Lincoln Fulfilled His Duty as a Lawyer

Regarding the article ``Lincoln's Legal Papers Are a Case in Shrewdness,'' March 22:

The author demonstrates a shallow understanding of the responsibilities of a lawyer in the defense of an accused when he writes: ``The slick feints by the lawyer are the sort of technical maneuvers that sully the popular image of the legal profession today.''

I have no knowledge of the case beyond that gained from the article, but it appears that Abraham Lincoln sought a change of venue and convinced a judge that the change would increase the likelihood of a fair trial. A ``callow'' prosecutor then neglected to bring the matter to trial in a timely manner and Mr. Lincoln got a dismissal.

The author seems to imply that constitutional protections need not extend to those accused persons who are clearly guilty, the victim in this case having been shot ``in front of several witnesses.'' But the Constitution does not make that distinction and affords its protections to all those accused of a crime, who, not incidentally, are presumed innocent at that stage of the proceedings.

Lincoln had a duty to his client and to the court to force the prosecutor to do his job. If that involved ``technical maneuvers'' then he had no ethical choice but to perform those maneuvers.

``Technical maneuvers'' are not always clearly definable. To the accused, they mean a method of ensuring that rights are not infringed upon. To someone with only indirect interest in the litigation, the result of such maneuvers might seem inappropriate. The author's choice of words ``[sullies] the popular image of the legal profession today'' by misleading readers toward a judgment not supported by the facts he relates.

Nonetheless, the article was interesting and worthwhile in adding to our acquaintance with Lincoln. Wayne R. Douce, Omaha, Neb. Attorney at Law

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