The idea that everyone has a right to an attorney sounds great as an ideal. When it's time to defend someone accused of abhorrent behaviors, it not so easy for some to see how a lawyer with sound moral character could represent someone accused of such reprehensible acts. Yet our adversarial justice system serves well - most of the time. And an adversarial system requires intelligent, trained professionals on both sides - prosecution and defense.
Now, if police and investigators were perfect in their work, maybe we could argue there is no need for an adversarial system. They are not perfect though. Police sometimes get the wrong suspect - often by no fault of their own. They take statements from eyewitnesses who are mistaken. They interrogate suspects who tender false confessions to get out of the interrogation-room sweat-box. They might use underhanded techniques to frame an otherwise guilty person against whom they can't quite prove a case using honest evidence. Or they even might go rogue. As long as humans are less than perfect, we will need a court system to administer justice.
Consider the role of a sex crimes attorney. Sexual offenders are the subject of widespread social disdain. Serial sexual predators pose especially troubling risks to society. So why would anyone make a career of keeping those people out of jail?
If police and investigators get it right, the best defense attorney in the world might not keep a sexual predator out of jail. Recent celebrity trials suggest it takes more than a good lawyer to beat charges.
But not every defendant is guilty. For the wrongly accused, the role of a sex crimes lawyer is obvious. The wrongly accused certainly needs someone who has the knowledge and experience to stand up against the prosecution.
What of the guilty offender though? Why do they need an attorney?
An attorney's job is not always to get someone off. A skilled legal counselor will advise a defendant how to begin turning around parts of a flawed life in preparation for post-conviction sentencing. A compassionate lawyer can explain a client's remorse, detail what the client has done to remediate the behavior and plea for mercy from the court.
For the defendant - whether wrongly accused or guilty as sin -- the confidence that they will be represented zealously in court can make the difference between running from the law or doing the right thing and facing the consequences. While defense lawyers might not be the most admired members of our society, their service remains an important part of the American justice system.