Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Professional Question

Driving into the office today, I once again heard a news report (though it was hardly "news") that the Moussaoui jury will continue its deliberations again today. The issue is whether the jury that found him eligible for the death penalty will impose it.

The reporter/news reader also discussed his defense. It seems, after all, that Moussaoui wants to be put to death, but his attorney are arguing that he should not be, because that would make him a martyr, and that's what he wants.

Perhaps someone can explain to me the ethics of this one. After all, Canon 7 of the Model Code of Professional Responsibility holds that "A Lawyer Should Represent A Client Zealously Within the Bounds of the Law." To that end, Disciplinary Rule 7-101(A) holds that "A lawyer shall not intentionally fail to seek the lawful objectives of the client through reasonably available means permitted by law and the Disciplinary Rules, except as provided by DR 7-101(B)."

Now, death is a penalty permitted by law, and it appears to be Moussaoui's objective. I have all the respect in the world for attorneys who represent criminals, because they are an important part of the legal process. And certainly, I hope that Moussaoui promptly roasts in Hell for his crimes. But even so, if he embraces some Islamicist perversion of martyrdom, how can his attorneys ethically try to deny him that martyrdom at the hands of American justice?

There are plenty of people who have moral and/or practical objections to the death penalty. The former are probably insoluble, but the death penalty is clearly constitutional, the moral pretensions of activist judges to the contrary notwithstanding. The latter are doubtless subject to debate, though there can be no doubt that a Moussaoui will not be able to participate in terrorist plots once he has assumed room temperature.

Nevertheless, I have professional questions, if not objections, to attorneys who utilize as their argument that the jury should not give their client what he so desparately seeks. I don't know Moussaoui's attorneys, or their politics. But it seems to me that they are dangerously close to pursuing their own political/ideological ends than in pursuing their client's goal.