Courts & Crime

Defense lawyers often forced to defend themselves

COLUMBUS, Ga. _ When we all know he did it, shouldn't the trial just be a formality?

That's the perception of many when the crime is heinous _ such as the double slaying of Randy Newton Jr., 21, and Bryan Kilgore, 20, allegedly by Michael Jason Registe, who was extradited last month from the Caribbean island of St. Maarten.

But American criminal defense lawyers are trained to look past such passions, to defend and deliver vigorous legal defenses to our nation's most unpopular defendants.

There was John Adams standing up for the perpetrators of the Boston Massacre. Robert Shapiro and Johnnie Cochran defended O.J. Simpson. August "Bud" Siemon defended Carlton Gary, Georgia's infamous "Stocking Strangler." Several attorneys defended Brian Nichols, Atlanta's "Courthouse Shooter." And shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, California big-firm lawyer James J. Brosnahan represented John Walker Lindh, who became known as the American Taliban.

Some of these cases ended in acquittal, some in conviction, and in Lindh's case, with a plea to lesser charges.

"I think everyone deserves to be represented by good counsel, and gossip at a cocktail party just doesn't matter," said Columbus public defender Bob Wadkins. "It means nothing."

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