Let's say I'm a defense lawyer and my client is a criminal that killed 50 people so far, but got away with it every single time, and he's on trial for a 51st, which he's also poised to escape because there's no evidence pointing directly to him.

As his lawyer, he told me about all of his murders, and he gave me information that the police can verify that can link him to all 51 murders.

Here's a concrete example: he took a video of all of his murders, and he hid all the recordings so that the police cannot find them, but he told me (his lawyer) about them and exactly where they are.

If I break client confidentiality and tell the police everything I know, and give them all the evidence they need to 100% link him to all 51 crimes, is he going to walk free because I "didn't follow procedure"?

If so, then the legal system is really effed up...

Just a little discussion I had with a friend, neither of us have any legal education.

  • 2
    This really depends on the state (if the US) in which the crime is alleged. Different jurisdictions have different rules regarding the requirement for a defense to hand over incriminating evidence.
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented May 1, 2020 at 21:28
  • 1
    Are you discussing the case of Canadian serial rapist and murderer Paul Bernardo, his tapes of his crimes, and his lawyer Ken Murray?
    – DJohnM
    Commented May 2, 2020 at 20:38

1 Answer 1


The evidence will almost certainly be inadmissible

And, of course, you will be disbarred and never work as a lawyer again, you might also go to jail for attempting to pervert the course of justice. Whether the person is convicted or not will depend on the strength of the other evidence the state has.

In the notorious case of Lawyer X, Nicola Gobbo was acting as a barrister for a number of Melbourne underworld figures while simultaneously acting as a police informer. A number of those convicted have successfully appealed their convictions on the basis that they didn’t get a fair trial.

In their judgement on AB (a pseudonym) v. CD (a pseudonym); EF (a pseudonym) v. CD (a pseudonym) [2018] HCA 58 the High Court said:

But where, as here, the agency of police informer has been so abused as to corrupt the criminal justice system, there arises a greater public interest in disclosure to which the public interest in informer anonymity must yield.

EF's actions in purporting to act as counsel for the Convicted Persons while covertly informing against them were fundamental and appalling breaches of EF's obligations as counsel to her clients and of EF's duties to the court. Likewise, Victoria Police were guilty of reprehensible conduct in knowingly encouraging EF to do as she did and were involved in sanctioning atrocious breaches of the sworn duty of every police officer to discharge all duties imposed on them faithfully and according to law without favour or affection, malice or ill-will. As a result, the prosecution of each Convicted Person was corrupted in a manner which debased fundamental premises of the criminal justice system.

  • That's horrible... So basically the legal system is more concerned with procedure than with justice and truth? Commented May 2, 2020 at 11:56
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    @LhakrymaDL Remember that there are two kinds of justice. A justice system should try to ensure that guilty people are convicted, but it should also try to ensure that innocent people are acquitted. Generally, it's considered much worse to convict an innocent person than to acquit a guilty person, so there are lots of rules designed to try to ensure that innocent people are not convicted. One of those rules is that evidence gathered illegally is usually inadmissible. Failing to uphold that rule would also result in injustice, and it would be injustice of the worse kind. Commented May 2, 2020 at 13:29
  • @LhakrymaDL What alleged criminal would ever use a lawyer if the lawyer could just turn around and sell them up the river with impunity? What alleged criminal would ever receive justice and fair consideration without skilled legal representation who is fully informed of the facts relevant to the charges he must defend his client against? The answer to both is approximately none (there may be the occasional fool or successful pro se litigant). The legal system is vast and complex and is, rather by design, not accessible to the layman; it's basically written in its own (sub)language. Commented May 3, 2020 at 1:37
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    @LhakrymaDL and to be punished, the state has to prove that. That’s what “innocent until proven guilty” means.
    – Dale M
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 20:47
  • 1
    @LhakrymaDL if the murderer tells no one he walks free. Our legal system treats lawyers as an extension of their client. Telling your lawyer is the legal equivalent of talking to yourself. While it may allow this one murderer to walk free it prevents 100 falsely accused individuals from going to jail - there’s your justice.
    – Dale M
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 5:05

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