Interviewer: How you feel about the people you represent? I mean, you’re primarily a criminal defense attorney and a lot of people think criminals are bad people and they should just be thrown in jail and the key thrown away. I mean, how do you feel about people?
Freddy: I’m glad you asked that question. I get that a lot. The foundation of our legal system and the foundation of our country is based on the assumption that you have the right, the right, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Now, you have a right to be able to, if you’re born in this country, the right to be able to live free. That’s really big.
A lot of people don’t have that. They’re just convicted immediately, whether or not they did a crime. But, in our country, you have the right to a trial and you have the right to go through and have a jury of your peers decide that for you. That’s big.
We have more protections for freedom than any other country in the world. Also, you have a right to liberty, meaning that you’re free to walk the street unless, and until, it can be proven that you committed a crime. Someone can’t just accuse you of something like they may be able to do in a foreign country. They have to prove that you did it and the burden of proof has to be on prosecutors to prove that you did that, so that you feel hopeful that if you did not commit a crime that you will not have to go to jail. That doesn’t always apply but sometimes it does and it also keeps our society from going into anarchy.
I want to say this, Rich, that the people who provide us the greatest service in this country are the military service men and women and their families. This is because they make a sacrifice to be away from their families and their spouses and their children to go to fight for us, so we are able to continue to have many rights, including the right to be free.
Another right we enjoy is the right for us, if we are accused of a crime and that we go through a process and have a jury and have a judge and have a fair process.
So, I believe that attorneys, whether they’re defense attorneys and also prosecutors, serve a very important function in making sure that liberty and justice is done. So, I feel very good about that. A lot of times you have people who are guilty, but need special sentencing to help them and so something doesn’t happen to someone else. And you have people who are not guilty. Believe it or not, there are a lot of people who are not guilty and the lawyers protect them and that’s our job and I feel good about that job.
Interviewer:Well, it seems all you deal with is crime. Do you feel that you’re jaded or biased against people? Do you still feel pretty good and balanced about humanity as a whole?
Freddy: I feel that there’s fundamental good in everybody and I feel that people are basically born as a blank slate. They’re not born good or born bad, they’re just born as a blank slate and through their experiences and the things that they’ve done in their lives, or through the challenges they had, in their lives, they become a particular type of person.
There’s not a big difference between someone who’s a lawyer or a doctor who comes out of a bad neighborhood and someone who’s a drug dealer or a murderer who comes out of a bad neighborhood or a good neighborhood, like the suburbs, for that matter. There’s not a big difference. Sometimes they’re in the same family. I’ve seen doctors and murderers be brother and sister or brother and brother and just based on the experience of what that person wanted, and what happened to that person in their lives.
So, I believe that people are fundamentally born as a blank slate, that they are good as children and that through their experience, they become good or they become bad. You know, I have very high hopes for humanity, as a whole. I am an optimist. I see things through real eyes but I’m an eternal optimist who thinks things will get better. So, to me, I’m not jaded.
I do see a lot of prosecutors who are jaded. They’ve been putting people in jail too long, so they think everyone is bad. When they get to that point, they’ve done a disservice to themselves, they’ve done a disservice to the community because fairness doesn’t come through and they’ve really made their lives worse because they are more miserable people. By and large, defense attorneys are not like that. We’re very optimistic people. Otherwise, we couldn’t do this job.
The Right Attorney for You Should Be Well Acquainted With the Court
Interviewer:Here is something I should’ve asked you earlier. You said you want an attorney who knows the judges and the prosecutors and the police. I mean, how well do you know your local police and prosecutors and judges?
Freddy: The police officers, by and large, are younger. So, they come out of the academy and they get on the street. The majority became police officers because they possess a very fundamental sense of right and wrong. Good families raised them and they want to do good work. They know that they’re going to be assailed by people, but they want to do good work. They provide a very good function as well.
The judges, most of the judges, and the prosecutors, either I went to school with, have knowledge of them or their families, I have known them for several years because they’ve done that and, so, I have a working knowledge of their mentality or their tendencies. So, it’s very helpful.
It doesn’t help you in that you know the judge and, you know, if the judge is going to do something for you. Judges don’t really work that way nowadays. What will work to you benefit is if you know what their tendencies will be, which way they tend to lean.
You know if a judge is lenient on gun crime or if he puts people in jail if they have a gun. You know if a judge has a tendency to be strict or be lenient and that working knowledge of how the court system works is very important for clients.
Now, there are 46 counties in the state. I’ve practiced and I’ve had clients in all 46 counties in the entire state of South Carolina. So, more so than other attorneys over that very long career, I’ve had the ability to be able to go into these courtrooms and see how people operate and I think that that service is invaluable to clients because, a lot of times, I know that 80 percent or 90 percent of what’s going to happen before we go to court.
An Experienced and Well Regarded Attorney Is Respected by the Court
Interviewer: Does how long you have been an attorney factor into your success? You know the judges and prosecutors and the police and they know you. Do you think they afford you respect or listen to you more because you’ve been around so long?
Freddy: I think they do, they are more familiar with me the more I go to court. The judges want to see something different every day. They want good attorneys to come into the courtroom. They want those attorneys to try cases and to see justice prevail.
The judges really want to see justice prevail. They don’t want to see everyone go to jail. They want justice to prevail for the people that justice should prevail for, for the innocent or for people who deserve a second chance.
So, I think that if you have tried many cases, you went against so many prosecutors, you’ve had to question and re-question so many of the officers, the officers know that when they get with you, they’re in for a battle that you are going to go the distance for your client.
I think they do afford you more respect. It does not mean that you’re going to agree. You’re going to inherently disagree with them but they afford you more respect because they know that you will go to trial and I think that that matters.
By Freddy Woods