When our second president was a young lawyer and before the United States was an independent nation, John Adams was called upon to defend a very unpopular cause. One of the founding principles on which our country was built was the rule of law over the rule of men. John Adams valued this principle over his own reputation and safety.
In March of 1770, while British soldiers still occupied the colonies, five Bostonians were fatally shot by British soldiers. This went down in history as the “Boston massacre”. The Brits were despised by most colonial residents and the clamor for independence was reaching a fever pitch. A crowd, or as some describe the events, a mob, confronted a British contingent of soldiers. Since there were no recording devices back then we must rely on varying accounts of the confrontation. What is known is that the colonists were threatening the soldiers; some may have physically attacked the soldiers and there were shots fired by civilians from the customs house where the confrontation occurred. The soldiers, apparently without orders from their captain, responded with their guns, wounding several people and killing five.
John Adams successfully defended the captain and the soldiers, who were all charged with murder. Only two of the soldiers were convicted of manslaughter and the rest were all acquitted. Despite the hostility towards the Brits and a propaganda war launched by patriots to affect public opinion about the events, Mr. Adams convinced the jury that the acts were in self-defense.
Years later, Mr. Adams as the second president of our new nation, evoked his defense of the British soldiers as “one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my County.” Almost 250 years later, the Boston Massacre Trials continue to remind us of one of our founding rules of law: every accused person is entitled to a zealous defense. If the Boston mob had its way, these soldiers would have likely been hanged at the public square in a fit of crowd induced passion. But when those passions had simmered and a jury was seated, the evidence, along with John Adam’s skills as an advocate…that is, the rule of law, prevailed. The jury determined that the soldiers who did shoot (and it wasn’t all of them), did so because they were in fear of their lives.
Sometimes people ask me why I defend “criminals.” My first response is every defendant is innocentuntil proven guilty. Every individual charged with a crime in this country is entitled to a defense. Without that, our justice system would provide no justice at all. This is all part and parcel of the due process clause under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution that protects our rights.
I consider my job as a criminal defense attorney not only an important job but one in service to my country. I am proud to provide the most vigorous defense available under the law to each and every client who walks into my office, no matter how serious the crime he or she is charged with.
Orange County William Weinberg has been defending your rights for over 25 years. If you have been charged with a crime, he is available for a free consultation to discuss your options. You may contact him at his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also