The United States Constitution guarantees a person prosecuted on a criminal charge the right to have an attorney represent them. Criminal defense attorneys learn early in their training that regardless of the weight of the evidence against their clients, every individual is entitled to be represented to the best of the attorney’s abilities. Sometimes, the measure of success of the defense attorney in representing a client is not in the verdict but is seen in other aspects of the case.
An example of this was the recent prosecution of a man on a felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The Midland County criminal case involved the parking lot assault of a victim selected based on a bias or prejudice because of race. The jury in the case took just 2.5 hours to return a guilty verdict after a trial that began on a Monday and ended on Wednesday.
Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon is a second degree felony charge, but the additional allegation that the crime was motivated by racial bias or prejudice increased the punishment to that of a first degree felony. The defendant was confronted with an additional punishment enhancement at sentencing when it was revealed that he had a prior felony conviction that made the sentencing range 15 years to 99 years or life.
A criminal defense attorney representing a person accused of committing a violent crime with racial prejudice or bias can help the defendant not only in disputing the charges but also in affecting the possible sentencing if the man is found guilty. The way the defendant is portrayed to the court can directly affect the sentence. In this case, the judge chose to impose a sentence of 25 years in prison instead of the higher end of the sentencing range, which was up to 99 years or life.
Source: Newswest9.com, “Nickason receives 25 years in hate crime trial,” Nov. 29, 2012