The Law Offices of Robert F. Shaw, Jr. handles a full range of cases in the field of criminal law, primarily cases in the appellate courts after trial has taken place. We have been privileged with the opportunity on numerous occasions to delve back in time and recreate, investigate and analyze the criminal judicial process. Our analysis of cases includes an assessment of the circumstances which gave rise to charges and a trial, the investigations conducted by police and defense attorneys, the conduct of court participants, the testimony of witnesses, positions asserted by experts, the explanation and application of law by judges, and the collection, preservation and presentation of scientific, medical and forensic evidence.
With great admiration and respect for the judicial process and the principles that it strives to uphold, our direct experience with the criminal justice system has served to reinforce a sincere concern about the availability of due process, fundamental fairness, and precise outcomes for those accused by the government of criminal conduct -- especially those who are without financial resources.
We believe in a system of justice that imposes consequences for those who violate the law. However, we are aware that, hidden from public view, far too often ordinary citizens who face accusations by the government are subjected to a system where the presumption of innocence seems nonexistent. We know that those who do not have financial resources face a very different justice system than those who do. We are aware that once the government decides to prosecute a citizen, often an extreme and over-simplified characterization of circumstances are portrayed and pursued by the government in an effort to acquire a conviction or plea of guilty. We know first hand that despite actual circumstances, the government will often charge and/or threaten excessively severe charges and punishment as a means of coercion. We are aware that too often the police conduct investigations that adhere to their own personal views. We know that witnesses are often offered substantial leniency from threatened, severe punishment if they will agree to give testimony needed by the government to prosecute a case. We are aware of the terrible problem of bias and hidden prejudice in our jury system and the lack of needed racial, cultural and experiential diversity. We have seen the imposition of very extreme punishments for nonviolent offenses. We have seen necessary discretion taken away from judges who could otherwise bring realism and common sense to the sentencing process and the unique circumstances of each case. We understand that, upon hearing of the above, the average person in our community thinks that these problems are rare and happen to someone else, until it happens to them or someone they know.
By engaging in the practice of criminal law, we confront our society's important need to address and punish criminal conduct, and the need to do so through a fair and just process. Our criminal justice system must first and foremost ensure that judgments handed down rest on a foundation of due process. It is our duty and privilege to stand firm in protecting our society's most treasured principles of justice and freedom. We consider it an honor to engage in that pursuit.
Robert F. Shaw, Jr., May 2002.