Have you ever wondered how defence attorneys can defend people obviously guilty of heinous crimes like murder or rape? Especially when, in spite of all the evidence, they somehow manage to get them acquitted? Some lawyers will tell you that everyone deserves a defence as that’s an integral part of the judicial system – people are after all presumed innocent until proven guilty. In fact the prosecution has a far harder job than the defence as it has to prove beyond any shadow of doubt that a person is guilty. If a jury has any doubts about a defendant’s guilt they have to find in his or her favour. Yet doubt about guilt is not the same as proving innocence, sometimes it just means the case against a person wasn’t conclusive enough for the prosecution to persuade the jury the accused was guilty – even if they were.
So, it’s not necessary for defence attorneys to believe their clients are innocent, it’s just necessary for them to believe they can convince a jury there isn’t enough evidence to find them guilty. However, that’s not always the case. In the five-part mini-series Injustice, being released on DVD Tuesday August 28 by Acorn Media, we meet barrister William Travers (James Purefoy) who has always believed in his clients’ innocence. (In British law there are two different types of lawyer. Solicitors represent persons in all matters outside of court while barristers are hired specifically to represent them in court) Even Travers’ opponents in the crown prosecutor’s office (British equivalent of district attorney but not a political office or appointment) acknowedge he has always believed in his clients’ innocence.
All that changed at some time before the series starts. Travers had defended an animal rights activist accused of setting a car bomb which blew up and killed the small child of the scientist for which it it was intended. While the circumstantial evidence was substantial, he was able to get the accused acquitted by giving credence to the defendant’s claim that the police had coerced the confession he initially gave them. Closed circuit television tapes showed two officers entering his cell but unlike all the other times they had visited there were no audio or video tapes recording what happened while they were in there. When that was combined with the fact there was no conclusive evidence proving he had committed the crime the accused was set free. However, for some reason Travers suffered a nervous breakdown shortly after the trial, left London and his successful practice, and moved with his family to the small town of Ipswich. While he continued on as a barrister, he refuses to handle murder trials ever again.
So his wife Jane (Dervia Kirwan) is surprised and worried when he agrees to defend a friend of theirs from university accused of murdering his much younger secretary with whom he had been having an affair. Jane had given up a successful career with a publishing house in London in order to help him start over again, and is slightly put out that he’s all of a sudden agreeing to go back and work in London again. However, she’s mainly worried whether or not he’ll be able to handle the pressure of working on such a high profile case again, figuring that was what caused his breakdown after the bombing case.
While we find out what’s really troubling Travers through a series of flashbacks (there’s no way I’m telling you anything about them) and that he’s nowhere near as well as he claims he is, on the surface he seems to be the consummate professional. The one thing he does insist on when he agrees to take his old friend’s case is if at any time he receives the impression his client is guilty he will quit immediately. It’s while he’s preparing to go to London to start work the police discover the body of the man he defended in the bombing case. He had been shot in the head at point blank range and, as the cop heading up the investigation, Detective Inspector (DI) Mark Wenborn (Charlie Creed-Miles) says, it looks like he’d been executed.