EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – In 1963 the Supreme Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires attorneys to be provided to criminal defendants who are unable to afford their own. This was named Gideon v. Wainwright and now 60 years later, the El Paso Public Defender’s Office honored its legacy.
Whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a serious capital murder offense, under Gideon v Wainwright guarantees that a defendant will receive legal counsel. However, some criminal defense attorneys often feel like their line of work is misunderstood.
Criminal Defense Attorney Leonard Morales spoke about how sometimes they are compared to their clients and their ethics regarding if their clients are guilty or innocent. However, he understands that his job is to help others despite the negative comments.
“Some of us go a civil route to make a lot of money others of us do the kind of work that we I guess the best way to put it were looking for something to mean something and I feel this is something that means something to defend people to represent people regular people just like us.” said Morales.
In the beginning of Chief Public Defender Kelli Childress Diaz’ career, it was difficult to relate to clients who had committed serious crimes and also defend them. She said after a while she learned to understand the importance of her job and the role she plays in her client’s lives.
“The more you do it and the more you promise to protect them, and you realize that they need you its becomes something that something you can’t just not do.” said Diaz.
Diaz also explained that it’s important that defense attorneys have a respectable relationship with their clients and the prosecution. She said without respect there is no justice system.
“Without respect, yes our client suffers and that is a big problem, but the entire justice system suffers and when people can’t be respectful just because someone does a different job that’s a breakdown in our system.” said Diaz.
While it has been sixty years since the passing of Gideon v Wainwright, both Childress and Morales understand that their work goes beyond the role in the courtroom.
“We represent people at the worst possible times in their life the times when you need a friend where you may have only one friend and that’s kind of what we do in that we provide a little bit of friendship we provide a little bit of defense a little bit of hope to somebody that probably would otherwise have it.” said Morales.
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