Joe Dillard - 01 - An Innocent Client

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Authors: Scott Pratt
Tags: Fiction, General, Suspense, Thrillers, Mystery & Detective
I’d put into being an athlete, a soldier, and a student, and I soon became very good at it. I found that the law offered a great deal of leeway to an astute and enterprising mind, and I learned to take on even the most damning evidence and spin it to suit my arguments. Within a couple of years, I started to win jury trials. The trial victories translated into publicity, and I soon became the busiest criminal defense lawyer around. The money started rolling in.
    I defended murderers, thieves, drug dealers, prostitutes, white-collar embezzlers, wife beaters, and drunk drivers. The only cases I refused to take were sex crimes. I convinced myself that I was some kind of white knight, a trial lawyer who defended the rights of the accused against an oppressive government. And along the way, I made an unfortunate discovery. I learned that many of the police officers and prosecutors who were on the other side weren’t much different than the criminals I was defending.
    They didn’t give a damn about the truth—all they cared about was winning.
    Still, the thought of moving to the prosecutor’s office was always on my mind. But the money kept me from it. I was taking good care of my wife and my kids. I took pride in being a provider. I took pride in being able to give my children things and opportunities I never had. Before I knew it, ten years had passed.
    And then along came Billy Dockery.
    Billy was a thirty-year-old mama’s boy charged with killing an elderly woman after he broke into her house in the middle of the night. He was long-haired, skinny, stupid, and arrogant, and I didn’t like him from the moment I met him. But he swore he was innocent, the case against him was weak, and his mother was willing to pony up a big fee, so I took it on. A year later, a jury found him not guilty after a three-day trial.
    Billy showed up drunk at my office the next afternoon and tossed an envelope onto my desk. When I asked him what was in it, he said it was a cash bonus, five thousand dollars. I told him his mother had already paid my fee. He was giddy and insistent.
    I knew he didn’t have a job, so I asked him where he got the money.
    ”Off’n that woman,” he said.
    ”What woman?”
    ”That woman I killed. I got a bunch more’n this.
    I figger you earned a piece of it.”
    I threw him and his money out onto the street.
    There wasn’t any use in telling the police about it.
    Double jeopardy prevented Billy from being tried again, and the rules about client confidentiality meant I couldn’t divulge his dirty little secret anyway.
    Prior to Billy, I did what all criminal defense lawyers do—I avoided discussions with my clients about what really happened. I concerned myself only with evidence and procedure. But when Billy slapped me in the face with the truth, I realized I’d been fooling myself for years. I realized that my profession, my reputation, my entire perception of myself was nothing more than a facade. I was a whore, selling my services to the highest bidder. I wasn’t interested in truth; I was interested in winning, because winning led to money. I’d completely lost my sense of honor.
    When that realization hit me, I wanted to quit practicing law altogether. But my children were in high school and would soon be going off to college. Caroline had managed our money well, but we didn’t have enough stashed away to allow me to quit outright. So Caroline and I talked it over, and we decided I’d keep going until the kids had graduated and gone on to college. After that, we’d figure out what I was going to do for the rest of my life.
    I immediately began to cut back on the number of cases I took. The death penalty cases I was doing these days were all appointed, payback from judges for the days when I was spinning facts and helping people like Billy Dockery walk out the door. Now my son was in college and my daughter was a senior in high school. In less than a year, I hoped to finish up the cases I had and

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