Every defense attorney has their own favorite metaphor for what we do. Some talk of it like a street fight, envisioning a slugfest with the cops or the court or DA (or all three). Others speak as if it’s a poker game (with the other side usually holding all the aces). Occasionally, we even hear chess analogies. Well, for whatever reason, we tend to think in fencing terms.
On the one hand, this makes little sense, as we haven’t fenced much since our kids started coming along. (Literally. Our wife went into labor with the first one right in the middle of us getting trounced by some French guy in an épée tournament.) But on the other hand, we do find the analogy extremely useful.
Like fencing, much of what we do is reactive. There’s something they teach fencers called the “tactical wheel” which starts off with a simple attack, which gets countered by a parry and riposte, which gets countered by a feint, which gets countered by a counterattack into the feint, and so on until you’re reacting with a simple attack. You’re always reacting to what your opponent did, and trying to use your reaction to score off him instead. That’s pretty much what we do.
Note that each reaction is not merely a defensive parry. If all you’re doing is deflecting attacks, you can never win. Eventually, one of them’s going to get through. Every defensive action is an attack of some sort. You win by taking the game to the other guy. You go on the offense. Make the other side react to you. The best defense, as always, is a good offense.
And as in fencing, you pretty much have to take your opponent as you find him. Different tactics are going to work with different situations. It’s nice to know what works when.
That whole “tactical wheel” thing only really works, of course, if both you and your opponent are of intermediate skill. A novice doesn’t always do the smart thing, which throws such rote tactics into disarray. An expert, with a zen-like empty mind, is not hindered by the rule of thumb, and is free to react to this particular action in the most effective way. Still, there is something to be said for a rule of thumb. When all else fails, you have something to fall back on, which at the very least assures you of a solid, workmanlike job. It may not be elegant, but the odds are safe. And with the vast majority of opponents, it’s going to be all you need.
So what would such a tactical wheel look like for criminal defense?
It’s not going to be as (more…)