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Abstract

This Note examines this dilemma and recent judicial approaches to it. Judges disagree about how guilty criminal defendants should be permitted to mount defenses at trial. Some have forbidden defense counsel from knowingly advancing any false exculpatory proposition. Others have permitted guilty defense attorneys to present sincere or truthful testimony in order to bolster a falsehood. And still others have signaled more general comfort with the idea that an attorney aggressively can pursue an acquittal on behalf of a guilty client. This Note seeks to resolve this issue by parsing the range of false defense tactics available to attorneys and evaluating the propriety of each under the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. This Note reads the Model Rules in the context of the adversary system’s twin aims to seek truth and safeguard individual rights; it defines and categorizes specific false defense tactics; and it offers practical, context-specific recommendations to courts and attorneys evaluating knowingly false defenses as they occur in the real world.

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