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Keeping people out of prison was new experience Tom Basinski | Sat, May 21 2011 12:00 PM

Although I had said I would never do defense investigative work after my 2005 retirement, I eventually worked several cases for a former deputy city attorney who went into private practice. He was honest, ethical, and a good attorney.

Truth be known, most of the clients I worked for were guilty. That is, they did it. They had committed the acts the prosecution alleged. But, whether or not they did it isn't the concern of defense attorneys. Their job is to make sure the police and prosecution prove the client's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt with legally obtained evidence.

While working defense, I received a case of a guy arrested for robbery. He didn't do it. He was a victim of a faulty identification by the victim, a sloppy investigation by the robbery detective, and a questionable issuance of the case by a deputy DA.

They hung a felony charge on a guy with a solid alibi who cooperated fully from the get go. I was astounded when he was arrested, considering the flimsy evidence, and shocked when they issued on him.

I began to feel the pressure. If our client was convicted, he was going to prison for several years, no question about it. Armed robbery is a big deal in the justice system. I interviewed him, his family, and examined his financial records. He had been gainfully employed since high school. Even though he was raised and lived in a relatively high crime area he had never been arrested in his life. He had never owned a firearm. He was innocent.

On my other cases, when I interviewed defense witnesses I knew were lying I employed the same information gathering techniques I used for 35 years as a cop. But, as a police officer I would point out and confront their lies when they were done talking. This would force them to make up more lies.

As I have written previously, the truth never changes. Tell the truth and your story will never change.

I was different as a defense investigator. I would listen to their lies, write them down, and put them in a report without confronting the witness. It would be up to the deputy DA to take the witnesses apart on the witness stand.

I couldn't imagine what my life would be like if I let this innocent accused robber down. There is no way he could go to prison. He had a family that needed him. Besides, he didn't do it.

The case had a happy ending. The deputy DA came to her senses and dismissed the case even before the preliminary hearing. I was very happy.

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