Sunday, August 22, 2010

Selling Out the Client - Part V

I've talked before about lawyers selling out their clients.  (Hell, this post is Part V in a series with that title.)  And I've talked repeatedly about legal ethics and the relationship between ethics and morals (another titled series, look it up) and criminal defense and who we are and what we do as criminal defense lawyers, and lately about the adversary system.
But I haven't actually written before about Terry L. Haddock (let's call him the Fish).  He's the guy who wore a wire for the FBI on some 63 visits with his client, Shannon Williams, at the Douglas County Jail.  I'm not sure why I didn't write about it when the news broke in January, but I'm talking about it today because of what the Fish said during the suppression hearing where Williams is trying to get over 100 hours of recordings the Fish made suppressed.  He didn't do it for money, he said (though he's in desperate financial straits and the feds did pay him $47,000).  And he didn't do it because he's a sleazebag.
He did it because he believes in honesty and justice.  Or something.  Here, from the Omaha World Herald, via the ABA's on-line news feed and John Wesley Hall is what the Fish said.
"I had a personal struggle with myself whether to get involved in that," Haddock told a federal judge Thursday after emerging from eight months in seclusion.
"But I could not live with the fact that this man would be walking the streets.  I had to do it."
Gimme a break.
Yeah, Williams is alleged to be a serious criminal.  The government claims that he's the ringleader of a conspiracy to distribute and launder the proceeds from over a million dollars worth of marijuana.  That's a serious crime.  He faces life in prison.
But if the Fish was looking for some true evil to fight, you think maybe he could have found something worse?
Want a guy to set up?  Nebraska has killers awaiting trial.  Nebraska has rapists.  Nebraska has child sex abusers. Nebraska's one baaaaad state.  (Just like the other 49, but that's really not to the point here.)
And the Fish can't find anyone more worthy than Williams for whom he could sell his soul?
Want some great moral challenge to cleanse the soul?  How about working with the desperately poor, with crippled children.  Go and help rebuild Haiti or donate your services to human rights work (or to squelching human rights if you think that's the way to do).
No, not for the Fish.  For him, the noblest and most necessary of activities is using his law license to suck up to Shannon Williams, and then ratting him out. 
Yes, I lied repeatedly to the cops.  Yes, I've lied under oath.  Yes, I've committed a couple of dozen felonies.  But I'm telling the truth now, because I've seen the light and I want to see justice done.  And yeah, the government's offering me a deal to testify today to their version of the truth which you can take my word for it is true because I'm not lying now.  And I'd do it without the deal, because it's the right thing to do.
That's the sort of bullshit spouted by jailhouse snitches and by rolling co-defendants every day in our nation's courts.  I don't know whether juries ever believe it, but they regularly convict people based on the testimony that accompanies it.
There's nothing good to say about snitches or about the co-defendants who roll on each other.  We know they're not reliable.  We know they care only about what they can do for themselves.   We know that they are people who cannot lay claim to any ounce of honesty or integrity.
But they're not the bottom of the barrel.
Dante, who in his hubris gave us the defining model of the circles of hell placed the treacherous at the very bottom, in the ninth of nine.  Just how deep within the ninth circle depended on the nature of the treachery.  The greater the duty owed, the greater the treachery.  The greater the treachery, the further down.
But here's another question. The Fish?  He claims treachery as a moral imperative.  The obligation to be evil.
Which tells us, pretty clearly, where we'll find the Fish.
His name is Terry L. Haddock.  And he's going to the very bottom.


  1. The Fish "could not live with the fact" that a man engaged in selling a harmless recreational plant and laundering money to cover his tracks would be walking the streets? If you're serious when you write that's a "serious crime" I have to disagree. It's not a crime at all. But I agree with you 100% on the Fish's ultimate destination. What the Fish did is akin to betraying a Jewish family's hiding place to the Nazis.

    Obviously this isn't what I had in mind when musing over the criminal defense attorney's relationship to justice.

    Now, what level of Hell the Fish would find himself in if he used his law license to treacherously take down a sex slavery ring instead of a marijuana ring is a more interesting ethical question.

  2. Sure it's a serious crime. He could get life in prison for it. Doesn't get too much more serious than that.

    Now, whether it should be a crime or not, and whether it should be that serious a crime if it should be a crime at all, those are different questions.

  3. Jeff:

    Fish deserves a new, deeper level of Hell.


  4. I've long staked out as my motto, "There is no bottom. Things can always get worse." So relegating the Fish to the bottom is, perhaps impossible. But I was modeling The Commedia, and Dante did have a limit to his design.

  5. Whatever happened to "falsus in uno, ..."?

  6. Kindley--that's not an interesting ethical question either. I can't believe you represent clients as a criminal defense lawyer and call that an interesting question.

  7. It's all black and white for you, isn't Lee. Note I assumed that such an attorney would find himself in hell rather than heaven; the interesting question would just what level of hell. Just how such a hypothetical attorney would find himself in a position to take down a sex slavery ring without setting out to be a snitch is hard to imagine. But honestly: imagine somehow you know that a man you're dealing with is engaged in kidnapping young girls and selling them as sex slaves and somehow you're uniquely situated to save more young girls from a life of sex slavery by a little bit of treachery and the "abuse" of your law license. No ethical qualms and no ethical dilemma for you in hiding behind your sacred obligations as a criminal defense attorney, as they've been defined for you. And anybody who might think such a situation would present an "interesting ethical question" is just a god-awful criminal defense lawyer and presumably a horrible human being. That's blind and unthinking fanaticism worthy of a prosecutor.

    For all our abhorrence of the word "justice," there seems to be an awful lot of high and mighty self-righteousness among criminal defense attorneys.

  8. Take out everything but the horrible human being part and you got it. Certainly not a human being suited to be a criminal defense attorney or any other kind of attorney for that matter. Your duty to the client comes above all else, certainly above your designs on being a vigilante caped crusader. That's not fanaticism, its the job. You've tried to stake out some territory you view as extreme and ask, can you still do the job, can you still honor your obligations to your client? That's only an interesting question to you because, as evidenced in a lot of things you write, you have misgivings about representing criminals. That' fine, it doesn't make you a terrible person by any means, but it probably means you'd be better suited doing other things.

    The job is the the client. If you don't like the job or can't do the job, find a different job.

  9. I have no misgivings about representing criminals. I generally like criminals. Some of my closest relatives are criminals. I'm a criminal. But you're right about one thing: I should probably stay away from representing anyone who might be involved in the sex slave trade.

  10. Fair enough. But then you may never get a chance to bring one down.