As a criminal law attorney there are some things you just KNOW.
- You KNOW your client is more likely guilty than not;
- You KNOW the public thinks the world would be a better place without you;
- You KNOW not to mess with karma if you can help it;
- You KNOW not to interview a victim without permission; and
- You KNOW you have to tell your client about any plea offer on the table. (Galanter and OJ were just in court about this one)
The latter is based on the code of ethics that lawyers are required to adhere to. Yes, there is a code and many of us, a large percentage, adhere to that code. This includes prosecutors. So, when Bill Montgomery, the Maricopa County Attorney said “If they were to make an offer for resolution, I think I have an ethical responsibility to consider that,” he was correct. His client is the people of Maricopa County and he would have an ethical obligation to review and consider any offer. It is not a question of “I think I have” the answer is “I have.”
What does each side, in any case, have to consider when mulling over a plea offer? They have to consider the pros and cons. The costs, both monetarily and emotionally. They also have to consider the time involved – is it worth the time it will take to continue to fight? This inevitably draws monetary cost back into the picture. Especially here in Maricopa County with State v. Arias.
When you are dealing with public figures or high profile cases let’s not forget perception and the public eye. Montgomery is elected. As the elected County Attorney he has to consider a lot of things including his budget, his campaign and supporters, and morality in his decisions. He has to consider the victim’s wishes AND the wishes of his client, the people of Maricopa County. He has to consider the cost going forward, somewhere upwards of $1.4 million. With this in mind, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH THE DECISION OF WHETHER TO GO FORWARD WITH DEATH ON THE TABLE OR ACCEPT LIFE?
On the anniversary of the Travis Alexander’s death the Defense responded to Montgomery’s statements above by stating that “County Attorney’s Office is seeking to impose the death penalty upon a mentally ill woman who has no prior criminal history…[d]espite Mr. Montgomery’s recent statements to the media, it is not incumbent upon Ms. Arias’ defense counsel to resolve this case. Instead, the choice to end this case sits squarely with Mr. Montgomery and his office. It is solely for them to determine if continuing to pursue a death sentence upon Ms. Arias, who is already facing a mandatory life sentence, is a good and proper use of taxpayer resources.”
What I see here is not a “private” conversation between the parties but a conversation being played out in the Court of Public Opinion. As such, neither has the basis to argue that the public should not know what is going on in the next stage of the trial.