In order to sell its hokum, the defense bar can't use language as an ordinary person would. Thus, when the client belts granny with a tire iron to get her purse to finance his next hit, this is a "poor choice." When he organizes the flash mob for a little smash-and-grab at the local jewelry store, this is just "falling in with the wrong crowd." When he punches the probation officer for asking whether he's really quit doing coke, this is "a momentary indiscretion."
It's not that defense lawyers don't know that words have meanings; it's the opposite. They understand that if you call the client's behavior what it actually is, he's more likely to wind up in the slammer. So euphemism and evasion are the order of the day. Sometimes it gets to the point that you have a hard time figuring out what he's talking about at all.
I bring this up not to poke at the defense bar (well, OK, maybe a little), but to confess that the government is capable of the same thing. I was reminded of this, admittedly not in a criminal law context, when I read this article today. It starts off:
Don't think of it as the federal government but as your "federal family."
In a Category 4 torrent of official communications during the approach and aftermath of Hurricane Irene, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has repeatedly used the phrase "federal family" when describing the Obama administration's response to the storm.
The Obama administration didn't invent the phrase but has taken it to new heights.
"Under the direction of President Obama and Secretary Janet Napolitano, the entire federal family is leaning forward to support our state, tribal and territorial partners along the East Coast," a FEMA news release declared Friday as Irene churned toward landfall.
Got that? When the commissar shows up to tell you you're not allowed back in your house 'til he says so, this is your "federal family" "leaning forward" to "support our state, tribal and territorial partners."
It's hard to put all the blame on the defense bar when all it needs to do to gin up its goobledygook is read the government's press releases.