Criminal Defense Attorney: A Dangerous Profession?

August 26th, 2014 by Attorney Dan Carman

Mark Stanziano, criminal defense attorney, by all accounts an upstanding member of his Somerset community, respected by colleagues and classmates, respected by the judges and prosecutors he faced in court, was gunned down in front of his office in Somerset early one Friday morning in late June 2014.

Stanziano’s alleged killer is a man who had sought Stanziano out for help several times—as recently as just the day before the shooting. After being taken into custody following the shooting—which was witnessed by several people, including a police detective—the shooter claimed Stanziano had laughed at him when he asked for help, and voices told him to kill Stanziano to make his problems go away.

Stanziano left behind a wife who was in law practice with him, four children, and three grandchildren. His family is trying to put their lives back together, and undoubtedly trying to make sense of what happened to someone who was loved by so many.

When something as violent and as senseless as this killing happens, it’s easy to second-guess choices of profession—especially when that profession is criminal defense attorney. It’s easy to be reminded that you’re representing citizens accused of some of the worst sorts of crime: murder, sexual offenses, arson, child pornography, kidnapping, and abuse, to name a few. What would it take for a client to become convinced that killing his own defender would somehow make things right?

The simple fact is that there have been very few documented cases of clients harming their criminal defense attorneys. While there are no hard figures, the Bureau of Labor Statistics keeps data concerning “occupational homicides.” According to their records, six killings of lawyers by “customer, client” occurred between the years 1997 and 2010, while during the same period 22 workers in sales occupations, 22 in food prep and serving occupations, 67 in management positions, and 120 in protective service occupations were victims of customer, client killers.

What this kind of data seems to indicate is that senseless killings can take place anywhere, and any person doing his or her job on any given day can become the next statistic. Just being associated with a citizen accused of a crime does not place a criminal defense attorney in danger. Persons accused of any kind of crime usually have just one focus: exoneration. A good criminal defense attorney is just about their best hope for having charges dismissed or sentencing terms reduced. Of course, taking that attorney’s life isn’t going to make things right.

When a criminal defense attorney sits down with the accused to map out a defense, that attorney and his client become a team. They’re working together to build a case that they hope will convince the judge and jury that either the client is innocent or that the client deserves a second chance. Then, if despite the attorney’s best efforts the client ends up behind bars, that client knows his attorney is still out there, filing motions or appeals, and fighting for his client. Taking his attorney’s life isn’t going to make things better for the client.

If you’re considering a career as a criminal defense attorney but wonder if you’d be putting your life in danger with every new client, statistically speaking, the answer is no. If you’re wondering if living life to its fullest by pursuing your career goals is a gamble, well, that answer is yes. But, so is getting out of bed every day.

Dan Carman is an experienced Lexington criminal defense lawyer who loves the work he does as a defense attorney. He is admitted to practice law throughout Kentucky, in the United States District Courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Kentucky, and in the Sixth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. If you need the assistance of a criminal defense lawyer, call him now at (859)685-1055 or fill out his confidential online contact form.