Criminal Defense Attorney Challenge- Understanding Why Client Did What They Did

One of the greatest challenges I have as a criminal defense attorney is in finding out, “Why?” Why did my client do what he did? (Assuming that he/she did commit the offense and the evidence can prove it) What motivated my client, for example, to commit a violent offense like aggravated battery, aggravated assault and even murder? You might think the easy solution is to simply ask them. Often I do. It’s not so easy. Many are not forthcoming. Many are not very communicative. Many lie or tell versions of the truth as they see it. Some are mentally ill and/or sociopaths. Uncovering the true motive can be very difficult, yet crucial, in order to zealously mitigate what they have done.

That same challenge is one that the attorneys for 14 year old Philip Chism must be facing right now. Chism is the Massachusetts teen accused of brutally beating a 24-year-old beloved math teacher to death. The teen has been described as someone who “kept to himself and wasn’t very outgoing.” “He was always quiet. …He never talked to anyone,” one of his classmates explained. Also, he had recently moved to Danvers, Mass. from Tennessee. No one knows why his family moved.

The teen, who was ordered held without bail, was in the victim’s math class. According to students in that same class, there was nothing unusual about the teen and victim’s relationship with each other.

So, why? Why did he do it. Typically, in these high profile cases, law enforcement would have announced his motive if they had learned of it from the defendant. What I suspect is either one wasn’t provided by the teen when they spoke to him post arrest, or he chose not to speak with law enforcement. That makes his attorney’s job even more challenging.

The key for his lawyers is to build up trust with their client. I have found that establishing a solid confidential relationship built on a foundation of trust, is critical with all of my clients. I have been better able to serve those I represent with that type of relationship. Eventually, the teen defendant may confide in his lawyers and give them something to work with so that they know how best to represent him. Without question, I anticipate them having him evaluated by several doctors to find out what’s going in that troubled head of his. Hopefully, his attorneys and the concerned and eager public, will eventually find out, “Why?”

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