Searches of homes must be pursuant to a warrant with only a few exceptions like exigent circumstances. In despotic countries these rights are usually the first to be abridged as that country sinks into a police state. People then are “set up” for crimes they didn’t commit by the manufacturing of evidence. Defense counsel are the bulwarks against this country drifting into lawlessness.
It should not matter that Mr. Cicilline’s clients were found guilty ultimately. Those convicts had a right to counsel. It is incumbent upon the prosecution to get it right when it charges people and not take shortcuts. Lawyers on the other side test the case by poking holes in the theory of the factual or legal presentation. This probe makes everybody a bit less cavalier about charging people on the basis of weak evidence.
Mr. Doherty, as a former lawman, must make it clear that he understands and supports the important role that the defense bar plays in keeping the justice system honest. The Republican National Committee’s ad insults the professionals who day in and day out try to keep the system balanced.
The website is also disingenuous by referring to Cicilline’s “secrets.” The only entity that doesn’t know he was a defense counsel in his earlier life is the snail living under a rock.
Finally, the website doesn’t tell the whole truth about Megan’s Law and his then-vote against it. Mr. Cicilline did vote a negative initially because its reach was overly broad and would have listed teens as sex offenders under questionable criteria. When it was amended, he supported it. His opposition to the first draft was reasonable.
The ads coming out in this final trek to election really make a mockery of the election since they are so outside the realm of reasonableness. To be sure both sides are floating ridiculous accusations but two wrongs don’t make a right. With all the drivel on the airwaves we have to ask ourselves if this muckraking is the best we can do. Doesn’t anyone want to win on the basis of truth, anymore?