We often hear of the need for a zealous defense. (Zealous prosecutions are less in vogue -- I guess prosecutors should go out and have a cup of coffee).
I have no problem with a zealous defense that puts the truth before the jury. Indeed, that kind of defense is rightly called heroic, a word that, unfortunately, seems to be applied to defense lawyering whether or not it's the truth that gets put on display. Examples of heroic defense lawyering include the efforts put forth in behalf of the falsely accused Duke lacrosse players and, more recently, in behalf of the very politically incorrect but self-defending George Zimmerman.
What both those cases have in common is (a) the defendants actually were not guilty of the crimes alleged, and (b) their exonerations were massively unpopular in academia, which ordinarily unabashedly roots for the worst kind of guilty defendants, including, for example, Philadelphia cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.
But I digress. Although this is seldom acknowledged loudly in that self-same academia, a zealous defense should have limits. In the great majority of cases, it does -- or at least its shake-and-jive qualities are accepted by current professional "standards." But sometimes -- more than is commonly believed -- the defense, even by loose standards, is a bit too zealous.