Top 6 Causes for Wrongful Convictions (Part 2) — Bad Lawyers

Honestly, there should be lemon laws against lemon-like lawyers. It happens all too often. Bad lawyering or inadequate counsel accounts for at least 23% of innocent people ending up in prison or even on death row, for crimes they did not commit, according to the Innocence Project. Sloppy defense is a disgrace to an American citizen’s Sixth Amendment right to have the Assistance of Counsel for one’s defense. Bad lawyering is not a phenomenon exclusive to public defenders. Some of the worst offenses come from private lawyers.

Lazy lawyers, what’s the big deal? You might as well entrust your future to a rolling Magic-8 ball. When an overworked or negligent or defense lawyer fails to perform his or her job, the defendant suffers. Innocent people can end up in jail or accept a plea bargain due to the failure of their lawyers to investigate, call witnesses or prepare for trial.


Inadequate defense lawyers have been found to be guilty of the following acts of negligence:

  • Communicating with the client in a callous or hurried manner (i.e. unanswered calls)
  • Perfunctory or no attempt at discovery
  • Shallow or no investigation
  • Failure to consult experts on forensic issues
  • Minimal preparation, cursory cross-examination
  • Failure to show up for hearings
  • Asleep during courtroom trial

Once the ill-advised defendants have put all their hopes into an unethical defense lawyer, they are as stuck to take whatever the court gives them. By the time they figure out they’ve got a lemon, there’s often no time to retain another lawyer. When offered a plea deal, they’re likely to take it – even though they are innocent. This type of assembly line justice is a favorite among incompetent lawyers — misguiding the clients to just take the plea. And those who do go to trial find themselves represented by a lawyer who is unprepared and unmotivated to go up against the prosecution.  This is what is called “Dump Truck” lawyering.

Take the case of Calvin Burdine whose lawyer slept much of his 1984 capital murder trial including the questioning of the witnesses. There are even incidents of lawyers showing up to the courtroom—drunk.

Don’t get stuck with a lemon.

Coming Next: Part 3 in Causes of Wrongful Convictions….


Justin McShane

PA DUI attorney Justin J. McShane is the President/CEO of The McShane Firm, LLC - Pennsylvania's top criminal law and DUI law firm. He is the highest rated DUI attorney in PA as rated by Justin McShane is a double Board certified attorney. He is the first and so far the only Pennsylvania attorney to achieve American Bar Association recognized board certification in DUI defense from the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. He is also a Board Certified Criminal Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Approved Agency.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *