Andrew Baldwin

Andy Baldwin

Andrew Baldwin

When Passion, Skill, Courage and Commitment Collide

“I am not leaving your office until you type out a dismissal and get my client out of jail. Not two days from now. Not tomorrow. Now.” These were the words that I shouted to the very experienced chief deputy prosecutor of a local county who had finally agreed to dismiss all of my client’s charges, but had indicated that her secretary wouldn’t get around to preparing the paperwork for a few days. Without that paperwork, my client would remain in jail. Back then, I was a baby criminal defense attorney. I didn’t know that most lawyers thought it as bad form to yell at the prosecutor – especially one that was dismissing all charges. I guess that I didn’t really think about it. I was more interested in watching my innocent client walk out of the jail where he had been sitting for the prior 9 months.

I began representing Keith J. in the fall of 1995. He was accused of molesting his 6 and 7 year old step-children. He was innocent, but nobody believed in him. He didn’t have a whole lot of money, but the good news for him was that back in those days, I didn’t have a whole lot of clients. I had been working with attorney Tom Jones, my mentor, since graduating law school. Tom was one of the premier trial lawyers in Indiana – who was also nationally recognized – for over 40 years. However, I didn’t want to ride on his coattails. I had to make it on my own. I quit the job with the firm that I loved in order to open up my own practice in a 6 x 12 space in Nashville Indiana. I was 28 at the time. The office featured a tiny desk I had purchased at a second hand store. The walls were bare, except for a framed law degree. On the desk was a black phone. I remember the color well, because I stared at it constantly waiting for it to ring, hoping that a client needing representation was on the other end.

However, my first client didn’t call me on the phone. Rather, he wrote me a letter from jail. He had heard good things about me. He knew I was young, but didn’t care about my lack of experience. He wanted someone that actually cared about him as a human being. Someone that would fight for him. I had represented Keith J’s friend while working for Tom. This friend told Keith J. that I treated him with respect and worked hard and that Keith should write me a letter. I drove to the jail to meet Keith. He was 24 years old. His eyes swelled with tears as he told me the story of how he ended up in jail. He was facing 100 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. I immediately began my own investigation by interviewing neighbors and family members. I watched the interview tapes of the children over and over and over again. I conducted depositions. I began to piece the case together. It was my belief that these children had been molested…but not by my client. They were protecting the actual molester who was a family member. My client took a polygraph with the state police, but they said that he failed it. I didn’t believe the results. We would have to win at trial. The problem was that I had never tried a case to a jury on my own. I had no partners. I had no mentor to help me. I had no team. I was on my own. At times I thought about trying to talk my client into a plea agreement, but I just couldn’t do it. He was innocent and he needed to see that the system could work.

Two weeks before the trial, I got married and went on my honeymoon. I took the file with me to continue my preparation. My wife, Michelle, learned early in the marriage that my passion for defending all of my clients (whether they are guilty or not) comes with a heavy price. Many nights are spent on my office couch, rather than in my bed at home. My wife has gotten used to it over the years. After returning from my honeymoon, the prosecutor called me to meet at her office. Once in her office she told me that although she felt my client was guilty, she felt the evidence may be too weak to take to trial and she would be dismissing charges. She finally relented and typed out the dismissal herself. Thirty minutes later my client walked out of jail a free man. We hugged. He cried. Then he moved to Kansas City to begin his new life. A life that I dramatically changed.

In many ways, it was the Keith J. case that laid the groundwork for my career as a criminal defense attorney. It was through his case that I began to understand the need for courage when representing the accused. Going up against the government with all of its resources is a daunting task. It takes courage to fight with a prosecutor or judge. It takes courage to stand in front of a skeptical jury to argue that your client is innocent or to fight for a client that society deems unworthy. The easy road is to take a quick plea agreement. The courageous road is to work the case and to take it to trial if the prosecutor is not willing to do the right thing or is being unreasonable. Without courage, a criminal defense attorney becomes ineffective, lazy and satisfied with the status quo.

The Keith J. case also crystalized in my mind that the key to criminal defense is the willingness to go to trial. Prosecutors will run roughshod over lawyers that will not go to trial or stand up for their clients. Prosecutors are more willing to dismiss charges or offer a better plea agreement if they fear that the criminal defense lawyer will actually go to trial. Unfortunately, most lawyers, in my experience, neither stand up for their clients or go to trial. The fact that I stood up for Keith J., and had the courage and willingness to go to trial against an experienced prosecutor, ultimately lead to the case being dismissed. I have never forgotten that lesson from over 20 years ago. I have built my entire practice on the very concept that the key to criminal defense is the willingness to go to trial. When I or members of our firm say we will go to trial, we mean it and prosecutors know it. This reputation often leads to amazing results.

Recognizing that my reputation was growing in criminal defense, and more importantly recognizing that I was really only passionate about criminal law, I made a career-changing decision in 2004: I would focus my practice only in criminal law. Lawyers I knew scoffed at this idea. How can you survive on just criminal defense cases alone? I would answer by telling them I only wanted to practice in the area of law of which I was completely passionate – criminal law. Because criminal defense is a word of mouth business, and because I actually fought hard for the accused, my client base grew quickly. Once I made the switch to handling only criminally-related matters, I went from having an average number of clients, to having more clients than I could handle on my own. I began surrounding myself with top-notch lawyers who also wanted to focus their careers in criminal law. I also began surrounding myself with amazing staff members that shared in our passion for justice for our clients.

In 2007, we began calling ourselves the Criminal Defense Team. No longer would I have to fight these battles alone. We are like family and fight for our clients together as a team. In 2009 we bought the very office building that I had left to embark on my own road. The same building where I had cut my teeth with Tom Jones nearly 15 years before. My career had come full circle. I had come home to the very place where I developed my passion for defending the accused. We have even expanded by adding a satellite office in Noblesville. This type of growth does not happen if you don’t take care of your clients. This type of growth happens when passion, skill, courage and commitment collide.

Andrew J. Baldwin – founding partner

1 of only 3 Board Certified Criminal law specialists in Indiana

  • Past president, Johnson County Bar Association
  • Past vice-president, Johnson County Bar Association
  • 1 of only 3 Board Certified Criminal law specialists in Indiana*
  • Top 100 trial lawyers**
  • Juris Doctor - University of Akron School of Law, cum laude 1994
  • President of class 1992, 1993, 1994
  • Graduation speaker 1994

- Law review 1992

Areas of Practice:

  • Criminal Defense, Trial lawyer and litigator, criminal appeals, Post-conviction relief

Education:

  • Franklin College, IN (B.A. 1989)
  • University of Akron School of Law, Akron, OH (J.D. with honors 1994)

Bar Admission:

  • Supreme Court of Indiana
  • U.S. District Court, Southern and Northern Districts of Indiana

Bar Association Membership:

  • Board Certified Criminal Trial Advocate by the National by the National Board of Trial Advocacy
  • Johnson County Bar Association

Professional:

  • Jones, Drury & Hoffman - Franklin IN (1993-1995)
  • Baldwin Law Office - Nashville IN (1995-1996)
  • Nice, Moore & Wooley - Indianapolis IN (1996)
  • Eggers & Baldwin - Franklin IN (1996-2004)
  • Baldwin & Roesener - Franklin IN (2004-2007)
  • Criminal Defense Team, Baldwin Adams & Kamish, P.C. - Franklin and Danville IN (2007 - present).

(Also, former Radio DJ, ditch digger, waiter, bartender, substitute teacher and burger flipper…among other former careers)

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