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Separating fact from fiction

We have all seen television courtroom dramas about police and prosecutors closing in on the bad guy. We all know he's bad because we've either watched as he committed the crime or because he betrays himself with verbal missteps.

Real life is not nearly as stylish or compact as TV drama. Fraud investigations can take weeks or months, not 60 minutes. Fashionable hairstyles and clothing are crucial to TV ratings, but irrelevant to effective defense counsel in real life.

Our TV habits sometimes carry over to other activities, as when a person watches Orlando news or reads a Florida newspaper article about people accused of crimes. The presumption is often that the accused is the bad guy. But our legal system is constructed on an assumption of innocence. The burden is on the state to prove guilt, rather than on the defense to prove that a person is not guilty.

Take, for instance, a case in which a 24-year-old man is accused of wire fraud involving the Orlando Apple store and other Apple retailers. According to federal court documents, the man would present a credit or debit card to store clerks, and when the card was rejected, give the clerk a phony authorization code which overrode the card rejection.

A reader might assume the man is guilty, but the government can't make that assumption. The man has the right to confront witnesses and have a public trial at which he can be represented by a criminal defense attorney. The defendant and his attorney can also engage in negotiations exploring the possibilities of reduced charges or sentence.

While attention to detail and protection of a client's rights aren't prime time drama material, they are extremely valuable to real defendants facing actual criminal charges.

Source: TampaBay.com, "Tampa man accused of scamming Apple out of $309,768,"Patty Ryan, July 23, 2014

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