Crime

Lincoln’s Defense Strategy: Don’t Be a Liar


Abraham Lincoln had quite a reputation as a trial lawyer. He was most known for representing railroads and other businesses in civil matters, but he was no stranger to criminal law cases.

Unlike many defense attorneys, he was rather particular about the types of cases he would take. He seemed to understand that his persuasive skills were so good that there was a better than even chance his clients would be found not guilty. He wanted to make sure that was the right thing.

In his excellent book Lincoln’s Last Trial, author Dan Abrams writes:

… most often if [Lincoln] accepted the case, he believed he was representing an innocent person, and even in those times when he was not wholly convinced of his client’s role, he was determined to provide the best possible defense and let the law have its say. There was a story told about him that one afternoon, after having a conversation with a man who wanted to hire him, he said, “Well, you have a pretty good case in technical law, but a pretty bad one in equity and justice. You’ll have to get some other fellow to win this case for you. I couldn’t do it. All the time while standing talking to the jury, I’d be thinking, ‘Lincoln, you’re a liar,’ and I believe I should forget myself and say it out loud.”


Read more fun facts about lawyers.

Read more fun facts about Presidents.

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