If every criminal law matter in Texas and nationally was as clear cut and straightforward as police and prosecutors often contend is the case, there would seemingly be little need for a defendant to offer up a defense. In lieu of contesting the state's evidence and pointing out alleged defects in arguments geared toward sending a defendant to prison, that individual -- and all other similarly situated persons -- could simplify and expedite the process by simply accepting the outcome demanded by criminal authorities.
Would you want to live in that world?
Candidly, all reasonable people know that the justice system is fallible and that actors participating in it make mistakes. Moreover, they sometimes act in bad faith. A core notion guiding American criminal law stresses an accused party's right to present a defense to allegations of wrongdoing, and for that person to reasonably see an adjustment to a recommended sentencing outcome when that defense proves to be compelling to a court or jury.
We ask readers to consider recent federal litigation involving a doctor convicted of health care fraud relating to the overprescribing of narcotic opioid medications.
That physician has pleaded guilty and now awaits sentencing.
His legal team strongly urges the court to take due account of well-established mental challenges faced by the doctor that they say materially influenced his prescribing behavior.
Indeed, the physician -- now in his 60s -- is taking copious amounts of medications for treatment of a psychiatric condition that encompasses bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and a nervous disorder that a recent media report notes "can be characterized by confusion or dementia."
It is often uncertain how arguments urging mitigation in sentencing outcomes will ultimately play out.
There is no question, though, that they are relevant and should be carefully considered by a court.
Fundamental justice unquestionably demands that.