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  • Writer's pictureClayton T. Robertson

Criminal Defense Aphorisms

Updated: Feb 24

By Clayton T. Robertson (Criminal Defense / Civil Rights Attorney)


I attended a criminal defense conference in San Diego over the weekend. During the conference, I collected a group of aphorisms or themes that tend to characterize, from the criminal defense practitioner's perspective, the role of an effective advocate. These sayings also often apply to civil rights cases.


Some of the phrases reoccurred during the seminar to distinguish the criminal defense practitioner, who often needs to fight at every step of the case, to the prosecution, who often may rely upon the initial police reports and investigation (even with all their defects and flawed assumptions).


Themes or aphorisms from the conference, including some of my own inferences from them, include the following:


  • "The defense never rests."

  • "Leave no stone unturned."

  • "Fight for every inch."

  • "Never accept a miscarriage of justice."

  • "Don't play in law enforcement's or the prosecutor's sandbox."

  • "It's all about the 'why.'"

  • "Oppose the narrative of guilt."

  • "The system is contaminated by racial bias."

  • "Resist the one-size-fits-all approach."

  • "Tell the story of injustice."

  • "Run to the bummer in your case and deal with it head on."

  • "Challenge junk science."

  • "Ask potential jurors during jury selection to be brutally honest with you."

  • "Humanize your client."

  • "Your client is often your best source of information."

  • "Challenge poor conditions of confinement."

  • "Reject the concept of finality over fairness."

  • "Everything we see is a shadow of what we do not see."

  • "Disrupt bias."

  • "Add friction."

  • "Be a thorn in their side."

  • "Reject law enforcement's guilt reports."

  • "We are engaged in a narrative war."

  • "The opposite of poverty is justice."




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