The Power of Strong Criminal Defense

The mark of a strong criminal defender is the tenacity to commit to a defense even if all the evidence seems stacked against you. Our criminal justice system depends on this to avoid putting innocent people in jail. Nowhere is this clearer than in the story of Maurice Carter, a client of Jed Stone of Stone & Associates.

The case of Maurice Carter

One night, around 11:00 PM, a man hears a terrifying scream from a house nearby. He reports this cry and where it came from to the police, who find a woman in her basement, bound with a coat hanger, strangled and sexually assaulted. The police also found two cocktail glasses near her body, one of which contained the fingerprint of her neighbor, Maurice Carter.

A more-than-likely suspect, Carter clearly knew the victim and had been in her home, and he was already on parole for murder. Police arrested and charged Carter with capital murder, even though he had an alibi that put him an hour away from the crime with a flight attendant.

The murder trial lasted two weeks. I was able to conceal from the jury his parole status, as it was prejudicial evidence, and I presented his alibi and a world of reasonable doubt. Truthfully, I thought he may have been truly guilty, but the prosecution’s case was based entirely on circumstantial evidence. No one saw Carter in the area that night, no one saw him with her, he had an alibi and he had no motive to attack his neighbor.

We pushed and pushed, and after hours of quiet deliberation, the jury arrived at a verdict of not guilty. There is no doubt that they would have given a verdict of guilty had we not fought hard for his alibi and instilled reasonable doubt. Carter was to be released immediately. I had helped to save a man’s life, and I was relieved.

The next day, police found another woman in the same neighborhood — same bindings, same strangulation and same sexual assault. My short-lived joy at Carter’s release deflated and was replaced with ballooning guilt that I had possibly assisted a murderer in committing a second crime. I found out that in spite of my request and the judge’s permission to release Carter instantly, he was held in custody over the weekend on a parole charge and could not have committed the second murder. My relief on behalf of my client and myself returned, and the police later caught the true perpetrator, who confessed to the first murder as well. Maurice Carter was a free and vindicated man.

The importance of criminal defense

"Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer," said noted English judge William Blackstone. Truth be told, we criminal defense attorneys do not always know our clients are innocent or guilty, and it does not matter. Our job is to present all the facts as we know them so that jurors can judge between the evidence collected by the prosecution and the doubt cast by our legal defense. We protect our clients’ rights and provide them with the best possible defense as if they were all innocent — every client, in every case, every time.

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