There was an incredible story in the Tampa Tribune Sunday about two lawyers who chose the attorney-client privilege over revealing that their client had killed a security guard at McDonald’s. Another man, Alton Logan, has spent 26 years in jail for the murder.
It is unethical for a lawyer to reveal privileged information obtained from a client. It may also be unethical for a human being not to when a person is in jail for a crime that he did not commit. Interestingly, the lawyers decided they would come forward if the innocent man was given the death sentence, but they would remain silent if he was given a life sentence.
I do not mean to criticize these lawyers because obviously; they wrestled with what was the correct thing to do. But I think the simple path a lawyer can take in this situation is to do that which puts him out on a limb the least. For lawyers who say that the attorney-client privilege must come first, I would ask them what they would do if the innocent man was their sibling, parent, or child. Okay, now we all agree that the attorney-client privilege does not come first. So now the question is, what do you do when that innocent person is someone you do not know? Would it matter if the man was a loving husband and father with no prior criminal record or a guy with a rap sheet as long as your arm? I’m grateful I’m not a criminal lawyer.