The Campaign For DA

4.16.2018

Ethics Hypothetical


This was proposed to me at the courthouse last week:

There is Suspect A and Suspect B. I represent Suspect B. A murder during a robbery was committed where Suspect B, my client, was in the "getaway car" and arrested. The cops don't know the identity of Suspect A who got away. Suspect B tells me, "I didn't know he was going to do that. I'm innocent. But I can tell you his name if it will help me with the prosecutor."

Now Suspect B unexpectedly dies.

There is a Crime Stoppers reward offered for the identity of Suspect A.

Does the lawyer for the dead Suspect B reveal Suspect A's identity? Does the attorney-client privilege prevent it? Could the lawyer reveal it and collect the reward?

My answer: No way I would collect the reward. But the question of going to the prosecutors and telling them who Suspect A is would keep me up at night. My now dead client wanted me to do that with the condition that it helps him when he was alive but now he is dead. Does that matter? What's the right thing to do?

This hypo comes from a movie I had never heard of. And has the great line of "I'm tired of trying to do the impossible for the ungrateful."

31 comments:

Dallas AFLCIO said...

Barry I think you answered it yourself when you wrote ... "No way I would collect the reward". Your moral compass remains on point my friend. IMO Wise choice ...

wordkyle said...

The question I have is why would you not reveal Suspect A's identity? I understand not collecting the reward, but if it helps find a murderer -- and with your client's well-being no longer a consideration (sorry for your loss) -- why wouldn't you? I'm seriously curious as to what are the barriers you think exist to revealing the identity.

Triple Fake... said...

It would be unethical to claim a reward, but it would still be fulfilling your client's wish in going to the prosecutor. It posthumously clears his name of murder, which is why he told you Suspect A's identity

Harry Hamid said...

Collecting the reward would be a huge problem, I would imagine, at least morally speaking. An anonymous tip to authorities to get a really bad guy off the streets... well, that's another matter entirely.

SpanishWarDonkey said...

Dead is dead. If you feel the correct thing to do is report what your client said to the authorities, then you do it. The burden of proof is still on them. You have to let the system work.

Now, if you were to tell me you knew the would-be prosecutor was a dirtbag, then I'd have to reconsider if what my client told me.

Anonymous said...

Attorney/client privilege ended with your client's death. I'd tell who Suspect A is to be a good citizen. Then either not collect the reward, or collect it and donate it to a worthy charity.

Close friend of Comey said...

It appears your friend Robert Mueller showed that attorney-client privilege doesn't matter anymore. No matter what level of government is involved. The ends justifies the means.

Anonymous said...

Why would telling the authorities the identity of a murder suspect keep you up at night? I would think that not revealing it and they killed someone else would keep me up more.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous tip. Dude wanted to do the right thing. The right thing is to get A off the streets.

Anonymous said...

Take the reward and give it to the family of Suspect B.

RatherBeSailing said...

I didn't know attorney client privileges extended to that extent. You have no obligations to Suspect A.

Anonymous said...

A real lawyer would collect the reward and give it to the victims family.

Anonymous said...

Take the money and buy some spelling lessons.

Anonymous said...

Even if you identified A, your identification is fraught with hearsay and wouldn't matter unless it led to other evidence. I would argue that confidentiality exists beyond death.

Anonymous said...

I fell asleep. What happened?

Anonymous said...

I feel like this. Every. Single. Day.

"I'm tired of trying to do the impossible for the ungrateful."

Would I disclose A's identity if he was a shoplifter? Nah. But homicide, rape, physical/sexual assault of a child? Yeah, I'd have to draw the moral line there and tip off the cops.

As 1128 said, you naming A would be hearsay and would only give the police a starting place ... they'd still have to put A at the scene and committing the crime.

Anonymous said...

Quit trying to do the impossible, it's well....impossible.

Anonymous said...

Instead of the murder victim's family?

Anonymous said...

Collect the reward and donate it to the Republican Ethics committee. Then sleep knowing that money went towards making the top one percent richer while keeping poor people in generational poverty.

Anonymous said...

ALL THIS TALK ABOUT "A" HAD ME THINKING AN EPISODE OF "PRETTY LITTLE LIARS" HAD BROKEN OUT!

TF HANNA MARIN

Anonymous said...

For the civilian population: attorney-client privilege survives past the death of the client. There have been court decisions on this very topic. And whether an executor of the estate or other vested individual (wife, etc) could step in and waive it is murky as heck. Good luck, Barry. Tough legal conundrum.

DF Judd for the Defense

Anonymous said...

12:56. You win the liar and dumbass of the day awards. Democrat nanny state keeps more in poverty than rich people. No incentive to do a damn thing about and the Democrats need those voters.

Anonymous said...

Even better idea.

Anonymous said...

11:28, i'm with you.
A host of folks here saying that telling would be doing what the client wanted and whatnot, but really, the client, in the hypothetical posed, doesn't appear to want anything other than a better deal. And if he's dead, i'm not sure how that's helping further his cause. At chance they fled the scene in a 64 Buick Skylark Convertible?

D.F.
Vinnie

mzchief said...

The U.S. Supreme Court resolved the matter 20 years ago in Swidler & Berlin v. United States, 524 U.S. 399 (1998).

The attorney-client privilege survives the death of the client, especially if revealing the information isn't in the client's best interest. Suspect B left express instructions that revealing the name of Suspect A was on the condition of Suspect B having better prospects with the prosecutor. Dead people don't have the possibility of having better prospects with the prosecutor.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that "impossible, ungrateful" line would be perfect for teachers and law enforcement....probably a lot of others too.

Anonymous said...

You absolutely collect the reward. You never know the future, what hardships might befall you and your family. You take that money and set it aside for a rainy day!

Anonymous said...

How would you know that the now dead client wasn't lying?

Keep your lawyer cool, keep your mouth shut(attorney client privalege) and let the cops figure out who the bad guy is.

Priests, and I assume, ministers, have the same caveat.

Priests cannot go to the cops based on a confession of a crime.

Anonymous said...

Why not get the prosecutor to announce that the deceased suspect B has been cleared of any wrongdoing, in exchange for the name of suspect A. You have then restored suspect B's good name and fulfilled your client's wishes.

Anonymous said...

Does that picture mean a nigger committed the crime? I don't understand the purpose of your conjecture in conjunction with that photo. Are you racist?

Anonymous said...

Does this guy stipulate that it help him while he was alive. Or just that it help him? There's a case to be made that doing the right thing, (turning in a killer) burnishes one's credentials even posthumously.

Do the right thing. Take the money. Rationalize as required. Get creative.

Half Baked Government Informant