When Passion, Skill, Courage and Commitment Collide
One of the first cases I worked, the Keith J. case 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.
Proven Defense Strategies
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 of Baldwin
Perry & Kamish, PC. 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.
1 of Only 6 Board Certified
Criminal Law Specialists in Indiana
Areas of Practice
- Trial lawyer and litigator
- Post-conviction relief
- Criminal appeals
- Franklin College, IN (B.A. 1989)
- University of Akron School of Law, Akron, OH (J.D. with honors 1994)
- President of class 1992, 1993, 1994
- Graduation speaker 1994
- Supreme Court of Indiana
- U.S. District Court, Southern and Northern Districts of Indiana
Bar Association Membership & Awards:
- Board Certified Criminal Trial Advocate by the National by the National
Board of Trial Advocacy
- Johnson County Bar Association (Past President & past Vice-President)
- Top 100 trial lawyers
- 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 - Franklin and Danville IN (2007 - present).
(Also, former Radio DJ, ditch digger, waiter, bartender, substitute teacher
and burger flipper…among other former careers)
The Keith J. Case
“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
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.